We all too often open our bulging wardrobes in despondent despair, don’t we?
They are stuffed with clothes in styles of all sorts from designer brands to catwalk and runway knock offs to bulk bought bargains.
Yet we have – we feel – nothing to wear.
It seems mad but the explanation is simple.
Binging on crazily cheap, pollution pumping, skill squandering fast fashion can’t bring us the true pleasure of personal style.
Like all over consumption fast fashion leaves us feeling more than slightly sick. And destroys jobs AND communities AND the planet.
But we needn’t despair because with the inspiration of the slow fashion movement we truly can enjoy sustainable style.
Slow Fashion Movement
There are an ever growing number of slow fashion designers and sustainable clothing brands who are rejecting :
- Mass market throw away fashion
- Toxic garment production
- Exploitative labour conditions
Many slow fashion designers are new names but there are also wonderful old brands out there who never gave in and carried on making clothes on a smaller scale with skill and care for people and the planet as well as their products.
I’m going to share my favourite slow fashion designers and sustainable clothes brands. Most are by their very nature small and local.
NO brand can claim to be sustainable when it schleps planes full of clothes round the globe in a great cloud of poisonous fumes only to burn half, unworn, in a mountain of toxic waste.
So here are 10 simple slow fashion ideas to help you find sustainable brands making clothes near you in a style you love.
10 Sustainable Fashion Ideas
1. A Capsule Wardrobe
Less truly is more when it comes to real style. A capsule wardrobe is built around the basic shapes and colours that suit us not fleeting fashion. So we end up with more great outfits from far fewer items because they “all go”.
For simple capsule wardrobe tips try these.
2. Last For Ever Quality
When we step back from fast fashion and work out what actually suits us personally we can afford to invest in high quality pieces that last.
That tailored dress, those wide leg pants, the incredibly cut shirt – or whatever suits you – are worth the cash because they’ll always look good and we’ll wear them with joy for years.
And that breaks the toxic fashion cycle : more isn’t better, cheaper isn’t better, better is better.
3. Made With Skill
Better quality clothes are made with skill by producers whose sewing craft and deep love of fabrics was passed down through the ages.
That craft is the secret behind true style.
But the crazy cheap prices of mass produced fast fashion have destroyed skilled work
Every time we chose to buy clothing made with skill we invest in those skills and ensure they are passed on to a new generation.
Skilfully made clothes actually help the planet.
Not just because we buy fewer. But because the amazing people who can craft clothes with real skill, can also mend clothes with real skill.
And slow fashion brands, whether traditional shoe makers or gorgeous jeans ateliers, offer life time repairs as part of their product.
Their mastery of mending is the ultimate rejection of chuck away clothes.
5. Low Clothes Miles
Slow fashion choices also cut clothes miles.
Shipping a bulging wardrobe of barely worn, little loved clothes to us pollutes. Massively.
Once we embrace a capsule wardrobe, buy less and spend more we can bring skilled weaving and pattern making and cutting and sewing jobs back to our local communities.
The carbon footprint of one beautiful dress made 250 miles from home is massively lower than five made 5,000 miles away.
6. Community Based
Buying stunningly sustainable clothes made with skill locally can actually resurrect communities who’ve been struggling.
Skilful jobs can bring money and pride back to traditional garment making towns.
Some skilled fashion producers – for example, Northamptonshire shoe makers – kept going and are now thriving. But other sustainable brands – such as Hiut Denim – have rediscovered skills in little towns like Cardigan, where they were thought to be lost.
When we buy beautiful clothes from skilled communities – whether locally or in poorer countries via Fair Trade – we use the power of our purse to say we won’t pay for poverty and we won’t shop families out of good jobs.
Sustainable slow fashion can make a huge difference to the sustainability of the planet.
The biggest things we can do are actually:
- To buy less
- And to buy local.
But natural, organically grown, pesticide free fibres that don’t guzzle water or spew out toxic waste as they are turned into fabric and garments also help enormously.
Look out for clothes you love in :
- Organic cotton (GOTS certified)
To help, here’s a list of 15 natural clothing brands.
If you do buy synthetic, look for Tencel or other Lycocel fibres, as these are made with closed loop production which reduces toxic waste.
8. Vintage Fun
We want fashion to be fun, don’t we?
It’s a space to be joyful and glamorous and sensual. To stand out and make our mark.
And sustainable clothes have an image issue: all dour neutral naturals and rough fibres.
The old stereotype is so not true.
But it’s OK because even if our capsule wardrobe is high on neutral classics we’ve got one hundred years and more of fabulous vintage clothes available to have fun with!!!
Sensational sequins. Fake fur. Neon synthetics. Whatever we want, we can buy: vintage.
And each vintage item bought cuts landfill.
Vintage clothes also have another key part to play in the slow fashion movement because great quality clothes retain their value.
We’ve all been there: shocked we can’t make tuppence selling a huge pile of barely worn cheap clothes on eBay or some such.
Cheap clothes just don’t hold value.
So we dump them on charity shops, who half the time can’t shift them either. And eventually they go to landfill. Or are burned.
Sustainable style is different.
Its an investment. And if we look after our clothes – much easier in a capsule wardrobe – we will make money, selling them on in the future, if they are no longer quite us.
They play their part in a circular economy.
And that’s the final goal of slow fashion.
We need to reject the buy-it-and-bin-it values of fashion brands who’ve used our money to generate mountains of waste.
We want the clothes we buy to keep going.
By lovingly wearing them lots, looking after them, mending them and when they do become a bit mutton-dressed-as-lamb or the like, selling them on for others to enjoy.
Until they truly can’t be worn and then upcycling or recycling them.
More and more sustainable fashion brands are accepting their old clothes back when they are worn beyond repair and recycling the fabric to make beautiful new sustainable clothes.Original images: Fernando de Souza & Jason Hargove