But the prospect of curating a wardrobe filled exclusively with sustainable fashion can seem daunting.
Will, it cost a fortune?
Can I shop sustainably and dress stylishly?
Where do I look?
(In order) No. Absolutely yes. And, the list is endless and ever-growing.
There are hundreds of sustainable alternatives to fast fashion to choose from – scroll down for our top picks. But before we get into the ‘whats’ and ‘wheres’; let’s begin at the beginning with the key to starting a slow-fashion journey and the golden rule of sustainable fashion…
The most sustainable garment is the one you already own.
Utilise what your wardrobe (or someone else’s) has to offer. Every outfit you re-wear rather than buy new has a positive impact. Fast-fashion or a vintage hand-me-down, if you’ve got it, wear it. If you don’t have it but need it for a specific event (job interview etc.), borrow it. And for those garments that have seen better days or no longer fit – get upcycling.
On with the list of our favourite sustainable alternatives to fast fashion.
Sustainable fashion alternatives
Made to order.
Made-to-order exemplifies how shopping for brand new clothing can be done sustainably. Brands produce only what customers order, eliminating excessive production and resulting waste. Often smaller production teams, made-to-order brands are characterised by greater transparency and ethicality of the labour behind our labels. London based label Susa Musa create made-to-order clothing out of ‘deadstock’, unused vintage fabric, fabric discarded due to a minor defect and surplus fabrics, sourced from factories throughout the UK.
Susa Musa reclaim rolls to create beautiful, made to order pieces in limited numbers, skilfully hand-sewn by their tailor, who works with the fabric in a way that results in little to no wasted material. Resourcefulness, creativity and a personalised buying experience are at the forefront of Susa Musa’s ethos to create bespoke clothing to take pride in owning.
Shopping pre-loved is the perfect way to scratch the itch, consciously. A great place to start is cult resale app Depop; an unmissable source of second-hand fashion finds, and platform for independent brands. The app has been described as a community with access to a vast inventory of ‘pre-loved streetwear, vintage designer and one-of-a-kind creations to build your own identity and create your own story, all as a sustainable choice’. Depop saw a 90% increase in traffic in April 2020, indicating an immense positive shift towards embracing pre-loved pieces. We especially love Depop because you can focus on specific searches and be met with hundreds of second-hand or independently designed purchasing options.
Share more, buy less. Fashion rental is simple – rather than buying an item for specific occasions, rent it for a set period then return for someone else to use. Our market pick is By Rotation, a peer-to-peer fashion rental app. Users can rent clothes for a daily fee (generally less than 5% of the RRP) set by the lender and items can be exchanged either in person or via post.
By Rotation partner with low-impact packaging and delivery companies, and non-toxic cleaning services, to limit the environmental impact of the entire rental process as much as possible. Users can track of their positive individual impact made by renting rather than buying, with ‘The Impact Scale’. FYI renting rather than buying just one dress could save up to approx 67,000 glasses of water.
80% of goods that go to the second-hand market, often through charity donation, end up in landfill or shipped abroad. Cue the clothes swap.
Small, regular swaps with friends and family, or open-to-all organised events; clothes swaps are a great way to keep garments in active circulation. (In pre-social distancing days), a clothes swap is a fantastic excuse to invite everyone round for an evening-in. Or there’s the long-chain clothes swap – start with one bag of clothes you no longer want, pass it on to a friend, who then passes it on to another etc., and the bag will empty and refill as it makes its way along the chain. Thankfully, technology is making swapping easier than ever (even during lockdown). Depop can be used for swapping with many users swapping rather than paying. Swapchain; recently launched by The Global Fashion Exchange uses transactional data technology to create a digital traceability profile for each piece of clothing registered, including the factory of origin and a description of the textile composition of the item.
To reframe the meaning of ‘value’, users can see the lifecycle of each garment; where the clothes came from, who made them and who has worn them. If you’d like to experience SwapChain for yourself – they host swapping events in collaboration with their UK partner – Lone Design Club.
In terms of organised, in-person clothes swapping, COVID-19 has put a bit of a spanner in the works. We recommend keeping an eye on Eventbrite to discover clothes swaps in your area.
Choosing slow fashion
Making the move to sustainable fashion is a fantastic choice to make in terms of societal and environmental impact, but that choice is a privilege not open to us all. Having the time, resources and financial means to consume fashion sustainably is a privilege. So, while using our power as consumers and ‘voting with our wallets’ is essential, we must also take every opportunity to support causes that are pushing for change to the fashion system from a legislative perspective. You could attend an insightful Fashion Roundtable webinar or utilise Fashion Revolution’s amazing online resources such as this letter template to send to brands and ask, ‘who made my clothes?’.
As Vivienne Westwood once advised; ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’. These words are the sustainable fashion lover’s mantra; slowing down our fashion consumption doesn’t mean sacrificing our style, but instead embracing circularity and creative consumption, prioritising quality and investing in staple items that we see ourselves adoring for years to come.