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Reduce your fashion footprint: 9 tips and tricks

A growing number of fashion forward individuals are working towards a more sustainable clothing industry, swapping fast fashion hauls for vintage finds, reviving the ‘make do and mend’ movement and setting up swap shops with friends. It may not feel like it, but change is coming, and fashion mavericks around the world are putting the cool back into ethical. Here are some smart tips on how to make your wardrobe more sustainable.

The rise of “fast fashion” and the pressures of changing trends has led to an increasingly throwaway clothing culture. We want it all, we want it now and above all - we want it cheap. The average UK household owns a dizzying £4,000 worth of clothes, yet around 30% of clothing in the average wardrobe has not been worn for at least a year. That glitzy top that lured us in with its £5 price tag now sits in the wardrobe gathering dust. The worrying part is many unloved garments don’t even make it to the wardrobe, and instead head to landfill where they join all the other abandoned worn-once outfits. It’s estimated that £140 million worth (350,000 tonnes) of used clothing ends up in landfill every year rather than being recycled, or given away to be used by someone else.

More and more creatives, designers, makers and organisations are proving that your income needn’t prevent you from buying ethically and sustainably-conscious clothing that looks and feels great. One such organisation is Fashion Revolution, a global movement tackling the issue of transparency in the clothing supply chain. Each year, they ask people to take a ‘label selfie’ with their favourite item of clothing, tag the brand they are wearing and post their photo on social media with the hashtag ‘#whomademyclothes.’ The reaction to the campaign has grown substantially since it was launched back in April 2013, with a new hashtag #wemadeyourclothes developing in response. This request for transparency is the first step in convincing brands to take responsibility for working conditions in their supply chains.

Co-founder of Fashion Revolution and fashion designer Orsola De Castro describes this movement: “The core of it is simplicity. I want to respect, know and honour who made my clothes because we are connected by the same thread. The campaign helps to shine a light on the people in the industry who are completely invisible and this has created a bigger conversation globally.”

Fashion Revolution nudges us to be inquisitive about who made our clothes and realise that we are very much a part of the bigger picture.

Here are some easy ways to begin to trim down your fashion footprint…

1. Love thy clothes

Extending the lifespan of your clothes by just three months would lead to a 5-10% decrease in waste, water and carbon footprints. Get a little more wear out of your clothes and think before you throw them away.

2. Bargain hunt

Take the second hand clothing challenge and try buying from vintage or charity shops where possible. Not only will you reduce your fashion footprint, you’ll bag yourself some bargains that are completely unique to you!

3. The old switcheroo...

Swap shops are an eco conscious way to refresh your wardrobe while spending zero money. Why not make an evening of it and set a date for you and your friends to switch outfits?

4. A stitch in time...

Holey jumpers and socks? No problem. Try your hand at restyling and repairing clothing to get more wear from your threads. If sewing’s not your thing, then find a local tailor to do the hard work for you. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out The Good Wardrobe, a platform which shares knowledge and helps you to prolong the life of your wardrobe.

5. Hire it!

Going to a fancy shindig? Avoid buying outfits you’re only going to wear once by renting them instead. Your wardrobe’s carbon footprint will be smaller, more flexible and fun, while also saving room in your closet.

6. Don’t lose your rag

If your outfit is past repair, then repurpose your fabrics into cleaning rags, or alternatively, make use of local clothing and textiles banks that will reuse or recycle. Most clothing banks will accept anything from bed linen to clothes, shoes, bags and belts.

7. Plastic-not-so-fantastic

You’ve probably heard of microfibers - these plastic ocean-polluters can be found in many of your clothes. When these clothes are cleaned lots of tiny microfibres are released into rivers, lakes and the ocean, potentially poisoning the food chain. Try switching man made polyester clothing for natural materials such as organic cotton. Alternatively, purchase a washing bag that captures microfibers.

8. Quality over quantity

You don’t have to spend a fortune, but try and look for products that are better quality. These will last longer, keeping your fashion footprint smaller.

9. Pins and needles

Looking for more ways to recycle fabric? Try your hand at making your own clothes out of fabric offcuts! If you’re a sewing novice, why not look out for local workshops. There are loads of stitch ‘n’ bitch style groups where you can learn a new skill while having a natter.

No matter what change we make, whether big or small, change really does start with us. Orsola (Fashion Revolution) believes it is simple: “If you take action, you are supporting activism. Begin by opening your wardrobe.”

So here’s to the fashion revolution - let’s make every outfit count.

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