How To Shop More Consciously and Sustainably

The Background

I have to admit, during my mid-teens, my buying habits were excessive and wasteful. I went through a phase that I'd imagine that many image-conscious young people go through, whereby my style changed weekly and my favourite shops monthly. I'd reached a point where my entire bedroom was built around the excessive amount of clothes that I owned, in fact, I couldn't even fit all of the clothes in my wardrobe hanging up, instead I had two huge boxes stuffed with seasonal pieces at the bottom of my wardrobe, alongside hanging items and six overfilled drawers. In reality, however, I probably only wore 10% of the clothing that I owned.

Last year, it reached a point where I decided that enough was enough, I was sick of having so much clothing that was poor quality and was talking up all of my space. I also did some further research into the effects of fast fashion, both on those who make the garments and the environment, and needless to say, I was absolutely disgusted and couldn't believe that I had participated in essentially, slavery.

It would be my dream to able to only buy ethically made clothes, and where this is possible I do try to do so, but in reality, this is really difficult on both a student's budget. I have also found it really difficult to figure out exactly which brands are ethical, as the information tends to be well hidden and the information on the internet tends to be contradictory.

Therefore, I decided that, for the phase of my life that I am in now, I would instead purchase clothing consciously, being completely aware of where it was from and how it was made, I try to avoid brands that I know purchase clothes from factories with terrible worker's conditions, although sometimes I have found that I have done so unknowingly, as I said, much of the information online is contradictory. To ease my conscience, I, therefore, began donating some money to the charity 'Labour Behind the Label' who campaign for garment workers' rights, which I urge you all to research. I think that it is important to be aware of where your clothes come from and do small acts to try and make it better for these workers.

From an environmental standpoint, however, buying less is so much better for our planet. In 2015 there were 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions produced by the global fashion industry, and in the UK 235 million items of clothing were sent to the landfill last year. Therefore, it is true that the addictive means of fast fashion are detrimentally damaging the environment, and unlike clothing, we can't buy a new planet once it is worn out.

I do think that the high street is not completely avoidable, as unfortunately, the system will need to change first. However, I do believe that by shopping more consciously and ultimately buying less, we are able to begin to play our part in this movement.

Reasons for Shopping Consciously

1. Helping the environment.

2. Decreasing patronage to brands that purchase from factories with poor labour conditions.

3. Saving money- yes! I have found that by buying less, even though I'm spending more money when I do purchase a piece, I'm actually saving money in the long run.

4. Having beautiful, timeless, perfectly fitting pieces that will last you years, and never feeling like you don't have anything to wear again.

5. Bringing the meaning back into shopping, it is much more satisfying to buy one item that you absolutely love and know that you will wear forever than to buy the whole of Primark and discard it a few months later. 

What is conscious shopping?

By conscious shopping, I mean being emotionally present for everything that you purchase, and really putting the thought and energy into any piece that you buy. I began this by cutting down on the amount of online shopping that I was doing- which was just excessive and unneeded. Instead, I'll order or purchase one item, I'll make sure that it fits like a dream (as the amount of ill-fitting clothing that I'd purchased and kept was insane) and that it is amazing quality, the style is classic and it is something that I know I will treasure.

My Favourite Brands

1) People Tree
2) & Other Stories
3) Mango
4) Free People
5) Selected Femme

How to Begin

In true Marie Kondo style, you need to begin by decluttering the clothing that you already own. The most important part is to be ruthless- if you don't like it, it doesn't fit or you don't wear it, then get rid of it! It's also vital not to dispose of anything in the rubbish bin- because that's when it ends up in a landfill! Instead, donate everything to a charity shop, you would be shocked at how much they actually keep, and if something is beyond wear, they will generally dispose of it through the correct means of recycling.

You may need to do this multiple times to really cut down on your clothing, and generally, the more regularly that you go through your items, the more ruthless you will be- don't keep things "just in case".
Then, you need to decrease how often you shop. If you tend to buy new things every week, then try and make it every two weeks, if it every month then try and make it every other month. Ideally, you will be able to get to a point whereby you are able to simply buy a piece to either replace something that has worn out or at the beginning of a new season. I really do believe that minimalism is key for timeless fashion.

When you do buy a new piece, really think in depth about it.
You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want it? (if it is just because you want to buy something, then do not purchase- you shouldn't shop to fill a void!)
  • Is it good quality and does it fit as I would like it to?
  • Is it a staple or is the style timeless? 
  • Where was it made and is there a more sustainable alternative?
  • Do I really need it?

If you're unsure, then walk away, if you're still thinking about it a week later, then go back and buy it, but the chances are that you won't be, it was most likely just a momentary thing. Remember, the focus is on quality, not quantity.

Lastly, here is my list of timeless pieces that will help to shape your wardrobe into a capsule wardrobe for the years to come.

Timeless Classics and Staple Pieces for Winter

1. Blazer
2. (Faux) Leather Jacket
3. (Formal) Wool Coat
4. Loafers
5. Chelsea Boots
6. Straight Leg Jeans
7. Denim Skirt
8. Turtle Neck Jumper
9. Plain T-Shirts
10. High Neck Long-Sleeved T-Shirts

Note: I would purchase most of these items in black, as that truly is a timeless colour and goes with everything, but equally any neutral is perfect, and it is good to have a variety of neutrals in one outfit.

I hope that you have found this blog post helpful, and I truly do believe that if we all begin to shop more consciously, we can help to shape a fashion industry which cares more about other people and our planet, as it is all of our responsibility.

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