Whenever I’m faced with the task of de-cluttering anything at home, my biggest decision isn’t what to get rid of, but where should I take it to… I try to be thoughtful about not sending anything needlessly to landfill; wracking my brain for anyone locally that might be able to make use of the item I’m agonising over; I give to local charitable organisations wherever possible; then to the Charity shops; if it’s suitable, I’ll sell it at an NCT sale, or at a push eBay – never Face Book, I don’t know how… and failing all else, onto the large “purpose” recycling bins in our local supermarket car park then finally the tip… frankly the abundance feels overwhelming to me..
I console myself by saying “it’s a phase”, “it’s just the stage we’re at”, but even if this is the case, then I’d really like to do more to reduce my impact… try to soften my footprint on our planet and to make changes that will add up to be significantly positive.
Finally there is increasing coverage about the damaging effects of plastic on our environment and voices are growing in numbers and getting louder with planet preserving messages of ways we can all reduce our negative impact. This still needs to become the new norm and it needs to be global, but it thankfully feels like there are accessible ways in which we can unite in making greener choices, giving our collective contribution greater impact.
Another accessible route to a more sustainable lifestyle is through fashion; garments and interiors alike. We are wading through seas of existing fabrics with our sights firmly set on something new off the rack or the bolt, when we could be up-cycling, re-purposing and refashioning what we already have. Just look through your wardrobe, your linen closet, your attic (somebody else’s attic!), the charity shop, the vintage stall, see what treasures are already there.
In the short space of 60 years or so, we have gone from making our own garments or furnishings from what we had because of shortage and hardship to now finding there is a need to use what we have in an effort to tackle abundance and ease to consume…
Sixty years ago, if you wanted to emulate the wardrobe of a prominent figure, movie star or pop singer, you’d refashion what was available, most likely out of an existing garment and likely to your parents despair(!)… but now, if you want to look like the person trending hardest, then just swipe up on their #ad and you’ll be directed to the site(s) where you can purchase their entire outfit all for next day delivery.!
One of the biggest travesties is that Fast Fashion moves quicker than simple seasonal trends, it’s a constant churn based on who’s hot today, creating impossible competition and unsustainable wants.
And so the cycle continues… raw materials drenched in pesticides, manufacture of the textiles using unthinkable quantities of water, mass garment construction, the unfair and unsafe labour used throughout the process to this point, the shipping, the retail, the wearing & washing, the ultimate disposal… now multiply this by each of the ready to wear garments owned… surely it’s time to start making greener choices?
I’m painting a gloomy picture, I feel it too; and you’d be right to suddenly feel completely engulfed by the problem and I’m certainly not professing to owning an entirely recycled handmade fabric BUT I am suggesting that there are lots of easy ways that we can all enjoy fashion in a (more) sustainable way.
Megan Nielsen has written a brilliant Sustainable Sewing series and as part of that The Beginners Guide to Sourcing Fabric Responsibly Decision Tree offers an insightful and practical way of reducing the negative impacts of this compelling arena of modern living.
And panic not! If you are in need of a little retail therapy, then that quick fashion fix is still attainable too!…
Sew me Sustainable… You’ve curated your stash of existing fabrics; now it’s time to SHOP. Head out online and into your favourite indie pattern stores; think True Bias, Helen’s Closet, Tessuti Fabrics, Megan Nielsen, Sew Over It, Tilly and the Buttons, By Hand London, the fabulous list goes on, we truly spoiled for choice!
Buy your PDF online, it arrives instantly to your inbox and with no shipping footprint (or cost, bonus!). Print on bulk standard printer paper and glue it together (it really is as simple as a jigsaw with A4 pieces!), keep for future use and recycle it when it’s held it’s final pin and seen it’s final cut.
You can be sat at your machine sewing in under an hour; swigging a glass of of your favourite tipple; making a made to measure garment with your pre loved material!
Frosting… Don’t be shy, this is where you can have ALL the fun and really let your personality shine through; gather up your buttons, ribbon, your 80’s fabric badges, lace doilies (yup, you better believe it!), beads, material scraps, sequins, transfers, holograms and get frosting your wardrobe.
Braid, patch, embellish, embroider, the world is quite literally your creative oyster! Rehash what you already own into a new wardrobe or simply add a little sparkle to an old favourite instead of feeling like you need to buy yet another LBD.
If you’re looking for inspiration, I am still swooning over Lauren Taylor’s sparkly cat patch – click here to see exactly what I mean!
Vintage Shopping and alterations… Still feel like you’re missing out on the rush of a physical purchase?! Then hit the Vintage Stalls and Charity shops, don’t worry about fit within reason, grab what you love and buy what inspires you; you can then alter it and/or refashion it to suit you. Why hold back, you’ve bagged yourself a bargain, re-homed some beautiful fabric, so what’s the worst that can happen if you make a mistake?! Stitches can be unpicked, dresses can become separates, blouses can be cropped and sleeveless! Let your imagination run wild.
Buying New… Increasingly the Catwalk and the High Street are providing more examples and offerings of eco fashion.
Levis have upped their game by reducing their water consumption in their finishing process.
And the online brand ASOS boasts an Eco Edit.
Don’t feel like you can’t team rtw with me made or vintage finds with off the rack, remember this is about being MORE sustainable and any measures we make are an improvement on none…
Most importantly make sure whatever you choose to wear, that you love & look after it and it will serve you and our planet well for years to come.
Click below to hear me chatting with BBC Radio Northampton’s Helen Blaby about Sustainable Fashion and my Sew me Sustainable workshops coming soon in the Snug