Steve Cochrane, MD of designer clothing retailer Psyche, shares his top tips for creating a sustainable capsule wardrobe full of high-quality clothing.
The fashion industry is responsible for 20% of the globe’s wastewater and 10% of all carbon emissions (UN Environment). This means the sector causes more damage than all international flights and maritime shipping. If you’re looking to live a more eco-conscious and sustainable lifestyle, being more mindful about the clothes you buy is a great place to start.
Fast fashion is regularly cited as the main problem, and this term is used to describe inexpensive and trend-led pieces that are often mass-produced using low-quality materials. Because garments are only ‘in style’ for a short period of time, they’re only designed to last a few wears, which means they will likely be eventually sent to landfill. It’s a huge waste and, to stop the cycle, we all need to be putting more thought into the clothes we buy.
To help you create a capsule wardrobe full of environmentally friendly staples, here are my top five top tips for finding clothing made ethically and sustainably. And, if you would like to learn more about the importance of combating fast fashion, Solo Living has a great guide to slow fashion that’s well worth a read.
5 Steps To Creating A Sustainable Capsule Wardrobe
1 Choose your fabrics wisely
There are a number of things worth considering when it comes to choosing the fabrics you want your clothes to be made from. Firstly, to create a capsule wardrobe of sustainable staples, you’ll want each piece to last as long as possible. Choose materials that are going to be hardwearing and easy to care for. At the same time, getting plenty of wear out of the pieces you pick will be important, so ideally they will be comfortable, too.
It’s also worthwhile considering the environmental implications of buying certain fabrics. For example, when washed, polyester and nylon can release microplastics, which eventually infiltrate our oceans and even our bodies. Traditionally, harmful chemicals and huge amounts of water have also been used in the production and dyeing of cotton. While choosing natural fibres can often seem like the most sustainable option, this isn’t always the case — it all depends on how the material is sourced and treated.
I would always recommend opting for clothing made from natural and organic fabrics that are high-quality and from a brand working hard to be sustainable. Organic cotton, linen, and ethically sourced wool are all great choices.
2 Choose neutral pieces that you can wear in multiple ways
The main problem with many fast fashion pieces is they can often only be worn a handful of times, either because of poor construction or it’s only on-trend for a short amount of time. Try to avoid clothing like this as you shop for more sustainable clothing.
Instead, opt for well-made pieces in neutral colours. A capsule wardrobe should be versatile, therefore it is a good idea to think about how you will wear a particular garment before actually buying it. When you’re looking to build a sustainable capsule wardrobe, you’ll only want to invest in pieces you can wear time and time again, and the more ways you can style them the better. This will reduce the chance of you getting bored with any one item. Only take the plunge and purchase a piece of clothing if you can imagine wearing it at least three different ways.
3 Research brands before buying from them
While it’s vital to look into how a particular product has been made before you buy it, I would also recommend researching the ethos of the brand you’re thinking about purchasing from. As sustainable fashion is becoming more popular, some brands are jumping on the bandwagon without really doing enough in the way of sustainability. So, you should always investigate whether they actually believe in the slow fashion message they’re pushing, or if they’re simply paying lip-service or trying to make a quick profit.
For example, fast fashion brands have been known to release more eco-conscious collections without addressing the fact that most of their stock is still unsustainable. So, if you buy from these ranges, you’ll still be helping to fund a company that’s happy to make and sell throwaway clothing that’s contributing to the environmental crisis we’re currently dealing with.
4 Think about spending a bit more
Sourcing eco-friendly materials and making high-quality clothing takes a lot more time and effort, which is reflected in the price of eco-conscious clothing. So, if you’re serious about building a wardrobe of pieces that haven’t had a negative impact on the environment, you will need to accept it will cost a bit more, to begin with. However, by investing in well-made garments that can be worn for years to come, you can actually save money in the long run because you won’t have to buy as much. Plus, you can rest assured the planet hasn’t paid the cost of your clothing instead.
5 Get rid of old clothing responsibly
If looking to make the switch to slow fashion but your wardrobe is currently full of fast fashion pieces, consider how you will dispose of them once they’re no longer wearable.
If a piece has simply gone out of style and you know you won’t wear it anymore, donating to a charity shop is likely to be your best bet. The store can then sell the item on to someone who’ll re-wear it, and the money will go towards a good cause.
Clothing that’s stained, ripped, or just generally unwearable can still be recycled. The fabric will typically be repurposed, so it won’t go to waste. Recycle Now has a guide to recycling clothing and textiles, which will also help in finding your local drop-off point. WRAP estimates that £140 million worth of clothing ends up going to landfill each year. If we all start taking steps to dispose of our clothing in a more responsible way, this figure can potentially be dramatically reduced.
Creating a sustainable capsule wardrobe is a great idea: not only will it benefit the environment, but it will also save you money in the long run. Plus, as everything should work well together, you won’t have a nightmare each morning when you’re trying to get dressed!