1. Find your values
The first step is to find what you value when purchasing clothing. Do you want your clothing to be all handmade? Or all from organic material? Or is cruelty free clothing important to you? Ethi focuses on 7 values and each brand featured fits one or more of these values:
- Material sustainability
Once you have found a value (or more) that is important to you, focus on the brands that meet those values. Alternately, if you love the thrill of the hunt you can op shop! All those textiles are already there and sometimes you can find the ultimate garment at a cheaper price.
Considering cotton uses around 20,000 litres to produce 1kg of cotton, it’s a good idea to research all the different types of fabric as some are more environmentally friendly than others. Typically, organic cotton, linen and peace silk are great fabrics as they are usually produced in an environmentally friendly way and can biodegrade.
It’s also worth doing some research on companies that claim to be ethical as some are prone to greenwashing (laying false claims about the environmental impact of their products/business). Ensuring they have an accredited ethical recommendation (such as Ethical Clothing Australia) or use organic fibres (such as GOTS – Global Organic Textile Standard) is a great starting point.
3. Find your Style
Finding your style is as easy as creating a Pinterest board and pinning images of outfits you like to it. Make little notes as to why you like the image. Don’t be too strict as to what you pin, there is no right or wrong – it’s your style. Play around with different colours, but keep it real. Don’t focus on pinning only red tops if you have never worn red. If you really want to try out a new colour, borrow something from a friend in the same hue and see how you feel.
4. Use what you have
Sometimes it feels like you should just throw your current wardrobe to the op shop and start again. Not only is this the biggest waste of resources, it’s also a big waste of money. Sure, your wardrobe may not contain clothing that matches your values right now. But, from now on you can be a conscious consumer and purchase only what you truly need and what matches your values. After all, the most sustainable wardrobe is the one you already own.
Also, feel free to jazz up items with sew on patches or just distress the hem on the denim jeans you never wear – get creative!
5. What do you really need?
Now is the ideal time to list down what you need in your wardrobe. Whether you are replacing items that are falling apart or realising you need a top for summer. Just make sure you are being a conscious consumer and not just wanting an item because the latest Insta idol wore it, really think about what you are missing in your wardrobe. This should also be an ongoing list, one to be checked every time something wears out in your wardrobe or stumble across an ethical brand.
6. Create a wish list
Now we can start looking at those beautiful ethical garments, but keep your wallet closed! Do your research and look around for the ideal garment that fits your values. Too often we buy the first one we see, only to find out it doesn’t fit our shape or the colour is wrong. Then we forget to return it and are stuck with a perfectly good garment taking up prime retail space in our wardrobe. To stop this happening to you, take a browse of your favourite ethical online shop and make a wish list. Ethi is great for this as you can shop via values AND make a little wish list once you create an account.
7. Sleep on it
Give yourself a little bit of time to think about how you can match the item into your wardrobe, what you can wear with it. Don’t buy the item if you can’t wear it with at least 3 different items in your wardrobe or if you need to buy another thing to go with it. That’s not a conscious purchase. Only when you are sure it’s going to be a great fit for your sustainable wardrobe, buy it.
8. Take your time
Ultimately, building a Sustainable Wardrobe takes time, it doesn’t happen in a week. Each item must be thought about, fit you and most importantly, be loved enough to be worn repeatedly.
Although your style may change throughout your lifetime, it’s important to keep those values that you set at the start. Building and keeping a sustainable wardrobe can be a battle in this fast-paced consumerist world, but you will reap the rewards with a wardrobe full of well-loved ethical garments.
This article was written by Ethi contributor, Jenna Flood aka "Ironic Minimalist". She is an ethical blogger and slow fashion stylist. You can find her blog here.