Here's a comment that comes up a lot when I talk about fair fashion here on the blog:
"I would love to build a more ethical closet but I can't afford ethical brands!"
And I can totally relate. In an ideal world, my closet would consist of nothing but Reformation dresses, Elizabeth Suzann pants and Cuyana silk camis, but in reality I just don't have the money to shop exclusively from sustainable brands, much less replace my entire existing wardrobe with ethical alternatives. And I can't imagine many people do.
But the good news is this: Buying from ethical brands isn't the only way to "green-ify" your closet and help your cause. In fact, supporting ethical brands is only the tip of the iceberg of a whole set of strategies you can use. Either one of them reduces your personal contribution to the negative impact the fast fashion industry has on workers and the enviroment.
And either one is better than grabbing a flimsy $5 top from the top of the sales pile that will end up as landfill in three months.
So let's take a closer look at each of the 5 ways you can build a more ethical closet:
1. Value and take good care of the clothes you already own
Taking care of the clothes you own (no matter their brand) is the best and most basic thing you can do to build a more ethical closet. Repair what's broken, handwash what needs to be handwashed, fold heavy sweaters instead of hanging them, and so on.
Clothes that are well-taken care of last (and stay nice) for longer. That means they'll need to be replaced less often and you can buy fewer clothes overall, thereby reducing your contribution to the costs of fashion in the long-term.
2. Shop less, choose better: Only buy pieces you love 100%
The fast fashion industry may have gotten its name from the quick rate at which catwalk designs are delivered to the masses, but it just as accurately describes the way we shop nowadays. Fast, laissez-faire, without thinking about it too much. We pick up new pieces here and there, because it's all so cheap and won't break the bank. The result: A closet full of so-so stuff that we are not too crazy about. And so we keep on shopping to fill that void, to replace imperfect pieces with better alternatives and to finally feel like we have enough to wear... it's a never-ending cycle.
So how can you break that cycle? Start choosing better! Don't just buy the first pair of jeans that fits ok, find one that you love and then wear it for years, instead of just a season. Train yourself to be more selective when it comes to buying new clothes, no matter whether you are shopping at a vintage shop, an eco boutique or a high street store. Don't buy things that you know aren't ideal and will want to replace soon. Instead of five cheap, mediocre sweaters, keep looking until you find the one that you love 100%.
By learning to wait you'll not only buy less in the short-run, but also in the long-run because overtime you'll build up a much better, more satisfying closet that way.
3. Go for clothes that are high-quality and durable
No matter the brand, buying clothes that are well-made and consist of high-quality materials is more eco-friendly than buying lower-quality pieces, because they'll last longer and need to be replaced less often. And less closet turnover means what? Exactly, less shopping overall!
Not sure how to find high-quality clothing? Check out this beginner's guide.
4. Buy vintage or second-hand
Another great, budget-friendly alternative to buying ethical brands is to repurpose pre-worn clothes, and save them from becoming landfill. Finding what you want in a vintage or second-hand store can be time-consuming, but often worth the effort in exchange for some truly unique pieces. So give it a try if you haven't yet!
5. Support ethical brands
From Honest by to Everlane: If you want to support ethical brands you've got plenty of options to choose from. If you missed it, click here to see my original list of 30 Ethical Fashion Brands You Should Know and check out the comment section too for lots of extra reader suggestions.