Fashion at the Expense of No-one: How to Maintain an Ethical and Stylish Wardrobe

There's nothing quite like the feeling of finding the perfect outfit, but next time you fancy picking up a bargain, you might want to think twice about where you shop. Fast fashion — the name given to cheap clothing made in sweatshops — is polluting our planet, creating needless waste, and having terrible consequences for workers in the developing world. But, if you agree with Stella McCartney's recent proclamation that we need to overhaul the 'incredibly wasteful and harmful' fashion industry, then there are ways you can indulge your shopping craving without the guilt. 

Here, we're sharing a few simple ways you can make your wardrobe more ethical, including sourcing fair trade pieces, cutting down on waste, and how to suss out which brands are actually eco-friendly. Just keep on reading to learn the four things that every fashion-lover should know. 

Shop for Ethical and Pre-Owned Jewellery

When it comes unethical practices, there are few industries more at fault than the diamond mining industry. So how do you add some sparkle to your jewellery box without becoming part of the problem? 
Many fashionistas champion fair-trade diamonds, according to Sarah Buck, Head of Retail at Est.1897, these aren't a foolproof solution. She advises sourcing pre-owned jewellery as an alternative. "The problem with so much jewellery that claims to be fair trade is that all of the materials aren’t always traceable," she says. "Even if the diamond has been mined in an environmentally friendly way, and the workers were paid a fair price, the metal in the band or the setting might have come from somewhere much less conscientious. 

"More importantly, even if you buy a fair-trade piece, you're still fuelling the demand for new diamonds, which is what funds the mining industry and causes so much injustice around the world. If you want to make sure that your jewellery doesn't contribute to future injustices, then go for pre-owned pieces: this way, you can be sure that you won't be adding to the demand for new diamonds and precious metals. Plus, there are so many pre-loved pieces available that you won't have to compromise when it comes to finding a style you like." 

Pre-owned however may not be to everyone's taste when buying jewellery, so make sure you read and research and look for brands like these.


Learn How to Spot a Fair-Trade Brand

A few years back eco-conscious, fair-trade fashion garnered a reputation for being a bit unstylish and not quite on trend . But these days it's all changed and ethical fashion doesn't have to mean hippie colours, scratchy hemp jumpers, and crocheted cardigans. The idea that eco-friendly and fair-trade clothing can also be modern and stylish is starting to catch on, and many major brands are starting to pay more attention to their production methods. 
So, next time you hit the shops, whip out your phone and do a bit of research on the product you want to buy. Fashion Revolution's transparency index allows you to quickly check out a brand's ethical credentials, so you can make an informed decision before you commit to a purchase. This way, you can be sure you aren't giving your hard-earned cash to corporations who are care more about profit than taking care of our planet. 


Don’t Forget about the Little Extras

Finding eco-friendly, fair-trade clothing and accessories can make a huge difference, so don’t let the way you buy and store your clothes let your efforts down. Plastic bags are an environmental menace, so make sure you bring a few reusable bags with you during shopping trips to avoid contributing to the problem. The same goes for plastic clothes hangers: these will likely end up in a landfill one day, so use wooden hangers instead, and decline any plastic hangers if you’re offered them at the till. 

Dispose of Your Cast-Offs Responsibly

It’s not just about making smart choices as you shop, either. Over £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfills every year, according to WRAP — so if you're committed to saving the planet, you need to be considerate about how you dispose of your clothing, too. 

Next time you want to clear out your wardrobe, take the following tips on board to help make sure your clothing is re-used, recycled or donated, rather than thrown away:

  • Donate any unwanted clothing that's still in good condition to charity or vintage shops. If you're too busy to make it to a shop, then use the British Heart Foundation's kerbside collection service. 
  • Repair your damaged or ripped clothes or take them to a specialist. 
  • If a piece of old clothing is torn or stained beyond repair, consider cutting it up to use as rags for cleaning.
  • If you can’t repair, donate or upcycle your clothes, then donate them to a local textile recycling bank, rather than putting them in the bin. You can find your nearest bank using this handy tool from Love Your Clothes. 

Looking good and feeling great doesn’t need to cost the earth, and you can still source beautiful clothes, accessories and jewellery that won’t contribute to the injustices caused by the fashion industry around the world. Just take our tips on board, and you'll be able to look stylish without worrying that your wardrobe has had a negative impact on the world.