How to be an ethical shopper: a quick guide!

This article is an analysis of the current state of fashion and the importance of innovative materials in the industry, done by Ella Peters for Fix that Shirt. Ella recently graduated from her course in International Development Management in Arnhem, NL. Her studies are focused on sustainable supply chains in the fashion industry.

Through this article, we aim to spread awareness about alternate materials in the textile world, which might be traditional or are the recent discoveries that can actually change the course of fashion industry from an incredibly polluting one to a more clean and sustainable one.

So if you are a fashion student, educator, researcher, enthusiast, or a stakeholder in the fashion industry in any way, we invite you to give it a read.

What it really means to shop sustainable or conscious consumerism ?

This is all about your decision making when it comes to making a purchase. If you buy something that drives a positive social, environmental and economic impact you’ve nailed it – you’re a sustainable and conscious consumer (Kevany, 2019) .

With fashion recognised as the second largest polluting industry globally, there is a clear need for action to be taken, by us all – RIGHT NOW (UN, 2019) ! But it can be daunting knowing what to do, where to start and what information to trust – especially with so much greenwashing in the fashion industry these days.

How to shop in a more environmentally sustainable and ethical way?

(A quick note on greenwashing – when brands claim to be sustainable, ask yourself, what do they mean by sustainable? What impact are they making? Are their claims backed up by data (Westerveld, 2020) ? If this information isn’t readily available are they just jumping on the sustainable bandwagon in the hope of a few more sales?).

So often people feel ‘guilty’ when they tell me that they shop at big high street brands, as they stock the clothes they want to wear at very affordable prices. For me, the important thing with buying new clothes is to first ask myself this question: Am I going to wear this 30 times?#30 wears is a campaign launched by sustainability queen Livia Firth which is designed to make people think hard about whether they really need to buy a new piece of clothing which slowly but steadily contributes towards reducing the twenty first century obsession of over consumption (Eco-Age, 2020) .

The movement is great in helping people transition away from fast fashion, encouraging them to opt for quality pieces which can be worn over and over. My two tips are: 

1. Find out more about capsule wardrobes as they are a great tool in helping you create a myriad of different outfits with just a few garments.

2. When making a new purchase ask yourself: How many ways can I style this? Is it the perfect fit? Will it last at least 30 wears?

How you can create your own sustainable fashion wardrobe?

If we all simply wear the clothes that we genuinely love and are not just buying things for the sake of it, we’re already taking positive steps in the right direction. It is, of course, best to wear and enjoy the clothes which are already in our wardrobe ,especially when we consider that over 40% of our clothes are rarely or never worn (Fashion Revolution, 2020) . 

Plus with the current lockdown restrictions and being more housebound it’s the perfect opportunity to do any small repairs and alterations to the garments that have been hanging out in the bottom of the wardrobe. If you need some hints and tips, I recommend you check out @remakeourworld and @collectivegen. And for those of you who really want to repair fashion wardrobes but have no understanding whatsoever of how a needle and thread work and small budget makes it hard to approach traditional tailors, well, search no more because @Fix That Shirt, the upcoming French start-up has got you covered by helping you find a fixer within your budget just at the click of a button, from the comfort of your couch.

Recycle clothes

How are organizations and companies getting involved ?

Fairtrade, organic, GOTs (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified are all becoming clothes labels we are seeing more and more frequently, which is great. Each voluntary sustainability standard (VSS) has different focus area and hence, criteria, so they all mean something slightly different in terms of sustainability but as a snapshot they mean that the clothes have been produced in monitored conditions, fewer chemicals have been used in production, workers receive fairer wages, and the environment has been better protected (Common Objective, 2020) . 

It is important to note that very few VSS cover the entire value chain, most solely focus on production (GOTS certification covers the entire value chain) (GOTS, n.d.) . When it comes to buying undies, I’d always consider certified intimates as these garments are really close to your body and it’s good to keep nasties (harmful dyes, chemicals etc.) away (Brooks, 2015)Depop, Vinted and eBay are all great online platforms for buying and selling second-hand items. And, if you’re after a bit of lux or high end, Vestiare Collective has beautiful designer pieces. A favourite and local to my home in the UK is independent preloved boutique @MatisaMarket which offers beautifully curated pre-loved pieces as well as a great range of sustainably sourced brands. 

How can an individual make a change ?

When buying something new it’s always worth considering the outfits you can create with the new addition, otherwise it’s all to easy to end up with lots of clothes which don’t quite fit together, which creates the age-old problem of having ‘nothing to wear!’ 

Clothes swaps (organised events or do it yourself with a few friends) can be really great for getting that feeling of ‘new clothes’, having fun and getting creative with new outfits. If you fancy a challenge, how about aiming for at least one piece of sustainable clothing a day – that might be a tee shirt made from certified organic cotton, or a pre-loved gem you’ve found on eBay.  

Try it for a month and see how you go … it might just become just part of everyday life.To wrap this up, ethical fashion is not about making any drastic sudden change. It’s all about making considered purchases, thinking smarter about how you put your outfits together and enjoying what you already have!


 Like this article? Join us in creating a more ethical fashion ecosystem by spreading the word!  

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Brooks, A., 2015. Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-hand

Clothes, London: Kings College London.

Common Objective, 2020. Guide To Key Fashion Sustainability Certifications. [Online]

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[Accessed 23 February 2021].

Eco-Age, 2020. #30Wears. [Online]

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[Accessed 24 February 2021].

Fashion Revolution, 2020. Statistics. [Online]

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[Accessed 22 February 2021].

GOTS, n.d.. Standard. [Online]

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[Accessed 19 February 2021].

Kevany, K., 2019. Conscious Consumption and Sustainable Development. [Online]

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[Accessed 22 February 2021].

UN, 2019. UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost of staying fashionable. [Online]

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[Accessed 23 February 2021].

Westerveld, J., 2020. What Is Greenwashing: Differentiating Between Sustainable And

Sellable?. [Online]

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[Accessed 24 February 2021]

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