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July 01, 2020

The Beginners Guide to Sustainable Fashion


If you've been a long time reader of Northern Blood then you will know that I've been trying to maintain an ethical, sustainable, and somewhat curated slow fashion wardrobe since 2017. I started to educate myself on the problems with fast fashion and it made me take a step back and assess my own consumption and bad shopping habits. It's all well and good that I've shared that change of heart but, I haven't really provided you all with any information on how I made that change; how I started on my journey.

It's not you, it's m- nope, it's definitely you
First things first: you need to break up with fast fashion. Obviously that's the overall goal anyway but, you need to be prepared for changing spending and consuming habits that you may have had all of your life up until this point. Regardless of how you adapt sustainable et al. fashion to fit your needs and lifestyle, you will need to make changes as no matter what, one of the main principles behind making these changes relies on less consumption.

Statistically, we consume more fashion now than ever before and the only way we can tackle that is if we minimise how many items of clothing we're actually purchasing. People often mistakenly believe that to buy into a more sustainable, ethical, and/or slow fashion lifestyle that you must also become quite minimalist and that's simply not true. Finding what works for you is vital as you need to make changes that you will stick to. If the thought of having only 30 items in your wardrobe fills you with dread, you're not going to stick to a capsule wardrobe idea so it's not worth it. Make it work for you, whatever that may look like - as long as you're knocking that over-consumption of bad quality fast fashion on the head.


Look for inspiration in the right places
So, breaking up with fast fashion might seem daunting at first but, one of the best things you can do is give your personal style a chance to breathe and really work out what items you want to own and love but also find new sources of inspiration that will encourage to shop with consideration.

One of the best decisions I made at the start of my journey was unsubscribing from all of the mailing lists and promotional emails I got for high street brands and big online retailers. No longer did I receive those tempting "20% off for 24 hours only! Don't miss out!" style emails every other week that almost always resulted in purchases I didn't need. Another great tip is to stop following brands/influencers which encourage you to impulse buy. You don't need to get rid of what you find inspirational of course but, if you know following X will make you hop on over to Asos to order that skirt they had on in that post, oh and those shoes, oh and that bag that was on their IG stories yesterday... yeah, you get the picture.

Educate yourself
I know it sounds obvious but, read all that you can about sustainable fashion; what it means, where to buy it, what the different terms are that get thrown around under the umbrella of sustainability... There's a lot of information out there and although not all of it is good and/or accurate, there's plenty there to help you work out how you want to change your spending habits and how to go about it.

The reason I say research is important is because you need to understand what your standpoint on sustainable fashion is. I use the term "sustainable" and mean it in liberal terms, encompassing "ethical", "slow fashion", and "eco-friendly" within that buzz word but the reality is, those things are all so very different so it's important you decide what your outlook on fashion is and what you will and won't buy.

As a brief starting point, remember that:
- Sustainable fashion is garments made from materials that are natural and/or don't harm the environment in their harvesting/production process. I have a whole post on natural and synthetic materials which may help!
- Ethical fashion is from brands who ensure all workers, from the picking of materials to the finished garment being sold are paid fair and at least minimum wages. Their working environment, shift hours etc. are all taken into account too.
- Eco-friendly fashion is garments which are made of natural fibres such as bamboo, organic cotton, linen, hemp etc. Most eco-friendly garments are sustainable but sometimes, some brands aren't too transparent about the production process of their garments but, they are happy to share that the fabrics/materials are eco-friendly or conscious.
- Slow fashion is garments which are timeless and meant to last you a lifetime due to their classic colours, cuts, and styles! They don't follow seasonal trends and should be versatile for years to come.

If you don't really know where to start, searching for ethical and sustainable fashion blogs and YouTubers is a good shout. Documentaries such as the very popular The True Cost also help demonstrate the consequences of our fast fashion consumer demands and is eyeopening for anyone who is new to the realm of ethical fashion. Fashion Revolution is also a great site for delving deeper into the ethics of fashion and big brands taking advantage of garment workers (as well as providing you with some shocking environmental impact statistics!).


Carry on learning and gain confidence with your ethics and sustainability!
Lastly (and most importantly) don't be too hard on yourself! It's a huge change to make as for many of us, it's a way of life that we've known all of our lives that we're trying to completely overhaul and unlearn. There will be times you might slip up and impulse buy or you might buy from a brand who you thought were ethical and it turns out they don't pay their workers fair wages (usually greenwashing can be to blame!) - it will happen and it's more than okay.

Some good support out there that is impartial and will never judge you are apps such as Good on You and Not My Style. These apps do a lot of the hard work for you by rating brands on their transparency about the materials they use, their production methods, their wages, suppliers etc etc. If you're feeling unsure about what brands to buy from, try searching your usual favourite brand names on these apps and see what they have to say - if it's not good things, look at the brands they suggest who are similar but who have good ratings and that way you can start to make small changes that you will be confident and happy with.


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