What I Wear

What we choose to wear can change the world. Currently, our fashion system relies on overconsumption. Since the 1980s we have seen the rise of fast fashion, a new business model that involves more fashion collections every year, quick turnarounds, lower prices and often lower quality items. It is trend driven and brands react quickly to capitalise on the latest looks. This system creates excessive waste at every stage of the process and is having a detrimental effect on our climate and biodiversity.

And this is all before we consider the human rights abuses and social costs of the industry, however, it is not too late. If we can act now we can decrease the carbon cost of our clothes and the industry, but still enjoy the fun and creativity of fashion!

Consider the recommendations below to learn more.

Buy Less

It is hard to resist the urge to buy into fast fashion – we’ve been told that we need to keep up with the latest trends all the time. It’s even harder when we’re living in an age where our social media feed is full of targeted ads telling us what to buy.

However, the most effective way to break the cycle is to avoid short-lived, fast fashion purchases. Before you make a purchase it is useful to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Where did these clothes come from?
  • Where will they go once I’m done?
  • Will I wear this at least 30 times?

If you don’t know the answers, think about whether this is the best way to spend your money. Check out the Good On You App to find out more about your favourite brands. Before you buy a new item, try to “shop your wardrobe” first! Chances are you already have something similar or you will find an item you haven’t worn in months.

Buy Second-Hand

The world already has more than enough clothes. Increasing the lifecycle of clothes is an effective way of saving clothes from a landfill. Extending the use of clothes will mean that the natural resources that have already been consumed are used to their full potential.

It’s easier than ever to buy second hand. Sites like EBay, Vinted and Depop have started to democratise second-hand selling across the public. Charity shops often have a great selection and the money goes to a good cause. Vintage clothes shops are wonderful to browse and can give you a unique style.


Getting some friends together to swap your old items is a fun way to browse and try new styles and a great way of giving life back to your clothes.

Check out Swap Shop Sundays and the Useless Project for swap events in Ireland. The Nuw app started with swap-shops and has now brought the concept online. You can share and swap your clothes for new items from the comfort of your own home!

Share or Rent

We all enjoy going ‘all out’ and dressing up. However, occasion wear is often more wasteful as it is likely to be made of more carbon intensive fabrics and we might only wear them a handful of times. Renting or sharing your best outfits is a great way to extend its life cycle without wearing the same dress to every event. Check out Nuw, ROTARO, RagRevolution, Borrowers Boutique or Covet.

Repair, Mend, Up-Cycle

Recently, more people got thrifty and practiced their DIY skills. There are loads of ways to revamp your existing wardrobe in a fun and creative way. Check out the Useless Project for some information and DIY tutorials or follow Studio Minti for some inspiration and up-cycled treasures.

Avoid throwing out clothes at the first sign of fraying. Some simple repairs can make a garment look new. Your local laundrette or alterations shop can do wonders, and make sure to pay your local cobbler a visit before getting a whole new pair of shoes. The new Sojo app is making it easier than ever to connect people to their local seamster.

Spread the Word

We all know a few fast-fashion addicts. Talking about the environmental impact of clothes, spreading awareness, sharing cool sustainable brands and tips on how to do things right can go a long way.

Remember – sustainable fashion is cool! Follow Emma Slade Edmonson, Venetia La Manna , Anna Duke and Tara Stewart & Molly Parsons (to name but a few) to see the best of sustainable styling.

Think about how you can use your social media to normalise outfit repeating and sharing solution-focused recommendations on brands/second hand finds. Check out this article for some tips on how to convince your pals that sustainable fashion is indeed the future.

Minimal Environmental Impact

Given that the most carbon and water intensive part of the process is the production of fibres, it is worth thinking about what your garment is made from. Linen is one of the most sustainable fabrics, hemp also has strong sustainable credentials. There are a number of newer materials which are promising such as Tencel, Pinatex (vegan leather), Qmonos (synthetic spider silk) and Econyl (nylon made from recycled plastics).

Cotton is incredibly water intensive, uses pesticides and often has a patchy human rights record for workers. Make sure you’re buying GOTS certified organic cotton to ensure you’re minimising this impact. More and more brands are working to improve recycling systems. Check out brands using recycled plastics.

Support Brands that do it Right

A fashion future where brands produce only the necessary quantities and treat their workers right is possible! Vote with your wallets and support those who are working hard to do right by their workers and the planet in a system designed for over-consumption. Check out Birdsong, Patagonia, Fresh Cuts and Know The Origin.

Garment Workers’ Rights

No one should suffer for fashion. A sustainable future is one that values garment workers’ rights and pays workers a fair wage.

Get involved with the work of Fashion Revolution and ask brands: “Who made my clothes?” Join Remake and follow the Clean Clothes Campaign to support campaigns for brands to Pay Up for their orders cancelled by Covid-19.

Advocate for Circular Fashion

To have a sustainable future we need to pay attention to the whole system. Designers and producers have to minimise waste at the production stage and design for longevity. Consumers have to change their consumption habits to ensure that clothes achieve their full lease of life – be that through sharing, swapping, repairing or up-cycling materials.

Check out the work of Ellen MacArthur on “Fashion and the Circular Economy” and follow CircleEconomy who are developing solutions to support a move to a zero waste textile industry.

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