How to Create an Eco-Friendly Wardrobe

By Anya Cooklin-Lofting

It’s common knowledge that fashion is one of the most polluting industries. According to style magazine, The Face, the fashion industry is responsible for 10 per cent of global carbon emissions. What’s more, the magazine also reported that annually, 300,000 tonnes of unwanted garments are binned. The scale of the waste, from the garments themselves to the water and energy used in their production, is gobsmacking. Of course, it would be remiss not to touch on the awful conditions that the staff at some of the biggest fashion houses are forced to work in. Fashion’s problems run deep, with more issues than Vogue and more dirty secrets than Cosmo.

So, in the rare moments that we aren’t campaigning on Oxford Street and writing to the CEOs of some of the biggest fashion troublemakers, it’s time to think about how we can affect some change on a personal level, assessing our options putting our greenest foot forward. There are many ways to approach curating an eco-friendly wardrobe, and I want to caveat this by saying that 99 per cent of the options available won’t break the bank. In fact, my first tip will actually help you save money while doing a little bit of good…

Shop Your Wardrobe

One of the best ways to curate a wardrobe that doesn’t hurt the environment (any further) is to shop the rails in your own bedroom or dressing room. In other words, rethink the clothes you already own, adopt a fresh perspective and look at the new ways you can style pieces for a fresh new look.

Shopping your wardrobe requires careful organisation. If you’re anything like me, your wardrobe starts the year in perfect order and quickly descends into a chaos of creases, making it impossible to see beyond the handful of pieces you keep on rotation. Giving yourself more of a boutique experience when it comes to getting dressed in the morning or for an evening out means creating a shopfloor environment. For example, group your blazers near your shirts or camisoles, stack your jeans in a neat pile on a shelf and hang dresses of the same length or style together. Not only will this take your wardrobe to level-Kondo, but it will also make the process of selecting pieces a pleasure rather than a (physically exerting) chore.

Of course, this kind of organisational activity will help you rediscover both the pieces you love and those that you never want to wear again. For the pieces that fall into the second category, keep a bag close by to fill and take to your local charity shop.

Renter’s Paradise

To maintain all that extra wardrobe space and to keep up the organisational pace, renting clothes for special occasions, or even nights out with friends, is a sure-fire way to keep your look fresh and eco-aware. Rental sites like Hurr and Rotaro offer style-led, high-fashion, designer items on a short-term basis across accessories like handbags and jewellery and clothing from bridalwear to winter coats. 

Making a conscious step away from the mindset that tells us we must buy-to-keep, from anything including housing and cars to pets and clothing, really does serve to help save the environment. One particularly interesting feature of the Hurr site is that each garment is listed with environmental savings. For example, renting a shimmering, rhinestone-embellished, Prada shift dress for £134 instead of buying it for £2,500, saves the carbon dioxide equivalent of 42 trees or 9,041 miles in a car.

Pre-Loved Updates

Now, if you must buy new clothes with any frequency, the best way to do this is by shopping second hand. Charity and vintage shops are perfect for the thrill of finding a diamond in the rough (or, in my case, a perfect Eighties jacket with in-tact shoulder pads). Second-hand shopping is understandably daunting for newcomers, but once you get the hang of it, there’s really no greater pleasure.

It’s all about approaching the rails with an open mind. The easiest mistake to make is to go looking for a specific item, and in your haste to find said item, miss out on all the brilliant finds that fail to resemble the piece in your mind’s eye. In this way, second-hand shopping should really be seen as a fun outing or activity to do with friends when you can give it the time it needs (with all the necessary coffee breaks).

Shopping the Top Eco Players

And finally, for those who can’t break from their retail therapy, there are so many options out there for truly sustainable new garments. From retailers and makers on Instagram to pop-up clothes shops on some of London’s cooler highstreets, the choice is overwhelming. A quick Google search will bring up countless options to suit your style and taste, but a few of my favourites are Franks, Sézane and Boyish.