TRAID spoke to Chloe Jagger, contributing fashion writer at lyst.com and shared our top tips on how to create a more sustainable wardrobe, why it’s important and what to do with the clothes you no longer need or use.
1. Put everything where you can see it
Although this will likely (and alarmingly) take up all your floor space, we can’t properly emphasise the value of getting everything out where you can see it. That means pulling out the contents of drawers, stacked piles, any clothes hanging out of sight in your closet and anything that may have slipped into the dark recesses of your wardrobe. With this all-encompassing view, you’ll be able to immediately see how much stuff you have and you can start being ruthless. At this stage, we find that people tend to be very shocked by the amount of clothes, shoes and more they own, but no longer wear!
2. Sort your clothes
Now you have everything out in front of you, separate unwanted clothing into three piles: keep, mend / clean, donate.
1. Keep any items that you have worn and enjoyed wearing in the past year. If there are pieces that you still think you like but haven’t been wearing, bring them to the front of the wardrobe so you can see them and try wearing them. This always focusses the mind!
2. Mend/clean those clothes and shoes you keep not wearing because they have a small problem – like a broken zip, small stain or worn heel. Repair and specialist cleaning is the sort of thing we tend to keep putting off, and we guarantee it will bring items you love in your wardrobe back into use. Which is great for the environment! Use an ethical ‘dry’ cleaner like Blanc which is completely chemical free.
3. Donate clothes that you no longer wear to TRAID. There are lots of reasons why people no longer wear items in their wardrobe – it doesn’t fit, it was an impulse buy, it’s not my style. Be honest with yourself about whether you really think you will wear it again. If you haven’t worn that winter coat that doesn’t quite fit or doesn’t feel right for two seasons in a row, it’s highly unlikely you ever will! Clearing these clothes out of your wardrobe means you are putting wearable clothes back into circulation, so someone else can use them.
An organised wardrobe is a sustainable wardrobe! Most people are unaware of the number of pieces they don’t wear and will never wear again. Keep the clothes and shoes you use and wear regularly in sight and in reach, and have a regular seasonal sort through your clothes to stay on top of items you are no longer wearing.
4. Look after the clothes you already have
It’s easy to put off tasks getting our clothes and shoes repaired or cleaned. But, it means that clothes we could be wearing, end up abandoned and forgotten in our wardrobes. Instead, take pride in looking after your things so they last longer. Take shoes to your local cobbler, repair your clothes or alter them if they aren’t quite right. By doing so, you’re keeping your clothes in use for longer!
5. Donate the Remaining Items Your donation pile should include anything that doesn’t fit you or items you haven’t worn in more than a year (special occasion items excluded). When you look at this pile feel good! Keeping your clothes in circulation is one of the most environmentally beneficial things you can do to reduce the waste, carbon and water footprint of clothes. According to WRAP, extending the life of our clothes by just 3-months reduces the waste, water and carbon footprint of the garment by 5 – 10%!
Drop these items off in a TRAID charity shop, book our free fast home collection service (yes we’ll collect directly from you) or drop them into one of our national network of clothes reuse banks. As well as the environmental benefits of giving longer life to your clothes, TRAID commits the funds raised from reusing and reselling your donations to projects supporting people and places making our clothes. A win win!
6. Start Changing Your Habits
So, now you’ve been responsible for the clothes you no longer need, you can turn your attention to being more responsible for the clothes you buy. It’s not only the environment that pays a high price for fast cheap fashion. Pressure from retailers and brands to keep clothes as cheap as possible means that the people who make our clothes endure exploitative labour conditions including low wages and dangerous working conditions. So, say no to throwaway clothes which have major social and environmental costs, and instead, build a wardrobe of classic staples that will last for years.
Try supporting brands which are committed to sustainable production and are improving transparency in their supply chains. If you aren’t sure how ethical or sustainable your favourite brands are try and find out online, or get in touch with them and ask. Most ethical of all. Source more of your clothes second-hand. It’s a brilliant way of reducing your fashion footprint, and when you shop second-hand at TRAID charity shops or our eBay store, you’ll also be helping us raise funds to improve environmental and social practices in the fashion industry – from stopping child labour to helping cotton farmers grow without using hazardous pesticides.
Finally, stay informed about the realities of the fashion industry. There’s a wealth of information out there. Check out guides such as TRAID’s Wearing Poverty Out, or the work of our partners including GoodWeave and Pesticide Action Network.