33 Ways To Dress More Sustainably

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33 Ways To Dress More Sustainably

Words by Ms Tamsin Blanchard

20 September 2022

There is so much that we as individuals can do to enjoy our clothes while minimising the impact of our fashion choices on the environment. Dressing more sustainably is something we should all want to do because, well, we only have one planet. The choices we make about the materials our clothes are made from matter. It might mean doing a bit of research to be reassured that the brands we buy from are working responsibly, and treating the farmers who grow the fibres; the weavers who make the cloth; the dyers; the garment makers and everyone involved in the making of our clothes with fairness and respect.

For brands, it is important that they can trace their supply chain and know who is involved in every step of the process. For consumers, this is why transparency is necessary, so that we can feel secure that we are making the right choices sustainably as well as sartorially.

But once we have our clothes, our responsibility doesn’t end. As Ms Orsola de Castro, cofounder of the world’s biggest fashion activism campaign Fashion Revolution, wrote in her 2021 book Loved Clothes Last on the revolutionary act of rewearing and repairing your clothes: “Mending doesn’t mean we can’t afford to buy something new; it means we can’t afford something being thrown away.”

As Dame Vivienne Westwood puts it, “Buy less, choose well, make it last.” By making informed decisions and treating our clothes as friends for life, we all have the power to make positive change.


Loved clothes last

This has to be the number one mantra when taking a sustainable approach to style. You can’t shop yourself out of a climate crisis, but you can be mindful about what you buy and cherish what you have to ensure it is worn – and enjoyed – for the longest possible time. To learn more, read de Castro’s book Loved Clothes Last about the revolutionary act of rewearing and repairing your clothes, and rethink your relationship with your wardrobe.


Flaunt your pre-loved finds

Reflaunt is a service designed to create a marketplace for pre-loved clothes and accessories. It brings the industry a little closer to the circular economy by keeping clothes valued and worn for longer. MR PORTER has a partnership with Reflaunt for MR PORTER RESELL, which allows you to easily list three items or more from a list of pre-approved designers. Once you get into the habit of selling your clothes, you will see how easy it is to keep your wardrobe organised and uncluttered.



Whether you want to keep them for life or make sure they are in good nick to resell, part of looking after your clothes and accessories is maintenance. Just as a good quality pair of leather shoes gets better with age the more you polish them, repairs will add to the character of your favourite items. Taking your items to a tailor to mend moth holes in your prized sweater so that you would never know it had been attacked, or your local shoe repair shop to restructure a bag and make your favourite sneakers look as good as new.


Tailor to go

Repairs and tailoring are incredibly accessible nowadays thanks to apps such as Sojo, which offers alterations delivered by cycle courier to your doorstep – think of it like Deliveroo for clothing maintenance. Their most common request is for repairs to jeans or trousers and prices are surprisingly low, from £20. “There are multiple benefits in altering and repairing your clothes,” says Sojo founder Ms Josephine Philips. “The first is financial, ultimately it’s cheaper to invest in a high quality repair than to replace a garment. Fit is another one, there’s no better feeling than putting on an item of clothing that fits you perfectly.”


Beg, borrow, share

We’ve all heard about the “boyfriend jean” – but why not the grandad trench, the girlfriend blouse, the son hoodie, or the best-friend blazer? These days, clothing choices are so much more fluid. And not just between genders, but generations, too. If you live in a house with other people – whether family, significant others, friends or flatmates – why not borrow and swap your clothes? Obviously, there are issues around size, but if you can find some common ground, or a few universal pieces, there is no reason why those clothes can’t travel freely from one wardrobe to the next. A piece of clothing shared is a carbon footprint halved, or something like that…

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Look out for fashion’s innovators

Mr Paolo Carzana is an emerging designer who is committed to reducing his impact on the environment and to making heirloom clothes filled with emotion and love. He is part of this year’s NEWGEN cohort, and the extraordinary attention he has paid to fabrics since graduating from Central Saint Martins is still central to his practice. He has found a delicious Tencel twill, recycled polyester and organic cottons dyed using natural dyes such as tea. He uses Welsh tapestry to support the local heritage craft of his native Wales (he’s half Welsh, half Italian). Currently in residence at the Sarabande Foundation, Carzana is a rare talent; a designer who doesn’t compromise his ethics.


Make more

There’s nothing like a make-it-yourself project to help understand and value the skill, time and care that goes into making clothes. Once you see the skill required to insert a zip, or make a buttonhole, you’ll never take your clothes for granted again. Merchant & Mills has some great patterns including bags, waistcoats and this Foreman jacket. Once you’ve mastered it, you can make it as many times as you need.


Support independent designers

We all know the pleasures and positives of shopping at our local farmers’ market. That same joy can be had supporting independent fashion designers. Small designers can have tighter control over their supply chains, and they actually know who made their clothes, often personally. Mr Rav Matharu’s clothsurgeon blends sportswear with Savile Row craftsmanship and quality offering bespoke streetwear with the one-to-one experience of working with a tailor. Likewise, Karu Research’s founder Mr Kartik Kumra focuses on unique textiles and small batches, beautifully crafted. Small and independent often equals slow and steady – always the way to win the race.


Seek out upcycled clothes

In a bid to make use of the textiles and garments already in existence rather than making new ones, upcycling is increasingly being utilised by designers and brands. The best upcyclers are the ones with infinite attention to detail, for whom the process is as much a part of the journey as the final product. The most exquisitely upcycled garment is one to treasure for life. Take for example, 11.11/eleven eleven’s upcycled patchwork shirt, an elaborate jigsaw puzzle of precious scraps left over in their studio and pieced together like a piece of poetry.


Know your fabrics

Understanding a little about the fabrics your clothes are made from is key to being able to make more responsible decisions, so always be sure to read the label. There are many arguments for and against synthetics versus natural fibres, but everyone has their own take on this. For environmental purists, synthetics made from oil are never a great idea. Recycled nylons and polyesters, on the other hand, are a step in the right direction and are eminently recyclable. Natural fibres, such as organic cotton or linen, are great, but do your research – nasty chemicals, such as polyfluorinated compounds (PFCs), organotins or polyurethane, which are often used to dye or process fabrics, can biodegrade and ultimately end up in the soil. Natural wool is a great material if you know where it came from – and that the animals’ welfare was a priority. Leather is a no-no for vegans, but if you are a meat eater, it should be treated as a luxury, and is always best naturally tanned.


Play the regeneration game

Regenerative agriculture has become a bit of a buzz word in sustainability circles. It simply means replacing or restoring the nutrients and carbon back into the soil and finding ways to give back to the Earth instead of just taking. While there are no “certified regenerative” tags – at least not yet – a little research can help you find the brands who are giving back more than they take. One such wonder is Story Mfg., which works with Oshadi, a regenerative farming collective in Erode, southern India, where the compost is made from local food waste, the cotton is planted using intercrops and ground cover to keep the moisture and nutrients in the soil, and the extraordinary long staple cotton is harvested by respected farmers who take pride in their work.


Know your garment’s journey

Technology is allowing brands to document the journey of their collections, from farm to factory, and even into your wardrobe and beyond. Gabriela Hearst and De Bonne Facture are two brands working hard to trace their supply chains and be transparent. Gabriela Hearst has a long running relationship with Manos Del Uruguay, a non-profit cooperative supporting local women to make knitwear for the brand. De Bonne Facture’s clothes each include the name of the factory, its region and the history of the atelier in the hangtag.


Good clothes fair pay

The fashion industry has many dark corners where unpaid overtime, minimum wages and malpractice can lurk. Good Clothes Fair Pay is a campaign calling for legislation for EU-based brands and retailers to ensure that the people who make our clothes are paid a living wage, wherever they are in the world. The campaign needs one million signatures, yours will make a difference.


Be more Dieter

The legendary industrial designer Mr Dieter Rams (the man behind your Braun alarm clock) had 10 commandments for good design, and they are well worth applying to your wardrobe:

Good design is innovative; makes a product useful; is aesthetic; makes a product understandable; is unobtrusive; is honest; is long-lasting; is thorough down to the last detail; is environmentally friendly; involves as little design as possible.


Find your style and stick with it

As well as commandments, Rams also liked a uniform – a pair of chinos, a black T-shirt and a pair of tortoiseshell glasses were his signature. Having a style makes getting dressed (and shopping) easier and also stops you from making mistakes and buying something you immediately regret – and never wear.


Recycled polyester

There is no getting away from the fact that the world is already awash with polyester, one of the most commonly used materials in our clothes. But the good thing is that polyester can be recycled without losing its quality. And ocean waste, like fishing nets made from nylon, can be regenerated into high-quality, durable textiles such as that used for this Econyl back pack by WANT LES ESSENTIELS.

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Cruelty free and natural

Beauty isn’t skin deep, and Haeckels proves that point. Its founders saw an opportunity in the mountains of seaweed swept ashore on their local beach in Margate and built a brand around this most renewable of resources. Not only does it make sense to use natural ingredients on your skin, but it’s also entirely cruelty-free, too.


Go vegan

The global market for vegan food is expected to grow from $14.4bn to more than $24bn by 2025. So, it would follow that more of us are looking for vegan options in our clothes and shoes, too. Veja makes a mean vegan sneaker that doesn’t compromise on style and leaves the cows alone. Also see luxury essentials brand Ninety Percent, which uses only plant-based materials, after founder Mr Shafiq Hassan decided to go vegan to reflect his love of animals as well as the environment.


Slow down


Recycle your running sneakers

Sneakers can be among the worst culprits when it comes to using synthetic and mixed materials that are difficult to take apart and recycle. Runners on average need to replace their shoes every four to six months, but don’t chuck them in the bin. If you send them to charity, tie the laces together so they don’t lose each other. Or if they are beyond wearing, take them to your nearest Nike or adidas store to be recycled. They will accept any brand.


Swap more

The most sustainable clothes are the ones already hanging in your wardrobe. Mr Patrick Duffy aka The Swap King has created a global movement making use of our unworn clothes. Duffy himself has acquired an ever-changing wardrobe through swapping, finding brands such as Maison Margiela and SAINT LAURENT and hand-knitted sweaters. “Even my favourite pair of vintage Wranglers are from a swap,” he says. He recommends hosting a swap and inviting friends and their friends. Giving the event a theme, say evening wear, gives everyone a focus. Otherwise check out GFX – Global Fashion Exchange and see your nearest organised swap event.


Get involved

If any of this matters to you – and you’ve got this far, so you must be on board – check out the Fashion Revolution manifesto for a better fashion industry and if you agree, add your signature.


Learn to sew on a patch

Orsola de Castro has a good tip on patching. “You can patch any hole with almost anything provided you follow the original fabric.” So, patch jersey with jersey or an equally stretchy fabric, or woven fabric to patch other woven fabric. She also recommends using ready-made patches, you can find them online.


Wear better socks

Check out socks by Thunders Love, which are knitted in small batches using recycled yarns. So much better than a pack of five that will get holes in faster than you can darn them.


Where there’s a wool

There are some great new initiatives using locally reared sheep, with transparent supply chains. Look for pure new wool, undyed and untreated – it is a wonderful thing and a well-crafted sweater should last forever.


Moth control

Here’s another great tip from de Castro’s book: include a decoy in your wardrobe or drawers like an old Shetland sweater or a ball of yarn and the moths will flock to that and be happier there than feasting on your latest cashmere purchase.


Natural dyes

Send your stained or faded clothes to a communal natural dye bath. Botanical Inks is a wonderful Bristol-based business based with regular dye baths where you can send your stained item, or something you want to refresh, and have it dyed like new.


Don’t wash

Leave your clothes unwashed for as long as (sociably) possible. Jeans only need to be washed every six weeks. You’ll save water, electricity and your jeans will last longer. If you have a spot stain on an item of clothing, try to sponge it clean before you throw it in the wash basket.


Buy local

Like wine and whisky, with some of the finest clothes, it’s all about the provenance. Clothes made locally using local craft heritage, or the local water, or a particular flock of sheep have a special place in any wardrobe. Just look at Inis Meáin, whose collections are made using ancient knitting techniques particular to the Aran Islands, where the brand is based. Solar panels were fitted earlier this year and the brand’s unique Aran knit design is patented and held in the National Museum of Ireland.


Before you buy those shoes, buy this book

The World Is On Fire But We’re Still Buying Shoes, Mr Alec Leach’s pocket-sized roadmap to building a better relationship with fashion, is required reading. “My own shopping habits have changed since writing the book,” he says. “I’m only interested in buying things I will really wear. It’s much slower and there is no instant gratification, but when you get there, it’s so good.”


Wash carefully

Forget greenwashing, how you actually wash your clothes has a huge impact – a whopping 25 per cent – on the overall energy and water usage of your clothes. Rule number one is wash only when necessary, and when you do, turn the temperature down. Most clothes will be perfectly clean and fresh if washed at 30ºC. Your energy bill will thank you for it, too.


Get a Guppy Bag

Microfibres – microscopic specs of plastic which are shed from our clothes as we go about our daily lives – are a horrible reality. They are here to stay, from our oceans to the air we breathe and the water we drink. One thing we can all do is invest in a laundry bag that collects microfibres as we wash our clothes, preventing them from ending up in the water system.


It all starts with small steps

According to de Castro, “We need to understand that clothing care is no longer just a personal household duty, but a collective duty for the future health of our planet.” It’s important to remember that small steps – even the way we wash our clothes – have a far larger impact. We all have the power to make a difference.