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Staff writer

February 20, 2023

Can you love fashion and still buy sustainably?

Sustainable fashion is a tricky subject and this is a question I’ve grappled with for a while now because I genuinely enjoy following trends, have a (possibly) unhealthy love for shopping and I just can’t seem to keep my closet down to the meagre 33 items for a capsule wardrobe. If you can relate to this let’s chat about my staggered approach to breaking up with fast fashion.

This is not the kind of break up where you move overseas, change your number and quickly latch yourself onto something (someone) else. I’ve been in a relationship with fast fashion for as long as I can remember so I plan on this being a healthy, adult break up – one with boundaries, clear expectations and possibly over-communicating.

In a previous post about sustainability I shared that I’m a far shout from Sustainability Queen and I’m okay with that. My approach to sustainability has always been about making small changes to my lifestyle and if all of us adopted this approach we could actually make a real difference. So read all of this through the lens of ‘trying is better than nothing’.

Sustainability is expensive

I hear this all the time and the short answer is: yes, it is expensive because you’re choosing the (hopefully) forever option rather than the fine-for-now choice. And this obviously comes with a premium price tag. The way that I’ve navigated sustainability on a budget is to do tons of research which may look like buying the fine-for-now item to gauge if I’d be willing to invest in the more sustainable item later down the line. An example of this is, last year I purchased a pair of super affordable black sliders from H&M to see if I liked the fit and how many outfits I could pair them with. After a couple months they started breaking but by that point I’d already decided to invest in a good pair of original Birkenstocks that could last me 5+ years. So although I’ve bought one pair of fast fashion sandals I’ve since invested in the more sustainable option so I won’t need to continually buy a new pair every year. One step towards the break up – GO ME! If you want to understand exactly why slow fashion is more expensive give this a read.

Resell to sustain

I’ve always loved a good spring clean but since opening my Yaga store I’ve been even more ruthless with the clearing out process. For one, it’s nice to have some extra room in my Harry Potter sized cupboard and it’s even better that I get to make money from the clothing I’m no longer wearing. This is a great way to save up for a big-ticket items, spendy sustainable pieces or simply to give your wardrobe an overhaul. With just two batch uploads (there’s a third coming soon) I’ve been able to give unloved pieces a new home, invest in some great sustainable fashion purchases & make many people happy – so for me there’s no downside to reselling items that are still in good nick. This also enables others to shop sustainable rather than fast fashion.

Secondhand but grand

As someone that grew up on hand-me-downs the idea of rummaging through a (sometimes) smelly Tears clearance bin could set me running at quite a pace to the nearest fast fashion retailer. So knowing my affliction with rummaging for hours just to find that one gem I’ve instead found some pretty incredible premium online vintage stores that will do all the rummaging for you. As a curvy woman, it’s very seldom that I actually find anything in my size so I’d rather pay that little bit more for a beautiful vintage Burberry trench from Me On You which can be bought from the comfort of my home. The revelation that vintage shopping doesn’t mean hours in a second-hand store has set me free to live my best sustainable fashion life. If you’re keen to shop second-hand but you’re not sure where to start, this post has some great tips and recommendations. I’ve also listed some of my favourite local premium vintage stores: The Changing Room, Me On You, Better Half and Afraid of Mice.

Research is the new black

The one thing I’ve seldom done since moving toward sustainable fashion is spur of the moment buying and when I do this I’ve often made a bad choice & had to return the item or have serious buyer’s remorse. I’ve learnt that buying sustainable fashion is all about making an informed decision which means lots of research into fabrics, fit, integration into your existing wardrobe, your ideal style and possible resale value. If research isn’t really your thing, Aurora Sustainability is a wonderful resource on all things sustainability. This post about why you should break up with polyester is fantastic!

The Clueless closet rotation

If you’re a nineties kid you should understand the Clueless reference. I clearly remember watching the scene where Cher scrolls through countless outfit options on her (now ancient) computer before finally selecting a cute checked two-piece set and since then I’d idealised having THAT amount of clothing, but sadly it’s just not sustainable. I have, however found a better version & it’s called Style Rotate! You can scroll through beautiful occasion wear dressing and pick one to rent. This is a great way to wear fun new pieces for engagement parties, weddings, graduations, etc without having to buy a dress and then have it simply hang in the back of your closet, forever forgotten.

Coming from the person that had a body image wobble and ordered over a thousand rands worth of clothing from the fast fashion mega store a few weeks ago, writing this post has been a great help in reigniting my excitement and love for sustainable fashion. But like I said, if we could all do our little bit (while still giving ourselves grace for a wobble) it will make the biggest difference to over consuming and adding to the fast fashion culture.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and any tips you have on changing your mindset around shopping sustainable fashion.

This article was published in partnership with Le’Chelle Aldrige. The original post can be found here.

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