The dictionary of fashion and retail has recently caught hold of an increasingly used term- sustainability. Consumers have started to affiliate their loyalty to and relationship with brands based on the environmental and socio-economic impacts of their products. This has lead to brands embracing the change in consumer demand for more eco-friendly clothing by remodelling their production processes and therefore guaranteeing themselves success in the near future.

The sustainability matrix is vast, however, it unquestionably includes reducing CO2 emissions, recognising and addressing overproduction, lowering pollution and waste, supporting biodiversity, and ensuring that the labour force in the garment industry is paid fairly and has safe working conditions

Fast fashion brands, which are the greatest examples of the ability of the global supply chain to produce affordable apparel at a rapid pace in order to meet the latest trends, have also taken steps in vocalising their role in supporting environmental issues. Zara, for example, is ambitiously committed to use 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025. Even tough consumers and brands are slowly grasping on to the reality that it is not long before sustainability becomes the key purchase driver in the industry, there are obvious gaps in the acknowledgement of the same.

Photo: H&M Conscious Collection

It is tough to pay no heed to the increasing pressure on us as consumers to do our part in protecting the planet. When we make rational and responsible purchasing decisions, we’re investing in the sustainability movement and setting examples for other consumers to reduce their impact. Sustainable and ethical shopping practices can be the first step to minimising your environmental footprint. And considering the alarming rate that we’re all consuming and destroying clothes, we could all do some good by rethinking how and what we shop.

If you as a consumer are in the works of building a more ethical wardrobe, it is understandable that the process can be quite intimidating and rather perplexing, but no need to sweat it anymore because we’ve got your back!

Here is a compilation of a 10 step guide to designing a sustainable closet in the most effortless way possible!

1. Gain more insight

In order to make the right purchase from the right brand, it is essential to do your homework. Thanks to the boundless amount of information available on the internet, and the social media presence of innumerable brands, acquiring details about the practices followed by each of them is not notably hard. This investigative work can help you in choosing the right labels to buy from, based on the alignment of their products with your needs.

Synthetic fibres such as polyester, acrylic, and viscose rayon, while hard to avoid, are huge culprits of environmental pollution. Fortunately, pioneering brands such as Stella McCartney are developing new fabrics with more sustainable methods. adidas by Stella McCartney launched the first-ever garments made with Evrnu’s NuCycle™ yarn and KOBA® Fur Free Fur, a sustainable, recyclable animal alternative made from recycled polyester and plant-based plastic.

Photo: adidas for Stella McCartney

Along with gaining knowledge about the materials that are used and their sources, it is also essential that we recognise whether the workers involved in producing our garments are provided with a fair wage and safe working environment by the brands we are seeking out to.

2. The 30 wears test

The #30wears Campaign was floated by Livia Firth, founder of Eco-Age, a sustainability consultancy. This concept encourages mindful shopping by asking oneself “Will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?” If the answer is yes, then buy it. The idea promotes investing in versatile and timeless pieces which can be styled in numerous ways. 30 wears may not sound a lot to some of you, but if you come to think of it, you’d have to wear the same piece of clothing once a week for over seven months in order to reach the 30 wear mark. (that’s a lot!)

Firth told Refinery29, “At the moment of buying something, ask yourself ‘Will I wear it a MINIMUM of 30 times?’ If the answer is yes, then buy it. You will be so surprised how many times, though, the answer is actually no.”

3. Shop secondhand

Thrift stores are rising in popularity by the minute. By carrying out secondhand or vintage purchasing, we are essentially reusing a product. Along with feeling good about our intentions towards the environment, this practice is a great way to find high-quality, one-of-a-kind, and unique pieces at extremely pocket-friendly prices.

Buying, or even selling on secondhand retail platforms is a step towards helping the circular economy become mainstream. The circular economy concept is nothing but making the best use of resources and minimising waste, which opposes the linear nature of the fashion industry.

4. Look after your clothes

Naturally, we are prone to take care of garments which have a higher value on the basis of how much they’ve cost us, however, it is vital to do the same for everything in our wardrobe in order to increase the lifespan of our clothing, and therefore reducing their environmental footprint. This will lead to fewer replacements in our closet.

5. Donate your unwanted clothes

While donating your unwanted or old clothing will benefit someone in need, it will also help others be more sustainable. Instead of discarding garments that will eventually end up in landfills, considering giving them away is a way more environmentally friendly option.

Photo: Mara Hoffman

6. Don’t get green-washed

Greenwashing is defined to be a marketing strategy adopted by organisations where a product or service is portrayed to have environmental benefits in order to forge an ecologically responsible image among consumers. Terms such as ‘sustainable’, ‘conscious’, and ‘eco-friendly’ are sometimes very loosely thrown by labels to gain traction by the public. It is crucial to stay on the lookout for such luring practices.

7. Invest in trans-seasonal clothing

A wise pursuit would be to only purchase items that are assuredly going to work for you year-round. It wouldn’t make any sense to shell out on an entire summer wardrobe each year if you live someplace cold, and vice-versa. Instead, spend the lion’s share of your clothing budget on items that will last you more than one season. A much more sustainable wardrobe would consist of, for example, jeans, t-shirts, classic dresses and timeless coats.

Instagram: @kendalljenner

8. Upcycle your clothes

Are you bored of that sweater? Or do those jeans no longer fit you?, In such cases there are numerous ways to give life to your old clothes. Upcycling is when you use these old garments to create something even better than what it was in the first place by design and value additions. For example, you can turn a jumper that’s shrunk in the washing machine into a new handbag. Or you can cut and sew t-shirts into new hats, scarves, ties or bags.

9. Quality over quantity

Buying sustainable and high quality pieces are likely to pinch your pocket more than purchasing cheap high-street products that do not satisfy your requirements. However, it’s all about altering your mindset and it comes down to careful planning. Products that are sustainable and of high quality will unavoidably cost more, but they’re also likely to have a higher lifespan, giving you much more wears. Each year, investing in a few high quality items, rather than heaps of less eco-friendly pieces, will radically reduce your carbon footprint.

Photo: Eileen Fisher

10. Alter your outlook

With an increasing number of brands seeping into the realm of sustainable fashion, eco-friendly purchasing and dressing do not call forth a compromise in the latest trends entering your wardrobe.

Sustainable fashion is often seen as just one style when really, the creation of more ethical techniques does not have anything to do with visual aesthetics. All sustainable brands have their own identity and collections.