Destroying the Fashion Stigma: How Being Eco-Conscious Can Be Budget-Friendly

Destroying the Fashion Stigma: How Being Eco-Conscious Can Be Budget-Friendly

Females, generally speaking, are more fashion-conscious than males. And there is no shortage of cheap clothes to ensure that the need to stay on trend is met.  

Sadly, cheap clothes aka fast fashion are often made from fabric that is toxic to the environment, such as polyester and nylon. From the production process to disposal, the damage these synthetic fabrics have on the planet far outweigh the thrill of its low cost and style gloss. And then there’s all the other ethical issues that often come with: exploitation, forced or child labour, unfair wages and poor working conditions to name a few.

If you have decided to do something about the strain fashion is putting on the planet, you need to go about it smartly. While buying fewer clothes is important, buying better quality made from eco-friendly fabrics is just as important. And unlike most people’s assumptions, shopping eco-friendly clothing does not have to strain you financially.

True, eco-conscious fashion will have you digging deeper into your pockets, but you can easily make the transition on a budget. Here’s how:

Step 1: Clean up your wardrobe

The first step is decluttering your wardrobe. Get rid of all the clothes you no longer love or barely touch either by selling, swapping with friends and family or donating to charity. It will create room for an eco-conscious and more refined sense of style. Your focus should be on quality and not quantity, so buy less but make sure it’s high quality and the best you can afford as the garments are made to last longer, meaning you will have fewer trips to the store, waste less money, and bin fewer clothing.

Photo: Maryia Plashchynskaya/Pexels.

Step 2: Reflect on your shopping habits

With your wardrobe cleaned out, it’s important to reflect on what propelled you to purchase the items to begin with. Were you shopping to fill an emotional void? Or shopping out of boredom? Do you shop with enabling friends and family? Or do you just like getting attention by being the first to buy into a fashion trend? Reflecting on these questions will help you understand what drives your shopping behaviour so you can avoid making the same mistakes and ending up with the same wardrobe predicament. If you don’t take some time to understand the drivers behind your shopping and deal with them, you may revert back to the same mindless shopping behaviours and buying countless outfits that sit in your closet that you barely wear.

Step 3: Have a plan

While it can be tempting to purchase fast fashion because of the low prices, it’s not worth it from an environmental and social perspective.

While sustainable fashion is a little (or sometimes a lot) pricier, you can rest assured that your purchase isn’t fuelling human exploitation and environmental pollution.

Why does sustainable fashion tend to cost higher than fast fashion you’re wondering? Brands that produce conscious fashion usually pay fair or living wages to people in their supply chain, and they often use natural or organic materials such as organic cotton, hemp or linen or man-made low-impact fabrics such as Tencel and Modal that are pricier than toxic, synthetic equivalents.

Because of the higher prices, you will need to plan ahead. Since you’ve already decluttered your wardrobe (as per Step 1), you’ll know what’s missing from your wardrobe and what you’ll need. For example, because it’s the start of the year and you’re going to back to work, it’s likely that you need work clothing. Perhaps it’s a couple of pairs of trousers or some shift dresses.

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Next, review your personal finances and plan your shopping trips as your budget allows. Aim to stick to this list of shopping necessities and don’t get caught up in sales and discounts– unless of course, it’s an ethical brand that’s offering a sale on a garment that’s on your shopping list!

Also, it’s here we should point out that if you’re after an amazing dress for a special occasion and it’s likely you’ll only wear it just once, opt to hire and rent the dress instead. Check out this post for a list of dress rental and hire shops that stock on-trend, highly-sought after designer dresses and gowns.

Step 4: Shop second-hand and support sustainable labels

With sustainability and climate change on everyone’s lips these days, a growing number of fashion brands are implementing sustainability practices within their supply chain to deliver on customer’s ‘eco’ needs. A quick search online will also bring up eco-friendly brands that produce the specific fashion item you’re looking for.

In addition, fashion designers are increasingly conscious about sustainable design and building labels around an environmental mission. ReDefine Designs, created by Chamini Lakmali, is one such innovative eco-friendly label that offers guilt-free fashion to the eco-conscious generation Z.

Chamini launched the sustainable label in the UK after leaving Sri Lanka to study her MA in Fashion Innovation. The brand creates unique laser cut recycled denim jackets, organic slogan t-shirts and eco-friendly accessories. The whole concept of recycling and laser cutting denim jackets originated as a part of Chamini’s dissertation; the designer felt inspired to encourage people to reuse and recycle their products, breathe new life into existing garments and reduce textile waste in landfill.

ReDefine’s denim jackets are sourced from charity shops and recycled centres and are dyed using organic dye and laser cut to create intricate designs. The business is currently building a platform to offer the option of customisation to enable customers to re-design their own jackets online. 

The brand’s organic slogan t-shirts feature GOTS certified organic cotton and printed with low-impact printing techniques that minimise water usage. Its eco-friendly accessories are made from fabric waste from the Batik industry in Sri Lanka.

And all ReDefine items are produced in small batches in its Liverpool studio to minimize waste. “Being ethical is a not a duty, responsibility or a trend, it is just common sense and we all need to embrace it,” says Chamini. The range is available for online purchase at Make Thread UK.

Of course you can always bypass the middle person, retailer or in this case, conscious designer, and shop second hand (and upcycle second hand) yourself. Preloved fashion items are usually much cheaper than the cost of brand new and you’ll also save an item from wasting away in someone else’s wardrobe or at the thrift shop. This comprehensive article lists some practical tips for shopping second-hand.

You can also join Facebook groups and local Facebook marketplaces for second hand items, or use popular fashion apps such as thredUp and Depop to buy and sell second-hand fashion.

 Step 5: Be patient

Any kind of transition is never easy. Transforming shopping habits and building a sustainable wardrobe will take time and patience. Allow yourself time to adjust. If you need inspiration on your sustainable fashion journey, follow these incredible eco stylists and other sustainable and ethical fashion bloggers to help you stay on track.

As you change your style, you change your mentality. Think of the good you are doing for both the environment and all the workers within the fashion industry.

The following sustainable fashion resources will also help:

If you’re on a tight timeline and don’t have time to invest in extensive research or have the desire to trawl thrift stores and browse second-hand online sellers, we suggest keeping an eye out for sales and promotions. Follow ethical and sustainable brands on social media and sign up to their newsletters so you don’t miss a sale or discount special.

Hunt for coupon codes. You can source a juicy deal from promo code websites or influencers spruiking their codes on social media. Sign up for their newsletters as many offer a discount on your first purchase when you do.

Winding up, there is no sugar-coating it; eco-friendly fashion is often costlier than fast fashion, but cutting out the unnecessary shopping sprees, you’ll have more to spend on quality sustainable items for your wardrobe.

Ensure that you stick to your budget and buy only what you need and can afford. Sell your old clothes so you have more money to spend on quality clothing when you need to. Make use of coupon codes and be on the lookout for discounts and sales. 

With these tips, you will wear your new style without overspending. And knowing that you are playing a part in making the world a more habitable place will make the change that much easier.

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Feature image via Shutterstock.

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