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Easy ways to wear clothes to last

Greta Thunberg went on the cover of Vogue Scandinavia in August and called out fast fashion brands. According to the UN, the fashion industry is widely believed to be the second most polluting industry in the world, accounting for more than 20% of wastewater globally and between 8 – 10% of carbon emissions. There is huge scope to reduce our carbon emissions, simply by changing the way we shop.

This is Week 13 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We will have a guest blog each week until November’s UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.

This blog, by Emily Southcombe of Upcycled Living, explains why wearing clothes that last is one of the most important – and simplest – things you can do to take part in Count Us In.

One of the #CountUsIn 16 highest impact steps to reduce your carbon footprint is “wear clothes to last”, whether this is buying clothes that you know are good quality and won’t fall apart after a few wears, buying second-hand, upcycling clothes or repairing what you already have. There is a lot of talk about the solutions to climate change being expensive but buying second-hand and wearing clothes to last will only have a positive impact on your pocket!

Second-hand is on trend

Since the very first “Second Hand September” campaign, run by Oxfam in 2019, a lot has changed. Lauren Bravo’s book ‘How to Break Up with Fast Fashion’ challenged us all to stop buying clothes which have a negative impact on the environment and the workers who made them. Second-hand clothes have gone from having stigma attached to them to becoming the eco-conscious and ethical thing to do. Campaigns such as ‘Slow Fashion Season’ by Slow Fashion UK have taken off and many people pledged to buy #nonew in 2021. The first Sustainable Fashion Week took place from 11th – 19th September where the organisers curated a week of community-led action encouraging people to change their clothes buying habits to protect both the planet and garment factory workers. 

“Second-hand clothes have gone from having a stigma attached to them to becoming the eco-conscious and ethical thing to do.”

Second-hand is more sustainable

If you love clothes shopping but want to reduce your impact on the planet one of the best ways to increase the lifespan of clothes is to buy second-hand. Sites like Vinted and Depop are great for online second-hand clothes although charity shops are still the best way to see what you are buying. Equally vintage markets such as Brick Lane market have a wealth of vintage treasures. Selfridges has second-hand concessions and also sells upcycled clothes including upcycled jackets from Levis.  More locally, St Albans area companies and influencers like Knickers Models Own, Luxe Leopard Lifestyle, The Preloved Edit and Twenty Outfits can help you hone your second-hand style.

Repair or upcycle your clothes

Many more people are looking at upcycling and repairing clothes themselves following the success of TV’s Great British Sewing Bee and The Repair Shop. Having holes in your clothes has often been seen as embarrassing (apart from ripped denim!) but there is no reason not to repair your clothes. It’s much preferable to throwing them away.  As the saying goes, ‘the most sustainable clothes are the ones already in your wardrobe’ and in the UK there is now a national movement of stitchers who are trying to encourage people to mend clothes to make them last longer. #stitchitdontditchit is run by a group of women who organise gatherings to promote the benefits of repairing clothes. Slow Fashion UK have also started hosting stitching parties. 

“As the saying goes, “the most sustainable clothes are the ones already in your wardrobe.”

How to get started with clothes repairs

All you usually need to do a simple repair is a needle and thread. Sometimes de-bobbling with a small hand-held gadget will give an item a new lease of life. If it is a more difficult repair job, and you don’t have a sewing machine, you can always go to a local tailor such as Stitch to Fit on Holywell Hill or A&A Tailoring on Catherine Street. At the Sustainable Markets during SustFest it was great to speak to people who were mending their own clothes and upcycling unwanted second-hand fabrics. The Repair What You Wear website is a fantastic resource which has loads of tips and advice for people who have never sewn before and are looking to do a bit of repairing. They also do mending and upcycling tutorials.

Making things last longer or repairing old things obviously isn’t limited to clothes, there is so much that can be repaired or upcycled in the home. 

Photo: Upcycled top by designer Philmore Clague
Photo: Upcycled top by designer Philmore Clague

Instagram inspiration

Have a browse of some of these Instagram feeds for inspiration.

Wearing clothes to last is an easy step

The great thing about the #CountUsIn campaign is that it encourages individuals to take steps that work for them. Not everyone can commit to making the same lifestyle changes and so it is great to sign up for the steps you are able to do and then get updates on the carbon you are saving both during the Countdown to COP and afterwards.

So for your step, why not jump off the fast fashion train and, instead, wear clothes to last. There is a saying that the world doesn’t need a small number of people doing sustainability perfectly, it needs millions of people doing it imperfectly. Next time you want to buy a new item of clothing, pause and think of the alternatives – upcycling what you own or looking at pre-loved options. Just have a go!

“..buying second-hand and wearing clothes to last will only have a positive impact on you pocket!”

We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

Join in today and use Emily’s advice to help you choose the “Wear Clothes To Last” Step as your pledge.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 

We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26. Each blog will focus on one of the 16 steps. Look out for next week’s blog “Tell your politicians” by Jess Simmons.

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