What did I achieve so far in my quest for Sustainable Fashion Consumption?

As our series of posts on our personal challenge comes to an end, I share some reflections that also feature part of what I have learned so far working on my dissertation.

As the reader may not remember the first post on my Sustainability Leadership Opportunity, I report here the areas I was planning to address:

  1. Build a repertoire of sustainable brands to shop from
  2. Learn how to mend and repair my clothes. Even learn how to knit some of my clothes/accessories!
  3. Reduce of 1/3 my wardrobe by giving away everything I have not used for a quite some time and organising one swap event with friends a year (which has the benefit of talking to them about fashion waste and nudge them to buy less!)
Credit Lanius at https://www.lanius.com/about-us/materials/

The first item on the list was a relatively easy one, but not as easy as I thought. After a change of lifestyle and my second pregnancy, I recently realised that it was time for me to buy a few new items. When I moved to London and started to work as freelance consultant, I stopped buying new clothes as I could wear casual most days and use my “old” work clothes when visiting clients (in my last corporate job no one would to wear the same outfit for two days in a row and only on Fridays we were “allowed” to wear casual clothes!). A new routine combined with the freedom from social norms (yes, SOCIAL NORMS!) did a great job in making my life simpler and happier. Pregnancy did the rest! When pregnant, I bought just two pairs of pregnancy jeans and a couple of tops, and I was perfectly fine. So, the reader may wonder how many clothes I have bought over the last six years since I moved to London. Roughly and by memory here what I bought: four yoga+running outfits, seven pullovers (AW/SS), six pair of jeans (including the pregnancy ones), unknown number of T-shirts, two skirts, one running jacket and one jacket, four pairs of sneakers and four pairs of running shoes.

Is this a lot as it may seem? According to research done to quantify fashion consumption, on average, a person consumes 11.4kg of apparel each year (Quantis, 2018). When we look at Western countries, then this figure is much higher, though. According to a recent research Western Europeans consume 22kg of new textiles each, Australians 27kg of new textiles each, and North Americans, the largest consumers of new textiles, consumes 37kgs each (Textile Beat, 2016).
Given the above figures, I would say I have a good track record of slow fashion consumption. Moreover, I made a significant reduction compared to my old shopping habits. Although I made a big stride in slowing down my clothing consumption, the principle to select what to buy based on sustainability credentials is much more recent. I can date it back to 2017 when I started studying at Cambridge. Acting on this principle, however, was very recent as I had no reasons to buy new items and I stuck to my slow consumption principle of buying new clothes only if I needed to. In parallel, I significantly increased the purchase of second-hand children clothes (in addition to getting pre-loved items from my sister or friends) and, as much as I could, I bought new items at Polarn O. Pyret – an incredible Swedish brand pioneer of sustainable childrenswear clothing.
The first items that I can say I consciously bought for myself assessing their sustainability credentials were my pair of G-star jeans; a pullover made using Modal by H and, and my pair of Veja sneakers. Then more recently, I started searching for more formal clothing I could wear at meetings. In December I bought a pair of elegant black trousers at MyWardrobeMistakes, and this month two pair of trousers and two pullovers (all from two sustainable fashion brands Filippa K and Lanius) and a pair of black leather shoes by Filippa K. The App Good on You was excellent at telling me the sustainability credentials of the brand I was considering and helped me discover two fabulous brands, Filippa K and Lanius. My choice is still very limited, and I had to put a red cross on many brands I used to love, but I have now a few I know I will be loyal to, and I am planning not to buy more winter clothes for at least two seasons.

As far as the other two points, I am doing well, but I am not there yet. I was able to fix loose buttons on a jacket, and this week I will mend a small hole I have found in a Uniqlo old pullover. Still, there is no way I can hem my new trousers! I know that there are mending/sewing workshops that are organised in London, but I need to find the time to sign up to one of these.

Finally, I did a bit of work on giving away old clothes that I am not using anymore. Surprisingly (!), while looking into what I already have, I discovered items that I had completely forgotten I had and started wearing them again! The swapping event with friends has not happened so far as I cannot host it at my place (too tiny to accommodate 10-15 people!), but I am going to attend one event organised by The Conduit in February.

Overall, I can say things are progressing as I wished. The next part will see me trying to work on my shopaholic friends as I have a few that still live in the consumeristic bubble!

2 thoughts on “What did I achieve so far in my quest for Sustainable Fashion Consumption?

  1. coffee_sustainability 28th Jan 2020 / 8:14 am

    Hi Simona,

    Thank you for your update. Your PLO all sounds fun, which is a very important point to drive sustainability!
    Regarding your point 3, I wonder if you can also sell your old items to thrift shops since you are living in London? Last Christmas, I was drugged over to a thrift shopping in Tokyo by my children. These days, they value old, vintage items more than new items. My husband’s old, dusty jacket from the 80’s in our closet suddenly become my middle son’s favorite outfit. They say my Ralph Lauren’s knit jacket would cost about $300 if I sell one to a thrift shop. I am too busy and lazy to do so, but you might be interested?

    Your last comment for influencing shopaholic friends sounds like a challenging one. I have been reading quite a lot to learn the best way to drive consumers to adopt more pro-environmental actions past months. I came to conclusion that there is no “best” way to do so. So I am combining a few models and theory. Surely, the influence by social norms, including the ones from your close friends or family members, could lead to motivation. I also read that persuasion would not work. However, if you want change someone’s mindset to continue their pro-environmental behaviour, you have to influence their fundamental belief and attitudes. Honestly speaking, I am not fully convinced by “nudge theory”, as it only impact people’s attitude subconsciously at the surface level. While subconscious intervention leads to dramatic result as a choice of green-tax or electric saving, it would be difficult to fundamentally change someone’s attitudes to select sustainable shopping items. That said, by reading literature, I often felt how important it was to raise my children to hold sustainable belief from the childhood. I don’t feel I was entirely successful. You have a full days in front of you for influencing your children, so enjoy your sustainable parenthood as one opportunity as well! Love,

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  2. pragmagreen 28th Jan 2020 / 10:56 pm

    Thank you for your very detailed and inspiring blog post on your personal leadership opportunity! While I spent my time on philosophical pondering about sustainability and leadership, it is very inspiring that you took a very practical angle and that your contribution can even be measured in kilograms or the number of purchased items. I found the statistics of apparel consumption particularly interesting and shared it with my friends immediately spurring a lot of discussions. I am wondering whether the consumption data includes textile only, or shoes as well? If this is textile only (and wearable textile only, i.e. excluding curtains, towels etc), then the figures are truly shocking. Even 11.4 kg a year is a lot, not to mention anything above 20kg…

    In my own life, already after 6 months of the MSt, I noticed that I have subconsciously reduced my consumption. One of the reasons was that I started thinking about the necessity of purchasing certain items, another was probably busyness – when you are writing essays late at night after work, there is no time left for shopping :). However, after reading your previous blog posts, I started reviewing my wardrobe and actually ended up giving away a couple of bags of clothes that I am no longer wearing.

    Something that transpires from your blog is that despite the tiny amount of clothes that you purchased, there is a sense of gratitude and joy attached to these pieces of carefully selected clothing. Fast fashion deprives consumers of this nice feeling of wearing a quality item that a has a value in its beauty and materials, and also its own story that develops as it accompanies you through the years. Your leadership opportunity really shows how to inspire others to do less and gain more. Well done!

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