How To Build A Sustainable Wardrobe, Ria Jaswal


Reading Time: 4 min

  • 150 billion garments are produced each year

  • 30% of it is never sold

  • 12.8 million tons of clothing ends up in landfills each year

(Source: The 2018 Apparel Industry Overproduction Report and Infographic published by ShareCloth)

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Brands across the globe are slowly moving towards more sustainable futures and investing in more ethical practices. However, those goals have years until they’re fully realised and, who knows, it might even be too late by then. 

Contributing to a more conscious future is something we as individuals can do, and do now! And the best part? It’s not as daunting as it's made out to be. One of the ways by which you can live ethically is to ensure that your wardrobe is sustainable. So, here are seven simple ways that’ll help you build and maintain a sustainable wardrobe without any extra effort!

    When talking about certain fashion trends like Print Clash or Dramatic Drapes, more is definitely more. However, when you’re discussing and analysing how to build the perfect sustainable wardrobe, remember, less is always more. Streamlined cupboards, capsule wardrobes and goes-with-everything are some terms that should top your shopping lists. Invest wisely in pieces that are timeless and surpass trends (bye-bye tie-dye). One way to do this is to prioritise your personal style over fashion trend reports. Buy pieces that fit well, team-up easily with a variety of other options in your cupboard and are styles that you see yourself wearing even two years on. Make sure your next shopping trip is not done on a whim, but instead a carefully planned activity that allows you to achieve your goal.

    The age-old saying Quality > Quantity holds true for so many things in life; a sustainable wardrobe being one of them. Keep an eye out for pieces that are well made and don’t compromise on quality. Smart, well-designed and well-thought out pieces that can be passed on for generations are ones that you want to spend your money on. Remember: People with sustainable wardrobes prefer to have one investment piece that will stay with them for years as opposed to five trendy pieces that they discard every few months.

    These three little words can make such a big difference. It is our duty as consumers to read about the supply chains and working conditions brands use and employ, educate ourselves about the various ethical and eco-conscious materials available (Is cotton actually that good? Is there such a thing as ethical leather?) and question our favourite brands when we want to know more. Most brands these days are pledging to sustainable goals and thus have a lot of information about the practices they use, the factories they employ and more on their website. So scroll to the bottom of your favourite brand’s website before you make your next purchase!

    This simple test is one of the best ways to gauge and build a conscious wardrobe and was started by Livia Firth, the founder of Eco Age. The idea behind it is straightforward – every time you go out to buy something ask yourself if you’ll wear it a minimum of 30 times. If your answer is yes, add it to cart. However, if the answer is no or even maybe, leave it behind.

    Care for your clothes like you would for a loved one. Clothes that are carefully looked after last longer and aren’t discarded as easily. Easy ways to do this? Wash your garments only after you’ve worn them three-four times. When using a washing machine, make sure you set the temperature of the water to 30 degrees – as opposed to the commonly used 40 degrees – as this small and simple move reportedly helps reduce energy usage by up to 40%. And once they’re out of the machine, opt for a natural air dry as opposed to dumping them back into a dryer.

    A little snag, a lost button, a stubborn zip – These aren’t reasons to throw away your precious clothes. They can be repaired easily and usually don’t take longer than 10-minutes to have them looking brand new all over again. So, before you think of replacing your favourite floral-printed shirt take a careful look at it and see if you can repair it instead.

    Finally, building a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t limit itself to the clothes you have in your wardrobe, it extends to the clothes you are getting rid off as well. Almost all of the garments that are thrown into the bin end up in landfills or get incinerated. This comes at a tremendous cost to the environment. Most brands these days have recycling programs where you can bring in old garments and drop it off and they recycle or upcycle them to create new ones. Another option? Donate it to someone in need or drop it off at your local charity shop. 

So, the next time you’re planning to give your wardrobe a little shake-up keep these handy tips in mind.


Words: Ria Jaswal