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Sustainable Fashion as a Family – How to Save Money and Look after the Planet

When your 'Insta life' impacts the planet

When trying to buy your own clothes or clothes for your family, it can be so hard. Whether it’s your own thoughts and feelings or those of your children, social media has created a real tough challenge for those of us in our 20s, 30s and 40s. Our Insta and Social life, including those of our children almost has to match up to the glamour of not only other people in our friendship group but also of celebrities and fashion brands releasing their latest line.

As much as there are big improvements in the fashion industry, there’s still the challenge of staying up to date with trends and with others.

There is a knock-on effect though and fashion is one of the largest causes of climate challenge and sustainability issues across the world with over 100 million tonnes of textile waste from production each year and over 170 million children involved in the industry, we need to make smarter choices!

The current dilemma

I love my clothes and I love my fashion! I’m sure my partner and my friends would disagree. My kids certainly just look at what I wear and see it as something to pull on, sneeze on and clamber all over. If they’ve got mucky hands, suddenly what I am wearing becomes the best cleaning material known to man!!! As much as I could point the finger at them for the rate we all go through clothes as a family, there is something that needs addressing:

 

Globally, even with a push towards more sustainable practices, fashion still operates in micro-seasons, sometimes running weekly.

The average major fashion label will be running approximately 20 collections per year and the scary thing about it all is that we buy it and are built into a system that has throw away fashion really without too much remorse or change.

There are plenty of companies that run ‘sustainable fashion’ in the sense of increasing the life cycle or span of clothing, of ensuring sustainable production and sustainable living for employees. There are companies that encourage giving to charity when you’re finished and upcycle your clothes when you’re done, but it’s still far too easy to be part of a throwaway society that doesn’t really think about the consequences of the £5 Billion that ends up in landfills in the forms of returns and packaging every single year.

 

Even if you’re a person that wants to be environmentally conscientious and think about having sustainable clothing, how is it possible? Especially when thinking about the fashion conscious among us, how do you tell the sustainably minded from the “We’re doing so much for the environment” when it’s just a form of greenwashing.

 

Is second hand ok???

Now I’m saying this with children that are too young to be able to kick off if everything isn’t the latest line and the brands they might be interested in, so I know I am biased, but I’m also a millennial that has been known to spend £280 on a cushion… (Not proud but honest).

 

Using Depop, Vinted, Ebay, Facebook Marketplace and a whole host of other digital and physical spaces (I love thrift shopping in London) is brilliant and a superb way of increasing the life of pre-loved clothes. If you haven’t been down the Lanes in Brighton or Camden Market in London then you should see that ‘vintage’ clothing and upcycling is only growing and is suitable for absolutely all ages.

It’s a great way of getting creative designs from people, doing something good for the environment and either saving or making money if you’re buying or selling.

I’m not saying that all clothing has to be secondhand but there is no excuse for most of it to be anything other than pre-loved.

Who can I trust when it comes to buying sustainable fashion?

Erm…

This is a question that we get a lot and the truth is that actually the transparency in the fashion market is getting better and better. More mainstream brands are being open with the amount of production they have and will quite often state that products are sustainably resourced with many of their lines.

 

The key here is to look at what materials they are using. Are they using sustainable material and if they offer delivery, do they declare that returns are sustainable too?

What does a sustainable, slow fashion look like?

  1. Low levels of clothing lines made
  2. Sustainable materials used
  3. Use of AI and AR (quite simply, tech) to try on items with your phone and to suggest the right size for you. Any company that is looking to minimise returns is not only smart with their margins but also for the planet.
  4. Are they Carbon Negative or a B Corp? Although we don’t want to see someone that just plants trees to negate against poor practice, doing something that means you have less carbon in the atmosphere as a result of what you’re doing is certainly a good thing.
  5. Look for innovation. If you haven’t heart of Petit Pli, check them out. This fashion brand have been touted by Elle and Vogue along with many other fashion gurus and they offer something incredible. Their clothes genuinely grow with your child and their style absolutely fights the archaic idea of sustainable fashion, with their designs being super exciting!

I've seen loads of brands claim to be sustainable but how do I get a more sustainable wardrobe and what good will it actually do?

Depending on your age and your tech abilities, your young ones may actually be able to provide you with more expertise on sustainable fashion than most adults. Technology and consequently, services being at the touch of a phone are already happening, so if you want to find walk in thrift shops or pre-loved clothing apps for where you are, it’s just a click away.

 

Having a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t have to be a big challenge. There are huge brands that offer pre-loved clothes and recycling clothes to charity shops, even when it’s from different branded clothes, is becoming increasingly common.

It might not always feel it but the voice of the consumer is absolutely taken into account with larger fashion brands, to the extent that you have incredibly knowledgeable people like Stephanie Benedetto, Rachel Kan and Pascal Brun supporting sustainable clothing lines for the masses.

If you’re questioning what it will actually do…

 

  • If it’s e-commerce only, it generally uses 30% less energy.
  • Eco fabrics take up about a fifth of the land. Smart choices will keep wildlife alive!
  • By reducing production of jeans and denim, you’re helping people get water they desperately need (Honestly!!! It take 7000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans and 2.7 Billion people face 1 month water scarcity every year, so buying less jeans literally saves lives!!)

Why it's important to wear sustainably as a family

20%
The amount of clothes in your wardrobe that are worn once or less before being thrown!
15%
Only 15% of the population actually recycle their clothing in Western society.
8%
EIGHT percent of the world's Greenhouse Gas Emissions come from the Fashion Industry!!!
>1%
Less than 1% of clothes that are used are turned into new clothing
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I don't have time for fishing out sustainable clothes! I need something for work and my kids need new clothes constantly!

Nobody expects you to be a saint. Trying to maintain a sustainable wardrobe for you and your family can be hard, especially when dressing appropriately for work and your kids for school might make the challenge of pre-loved and sustainable clothing that much harder. There is hope though…

"This new law will help to save families money"

Nick Gibb, School Standards Minister

In the UK, this year there has been a Bill passed to help make clothing more accessible for schools, which includes keeping costs down, longevity of uniforms up and second hand uniform a much greater possibility. Some amazing tips from the Money Saving Expert are here:

  • Check if you can get help from your local council or school. If you live in England and you’re struggling with the cost of school uniform, check if your local council provides help using the Government’s postcode checker tool. This support isn’t available everywhere, so if your council does not offer help, ask your child’s school directly.

    The situation is slightly different if you live in Northern IrelandScotland or Wales as here, grants are available in all areas for those on a low income. See our guide to Cutting School Uniform Costs for full info.  

  • Bag cheap supermarket school uniforms. These are plain coloured clothes with no unique school badges, and can be excellent value if your child’s school allows generic uniforms. And even if you do need items with a logo, sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a generic sweatshirt and iron on a badge yourself – this can work out cheaper than official sweatshirts. See our Cheap school uniform deals page for a round-up of some of the best bargains.

  • Keep an eye out for sales. You can often get 20% or 25% off school uniform when M&S and Tu (Sainsbury’s) do their blanket clothing discounts a few times a year.

  • Buy second-hand uniforms from your school. Ask about your school’s second-hand school uniform sales, which usually happen a few times a year. Sometimes you can be lucky and grab bargain uniform for just a few quid.

  • Check local Facebook groups and other online marketplaces. eBay and Facebook Marketplace can be a treasure trove – look out for bundles. In the past, we’ve spotted a bundle of five M&S summer gingham dresses for £1.65.

What should I take from this?

Sustainable fashion can be hard to spot with mainstream brands and all generations will still have their preferred choice of designer. There is also increased awareness that fashion is a major contributor to climate change and by looking at pre-loved choices, you can save money and save the environment.

 

Rather than deciding to have an entirely sustainable wardrobe for everyone, make small changes and get creative. By finding out about how to make more sustainable fashion, you can save hundreds each year and even make a living by upcycling your old clothes.

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