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keeping the sustainability conversation going

Blue jeans and Veja white trainers in front of wall

I first wrote about sustainability months ago, when it seemed like every blogger under the sun was adding their two penneth in response to the Stacey Dooley documentary about fast fashion and its impact on the environment.  I’d been shocked and disgusted and felt the need to say something.  At the time I did worry that it was just an of-the-moment buzzword that people felt obliged to comment on, and would be swiftly forgotten.

Now I can’t speak for everyone who was flabbergasted at the time, but I know that I genuinely have kept to my word.  If my memory serves me well I’ve bought a grand total of 6 items (including 2 pairs of shoes) since writing that blog post in October.  One item per month is still more than I strictly needed but isn’t too bad, I’d say.

As a result of that blog post and my many Instas about making my own clothes (you bored of me harping on about knitting yet?), I was recently asked to speak about the topic on BBC Radio Lancashire.  (By recently I mean a couple of weeks ago now – silly me is rather slow with the blog posts these days).  Obviously jumped at the opportunity to share my thoughts hopefully without making a fool of myself on radio; I’m definitely not an expert, but really want to keep this conversation going about how we can all do a little bit to help.  So I took part in a quick interview for The Common Room programme, which is available to listen to for a couple more days (I’m at around 48 minutes if you’re interested).  We briefly covered…

— The recent government proposal for fast fashion companies to be taxed 1p per item to go towards offsetting damage (seems ridiculous that they’re not already obliged to tbh)

— Brands that portray a clean, fresh wholesome image through marketing and imagery but actually are some of the worst environmentally

— The blogging world, and the fact that you don’t always need new items in order to have something to say about fashion and style.  It’s about being creative with what you have, and resisting buying into the culture that’s forced on us by social media.  Not just by influencers, but by targeted adverts popping up with offers of dresses for under £5 and the like.

… and a couple of other snippets on the topic.  I really enjoyed chatting to Lydia and Hussnain, and the more this stuff is talked about the better.

action not just words

The conversation about sustainability 100% needs to continue, but it’s action (or the lack of it) that will make a different.  Just not buying things is the most obvious step, and if you’re anything like me then knowing about the repercussions leaves a bad taste in your mouth about the fast fashion industry anyway.

However, this is where it becomes problematic in terms of influencers.  We can’t expect those who make a living from sharing products online to suddenly stop doing so, but you can expect them to make more of an effort to share (some) sustainable products or maybe styling tips for items they already own.   It’s the whole culture of excessive consumerism that needs to change, and influencers quitting hauls overnight isn’t going to do that.  They’re not solely to blame – this issue has been building since well before Instagram came to be.  Sophie Milner spoke about this on her Instagram stories a couple of weeks ago and I can see exactly the conundrum her and other fashion influencers are in: frequent haul videos might seem excessive and promote an extremely unsustainable attitude towards fast fashion, but when she asked her followers what content they enjoy most, hauls came out top.  Evidently the issue lies in the ‘haul culture’ as a whole, and the consumerist mindset most of us are guilty of isn’t going to disappear instantly.  Why are these videos oh so popular in the first place?  That’s the question that really needs addressing.  As she said, it’s a real catch 22 situation and you will be called a hypocrite if you fall anywhere but one extreme (hauls all day err’ day) or the other (no new clothes and educating about sustainability).  Most of us – influencer, bloggers, and clothes enthusiasts alike – fall somewhere in the middle ground.  It’s about doing what you can, and we need to be realistic.  Even without the pressure of crowds following your every fashion move, it can feel like you can’t do right for doing wrong – even if the only person judging you is yourself. That said, I think some influencers need to step back and have a good think. It’s fine to do whatever you can, no influencer should feel bad when they’re taking small steps where possible; it’s only when people see the extremes that it becomes jarring to follow. Some of the stuff I’ve seen in the last few months has been akin to someone posting about their veganism one day and promoting sausages the next, the extremes have been so marked. But for the most part I think people are trying to make the best of a tricky situation and do what they can.

Since writing that blog post last October my mindset towards clothing really has shifted, and I find myself thinking about my environmental footprint far more often.  I still have a long way to go, but in terms of clothing at least I think I’m moving in the right direction and want it to be a running theme here on the blog too.

Ways I’m trying to do my bit

Minimal impulse buys. Or at least keep spur of the moment purchases to the odd occasion.  OK so I was powerless to a midi dress reduced to £9 in the M&S sale and did just buy a pair of pink linen trousers, but they were from a charity shop which is better.  I’m trying to keep ‘trend’ items to a minimum and only buy items I’ve had a good think about and will get plenty wear out of.

Try to buy basics from sustainable, ethical brands. Case in point, these shoes.  White trainers are a Spring/Summer staple, and in previous years I’ve bought cheapo pairs knowing they’ll be ready for the recycling bin by the end of September.  Bad, I know.  I have my gal Erin to thank for introducing me to a much better alternative, Veja shoes, which are manufactured in a way that is kind to both the people doing the legwork and the environment.  With a full range of styles and colours to choose from, naturally I chose the exact same pair as Erin (they’re the V10 Nautico if you fancy a pair yourself).  Sure, they’re pricey, and personally I’m not in a position to spend £100+ on every item, but if I know it’s something I’ll wear more days than not, swapping the cheaper version for a sustainable, ethical alternative seems like a good idea.  Whilst sustainable clothing is expensive (understandably – the problem with cheap clothing is that someone/something pays the price) it’s unrealistic to expect people to buy their whole wardrobe from these retailers, but every swap you’re able to make is a step in the right direction.

Sidenote: My pal Erin is a sustainability analyst who knows her stuff, blogs about how to look after our planet, and is an all round babe so I’m going to point you in the direction of her blog and Instagram right now.

Shop second hand. I can proudly say that I’m not the slightest bit snobby about charity shops, and some of my favourite items ever have had a past life before they entered my wardrobe.  It makes me happy to see more people embracing the preloved, and hopefully it isn’t seen as a naff option any more.  Charity shops are a great place to buy slightly more out there pieces too – aforementioned pink linen trousers (with tags still on, I might add) are an example of that.

Make my own. You didn’t think I’d be able to write a whole blog post without mentioning handknit/sewn/crocheted clothes did you? I want to make an effort to use more recycled yarns and fabrics – it’s not something I’ve done enough research on but want to focus more attention on where my materials come from in future. Once I’ve invested time and money making something I’m more inclined to keep wearing it for as long as possible too – case in point, this sweater I made when I was 11 that’s still going strong!

Buy from the better shops on the high street.  More retailers have ethical collections these days so I’m making the effort to buy from those where possible – H&M Conscious, ASOS Eco Edit and the like.  Not perfect (and sometimes the styles in these collections are a little… odd), but better!  On a similar note – any recommendations for sustainable jeans?  I’d really like a straight leg, raw hem pair but have several reasons I’d rather not go to my usual Topshop (Philip Green doesn’t need my money lining his pockets and all that).

Following different social media accounts.  Rather than following people who share a constant stream of new items, I’ve been adding names to my feed who make clothes, show how they restyle old items, share thrifted pieces and all sorts.  Once I’ve added a few more to my list I might put a blog post together with recommendations.  These kind of people do a fab job of showing that it needn’t be new to be nice.

You get the idea – small steps to a more conscious closet. Who’s with me?

shoes: Veja – pricey but definitely worth it | jeans: Zac & Zoe at TK Maxx – I wear these all the time to jazz up a boring outfit| top: handknit by me 10 years ago – if that doesn’t scream slow fashion I don’t know what does | jacket: H&M – it’s my go-to coat as soon as it’s warm enough to venture out without padded outerwear, and I’ve been told countless times that it looks far more expensive than the £20 it actually cost in the H&M sale.  A classic item that’ll last me a very long time, I’m sure!

Lily Kate x

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