Sustainability Factor: Simple ways to make your fashion choices greener

During September we are increasing our focus on sustainability, fashion director Marie Kelly explains how she's navigating the challenge one considered purchase at a time.

On magazines, editorial staff often worry that pages may become like “wallpaper”. This happens when a page is so templated that it begins to look the same every month and so loses its visibility. It becomes like part of the furniture rather than something punchy and of interest that forces a reader to stop and take notice.

Related: Fashion Director's cut: 5 key pieces to buy this September

There’s a similar fate for words and phrases that are used too much. They start to lose their meaning, people glaze over rather than take action. The concern now is that the term 'sustainability' is in danger of falling into this category if each of us doesn’t find some personal meaning in it. We need to find a way of embracing it and making it a reality in our personal lives rather than just viewing it as a vague macro term that only scientists and environmentalists use.



It’s easier said than done. Yes, I recycle my plastics, glass bottles, food waste and paper. Do I think about my carbon footprint? Not nearly enough. Do I use LED light bulbs? No, because I hate the darkish, cold light they emit. I drive a diesel engine car. I love nothing more than to sit in front of a real fire.

All the things I don’t do to help the planet is depressing. I’m also a fashion director and I love clothes, shopping and newness. Ironically, it’s in this area of my life that I feel under most pressure to make a difference and to improve my way of life. That’s probably because I should and do know better.

Through my work, I’m in a position to learn exactly how I can go about improving my shopping habits and building a more sustainable wardrobe.


And so in the past couple of months I’ve taken concrete action; firstly, by buying Irish. I’ve picked up a couple of gorgeous items in Atrium in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, for example. Secondly, by buying better quality. (Shopping the sales in Irish boutiques is a great way to buy premium items at an affordable price).

"I’ve yet to find an ethical clothing brand that I love enough to buy from it regularly."


Three oh or go

Thirdly, by not buying anything unless I’m sure I will get at least 30 wears out of it. This is key. You’ll be surprised how many pieces you initially swoon over before leaving them behind when you adopt the 30 wear rule.

When I make a mistake and buy something I shouldn’t (and we all do it occasionally), I donate the item to a charity shop because someone else will give it the wardrobe longevity that I can’t. It no longer feels like a waste or a source of frustration. It feels like a positive, affirmative action.

I’ll be honest and say I’ve yet to find an ethical clothing brand that I love enough to buy from it regularly (that’s not saying they’re not out there), although I picked up a gorgeous pair of trainers from a brand called Flamingoes (also in Atrium), which are made from recycled plastic bottles and are incredibly comfortable. Plus, they were the same price as Vejas and cheaper than a whole host of designer trainers at €129.

Shopping sustainably – I prefer to call it considered shopping – doesn’t have to be a chore, unaffordable or dull. But it does require a readjustment, which doesn’t happen over night.

It feels good to be trying though.

It feels even better when someone compliments me on an item I'm wearing and instead of the usual trite reply of, "It's Zara", I get to tell them it's Irish or ethical. Makes me sound much more like a fashion director, don't you think?


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