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Image / Style / Sustainable Style

Five simple ways we can all shop more ethically, and build better wardrobes


by Marie Kelly
30th May 2021
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You’d be surprised at how big a difference small changes can make.

Here are five simple ways you may not have recognised that will not only help you to reduce your carbon footprint, but may actually result in a better quality, more coherent wardrobe.

Buy local

The environmental cost of consumers driving to and from shopping malls and department stores is heavy. If you can, use public transport, or shop in local boutiques. Our Boutique Awards at IMAGE demonstrated what a wealth of beautiful independent retailers are scattered across high streets around the country. It’s these one-off stores that house those unique pieces that can really add a point of difference to your wardrobe. Shopping in department stores all the time can result in a wardrobe that’s a little samey.

Buy secondhand

The vintage/secondhand shopping scene has been transformed over the past ten years, not just in Dublin but around the country. Obviously if we reuse our own and others’ unwanted clothes, there are fewer items going to landfill. Plus, secondhand stores are small businesses, sometimes owned by charities, so your money, and unwanted clothes, are helping to support a charitable organisation or a small, local business.

Choose natural fabrics

Synthetic fibres shed microfibers into waterways and the ocean causing damage to our ecosystem; water is polluted and fish die. Choose natural fabrics, such as linen, wool and silk (Irish brand The Ethical Silk Company extracts silk from a cocoon after the moth has left, thereby doing no harm to it; the company also works only with Fairtrade tailoring units in India and donates 10 per cent of its profits to charity). Although these fabrics are more expensive than polyester and acrylic, they’re luxurious to wear. Once you begin investing in good quality fabrics, you’ll understand the old adage, “buy fewer but better”.

Stick to the 30 wear rule

It’s so easy to get sucked into buying something new for a last-minute event or a special Saturday night out. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but do consider whether you will wear the item 30 times or more. If not, is it worth spending money on and cluttering up your wardrobe with? The more you consider the 30 wear rule, the more sense it makes. The best buys are those that work for a variety of different occasions, and those that you know you can rely on day-to-day regardless of how you’re feeling. Why wouldn’t we all want our wardrobes filled with stylish, functional pieces we can wear again and again rather than one-offs?

Rent a gown

If you really do want to go all out for a special event and not worry about whether a piece will work for the next ten years or not, then why not rent a gown? It’s a burgeoning business so there’s plenty of rental stores on offer from Covet to Folkster. Fashion should always be fun, but it’s possible to enjoy shopping and clothes while being a conscious consumer too.