If you can’t afford sustainable apparel, there are still a few things you can do to reduce your impact on the environment and promote sustainable practices.
As a culture, we throw away a lot of clothes. A shocking 85 percent of new textiles generated each year are sent to landfills or incinerated, according to estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
While apps make shopping for clothes easier than ever, they’re also at the heart of a movement to buy less, extend the life of what we already own, and reduce waste.
But there’s more options we can follow and is in our palm of our hands
Buying secondhand clothing is a great way to reduce the demand for new clothes and save money at the same time. Look for local thrift stores, consignment shops, or online marketplaces like Poshmark or Depop to find affordable, gently used clothing.
Invest in high-quality basics
Instead of buying a lot of cheap, fast-fashion clothing, consider investing in a few high-quality basics that will last longer and won’t need to be replaced as frequently.
Take care of your clothes
Properly caring for your clothes can help them last longer, reducing the need to replace them as frequently. Wash your clothes on a gentle cycle and hang dry them instead of using a dryer to prevent shrinkage and wear and tear.
Consider renting clothes for special occasions instead of buying something new that you’ll only wear once. This can be a cost-effective and sustainable option, especially for formal events.
Support sustainable brands
Even if you can’t afford to buy sustainable clothing, you can still support brands that are committed to sustainability and ethical practices. Follow these brands on social media, share their content, and consider buying from them when you can afford it.
Know what you own
In Bannerman’s experience, a big cause of unneeded purchases is an event that sneaks up on you, like a friend’s wedding or a job interview.
“Life is frantic. If I have an event and I’m short on time, I’ll panic and think I’ve got nothing to wear,” Bannerman says.
Every time a listing with ‘shearling’ or ‘sheepskin’ comes on eBay, I get an alert, so I can react quickly.Amy Bannerman, eBay Preloved Fashion stylist
But that’s rarely the case. “To shop your own wardrobe is the cheapest and the most environmentally friendly,” she adds.
Whering and Storey Wardrobe help you create a digital inventory of your wardrobe: Simply snap a photo of an item or take a screenshot from a website to add a piece to your virtual closet.
Before searching the eBay app for the perfect piece, Bannerman turns to Pinterest. “Mood-boarding using Pinterest is always really good—just save images of people’s style that you like.”
Here, three fashion-app innovators share how even the most style-conscious can lighten their environmental impact with apps like eBay, SOJO, Pinterest, and Drest.
Be an eBay expert
eBay has over 1.6 billion items up for auction on any given day—and has an incredible selection of gently loved fashion. Here are Bannerman’s tips for scoring even the most elusive find.
‣ Save your searches. “I’ve got a mental list of things I’m always looking for—like this really rare vintage sheepskin coat that I still haven’t found. Every time a listing with ‘shearling’ or ‘sheepskin’ comes on eBay, I get an alert, so I can react quickly.”
To get notifications on searches, select “Save this search” under the search bar.
‣ Set up seller notifications. “During filming for Love Islandwe found this really amazing seller who had ’90s vintage Galliano and amazing Dior. We were interested in where she got all this stuff. We’ve set a notification so when she adds something new, we know about it.”
To save a seller in the eBay app, go to an item and tap Save Seller.
Give your clothes a second life, use SOJO.
Now that you know what pieces you need, the next step is to source them sustainably. For that, you should start with what you have, says SOJO founder Josephine Philips. Her app, along with its team of in-house tailors, helps Londoners rejuvenate and transform the clothes they already own.
While tailoring may seem like a luxury, it can save money (and resources) in the long run, she adds. “Our mission is slowing down people’s approach to clothing, to make getting your clothes tailored mainstream.”
Like a lot of fashion fans, Philips started out as a “hyper-consumer,” but after learning the environmental impact of the industry, she gave up fast fashion for thrift shops. She soon realized, however, that even that had a cost. “I was consuming just as much—I just made sure it was secondhand clothing.”
These days, longevity is the first thing she considers before making a purchase. “I think, ‘Even if I buy this secondhand, is this going to stand the test of time?’ That’s where tailoring and repair come in.”
Philips sees a widespread lack of awareness about tailoring. “So often younger generations haven’t been taught how to sew. People don’t really know what can get done and because of that, they throw things in the bin.”
SOJO walks users through what’s possible. “You tap that you’ve got a pair of trousers and you get a list of the things you can do to them. It’s that discovery that’s so important,” Philips says.
What’s interesting about rental apps is the different ways of engaging with fashion that younger generations are pushing to the forefront.Josephine Philips, SOJO founder
According to Philips, tailoring is an essential part of a fashion movement among younger shoppers. “For Gen Z, ‘fashion forward’ is clothing with stories—that my mum gave this to me and it’s 40 years old,” says Philips. “There is more to be said for clothing now beyond the price point and the brand.”
Even if you’re not based in London where SOJO is available, there are plenty of ways to get your clothes altered. Search Apple Maps or the Yelp app for tailors near you.
Drest up your love
As former editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK and Net-a-Porter, Lucy Yeomans is the first to admit that fashion has long been the stuff of fantasy.
“We were a purveyor of dreams,” she says. “There were these beautiful creations—dresses, shoes, bags, makeup—that enabled one to enter this highly creative fashion world that magazines conjured.”
Yeomans wants to democratize that experience—and reduce fashion’s ecological impact along the way. In 2019 she founded Drest, a game in which you play fashion stylist, outfitting avatars of real-world supermodels with pieces from elite fashion brands like Bottega Veneta, Gucci, and Prada.
When you take on one of the game’s styling challenges—like creating a blush-pink ensemble inspired by a runway photo—you’ll have a dream closet of virtual pieces to choose from. You can even see the exact season a Ferragamo trench coat or Oscar de la Renta stackable ring is from.
“Drest gives you a place to experiment. No one is watching you,” says Yeomans. “A lot of people say that after they play Drest, they’re a bit more daring in their fashion choices.”
In addition to being fun, Drest gives fashionistas a low-impact way to experience the thrill of the new. “It’s a place people can scratch the fashion itch without necessarily always consuming,” Yeomans says.
“Overproduction is one of fashion’s biggest challenges. A collection might come out and do really well in one territory and not so well in another,” Yeomans says. “The houses are always trying to get ahead and see what the audience responds to. With Drest, we’re trying to see if we can predict trends and then help inform brands about production down the line.”
At the very least, Drest can be a tool for helping you discover what works and what doesn’t in a waste-free virtual world. “Playing with fashion in Drest helps you not make so many mistakes,” Yeomans says. “And hopefully when you do consume, you consume better because you understand the versatility of the items you’re playing with.”
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