Rena on how to build a sustainable wardrobe

May 12, 2016

Rena on how to build a sustainable wardrobe

Every day we make choices about the clothing that we wear and often our choices are guided by the weather, what we are doing that day, and what is in the clean laundry pile.

If you’ve seen the ‘True Cost’ documentary movie or come across discussions about fast fashion then you’ll know that your clothing choices have an impact on the people that make them and the environment. If you are interested in building a sustainable wardrobe then these 5 tips are a good place to start.

  1. Don’t buy anything new! Most of us have our favourite things that we wear on high rotation and then the rest of our wardrobe is full of clothes that we keep for special occasions or ‘just in case.’ It’s worthwhile taking a look at what you already have and spending some time figuring out different ways to wear what you already own before going out and buying something new.
  2. Once you’ve gone shopping in your own wardrobe you might come across items that are not quite the right length or need a seam repaired. Ask your friends and family if they can recommend a good local tailor who can make alterations for you. If a jacket is not quite right it might be a simple job to take up the sleeves and add new buttons to give an unworn piece of clothing a new lease of life rather than having to go out and buy a new jacket.
  3. If you know you won’t wear an item of clothing and aren’t convinced that altering it will change the way you feel about it then you could pass it on through a clothing swap. Book a time to get together with friends, bring along your unloved items of clothing and swap them with each other. It’s a budget friendly and sustainable way to update your wardrobe. Selling items on Trademe or local Buy/Sell/Swap pages is a great way to get some extra cash and clear out some wardrobe space. Donating unwanted clothes to local charities such as the Mary Potter Hospice and Salvation Army means that your clothes can keep doing good even when you are finished with them. If you have items that are not fit for donation then they can be cut up to make rags to be used for cleaning jobs around the house.
  4. When you are ready to go shopping then think of it as a long term process rather than a quick sugar high hit from a fast fashion store. Think about what your lifestyle entails and what your clothes need to do for you. The rack of brightly coloured cardis might look like a bargain but if you only wear it a handful of times before the buttons pop off and the fabric pills then it is costing you, the people that made it, and the environment in the long term.Take some time to look for locally made, ethically produced, quality clothing that will stand the test of time and whatever your lifestyle will throw at it. Ethically and locally made clothing will retail at a higher price point than the fast fashion equivalent so you might need to save up for a garment that you love and know you will wear over and over again. Buying clothing second hand on Trademe or local Op Shops and Vintage Shops is a budget and environmentally friendly way of maintaining a wardrobe.
  5. Once you have made your purchase then you can extend its life by looking after it. Get to know how to read washing instructions so you don’t accidentally put your new hand wash only NZ made merino cardi in the washing machine. Spot clean dry clean only items to extend the time between dry cleaning and hang them in the sunshine in between wears. Find a good shoe repairer who can re-sole your favourite boots so they can keep you warm and dry for another winter. Learn how to sew on a button if you don’t already so you can keep your favourite business shirt looking work ready.

If you are interested in finding out more about the impact of fast fashion then you are welcome to come along to a screening of ‘True Cost’ at the Eco Centre, 2 Forresters Lane, Wellington on Thursday 19th May. Lil Mooch Clothing is hosting the event as part of Fair Trade Fortnight and entry is by way of a koha to the Mental Health Foundation.

If you want to check out the Lil Mooch Fair Trade clothing selection then come down to the Fair Trade Fortnight Pop Up Shop at the EcoCentre. The Pop Up Shop will be here until Saturday 21st of May and is a great way to see local Fair Trade products all in one space.

The Pop Up Shop also has a rack of display garments from local Wellington Fair Trade corporate uniform supplier Little Yellow Bird.

Our EcoShop stocks locally made underwear label Thunderpants. They are high quality and made from organic cotton that is designed, printed, and made in New Zealand.

If you want to learn more about the ethics and environmental credentials of fashion retailers in New Zealand then the Baptist World Aid Fashion Report is an easily accessible source of information.

Good On You is an Australian app that helps consumers make conscious decisions around their clothing purchases. There is currently a pledgeme campaign running to bring the app to New Zealand.





Also in Ask an expert

Seven surprising ways to reduce bills this summer
Seven surprising ways to reduce bills this summer

December 14, 2017

Warmer months mean ice cream, deck time and sunshine. Would you like some more money to play with too? Follow these tips to reduce your energy bills this summer.

Continue Reading

Six ideas for travelling better
Six ideas for travelling better

December 04, 2017

Did you know that there has been a 24 per cent rise in New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions since 1990, and that road transport makes up a big part of that increase? It's time we talked about how you're getting from A to B. 

Continue Reading

Chris on heat pumps features made easy
Chris on heat pumps features made easy

November 30, 2017

How can I keep my home temperature healthy? What’s easiest? What’s cheapest? What’s environmentally friendliest? What does the techno-lingo mean?

Continue Reading

Sign up for our newsletter

Get Sustainability Trust's news, events and specials straight to your inbox every month