We get expert advice to help you slow down and make considered fashion choices…
The negative consequences of fast fashion are something we’ve all become more aware of over recent years and with good reason too – caring for our planet is imperative.
While buying less is the most obvious way to make a difference, getting the most out of what is already in your wardrobe is equally as important. Showing your existing clothes a little bit of TLC will increase their lifespan and, in turn, contribute to slowing down the planet’s fast fashion consumption.
Shockingly, research shows that an estimated 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes into landfill in the UK each year, and half of clothes get thrown away because they are stained. Furthermore, the average lifetime for a garment of clothing is 2.2 years, however proper care can extend this by nine months, significantly reducing environmental impact.
Siemens, manufacturer of washing machines, said it has seen a recent influx of enquiries from customers asking how to care for sustainable fabrics, such as Tencel, Econyl and Piñatex, and whether their washing machines can be used to safely wash these new fabrics.
A Siemens spokesperson commented: “The fashion industry is making incredible strides with creating new sustainable fabrics and getting them in people’s wardrobes. But without proper care, it’s two steps forward, one step back. We understand that many people may be put off by these new names as they sound complicated to care for, so we’ve created a guide to show the public that these new fabrics are just as easy to look after as the familiar fabrics. Ultimately, correct care can help to keep eco-friendly apparel in our wardrobes for longer.”
Learning the best way to look after your clothes can seem overwhelming, but understanding what’s right for individual items and specific fabrics doesn’t need to be hard.
House of Coco’s Beth spoke to Alex McIntosh, CEO of Create Sustain and founder member of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion and consultant on sustainable fashion to Siemens, to get advice on the best ways to look after what you’ve got.
Alex said: “In terms of the best ways to care for your clothes I would say the most important one is look at the labels, find what the symbols mean and make sure you’re following the care advice that’s been given to you by the manufacturer.
“What tends to cause a problem for people is staining garments and not knowing how to remove those stains, washing them incorrectly so that they end up loosing colour, shrinking or sometimes damaging the fabric.”
Caring for garments doesn’t just stop after you’ve washed them, with the drying process being equally as important.
Alex explained why he prefers line drying: “Line dry your clothes. I know it’s not always easy in a country where we have a lot of rain but it is a lot better than tumble-drying, which puts clothing and fabric under a lot of stress.”
Not only does tumble-drying pose risks to fabrics, especially if repeated often, but it uses energy too. If you can avoid it, you’ll be helping the environment in two ways.
Learning about your clothes and different fabrics doesn’t have to be difficult, in fact there’s a lot of easily accessible information available if you know where to look.
Alex explained: “Learning how to care for them means they’re going to remain in better condition and if they remain in better condition you’re more likely to keep on wearing them.”
He continued: “There’s a variety of different resources online.
“Siemens are producing a guide, specifically around new types of fabric coming on to the market and how to care for those. There’s some concern that as we start bring more sustainable fibres and fabrics into the market that we actually end up with a situation where people don’t really know what they are, they don’t know how to care for them and they damage the clothing and it gets thrown away, which is the least sustainable outcome.
“There’s an interesting company called Clever Care who provide a lot of guidance around labelling systems for clothing and there’s Wrap, a UK based organisation, that run the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan and a website that has guidance called Love Your Clothes.”
It’s also a great idea to make the most of the experts in your local area, who specialise in the cleaning and repairing of clothes and fashion accessories.
Alex said: “Find a local network of places that can help you.
“Talk to a dry cleaner, speak to somebody in a laundrette, take something in to a cobbler or a shoe mender and talk to those people about what you should do to maintain something.”
As well as mastering the washing and drying process, it’s useful to be able to do some basic repairs to fix common mishaps.
“People can end with something just sitting in their wardrobe because they’ve ripped a tiny bit of the hem and they don’t know how to fix it. You don’t have to become a qualified seamstress but just try it out; go through online tutorials, learn different ways to stitch a hem,” Alex explained.
While this all helps, Alex acknowledged that our shopping habits remain a cause for concern.
He said: “There’s also bigger challenges, which is about challenging our need for newness all the time. Recognising we often buy the same thing over and over again.”
He recommends, “shopping your own wardrobe”. The idea of spending some time looking through your own wardrobe to remind yourself what you have, rediscovering pieces you haven’t worn in a while and reinventing the way you wear them.
These simple solutions will all make you more capable at looking after the items you’ve got and prolonging their life span as wearable clothes. If we all take these small steps then it will collectively have a positive impact on sustainability in the fashion industry.
HOW DO I FIX THIS?
Alex tells us how to easily fix three common problems that often lead people to send an item to landfill.
Scenario: A knitted jumper that’s ‘bobbled’ on the sleeves and under the arms
Fix: “There are de-bobbling tools you can buy online that basically shave the jumper and take all of the pilling (the technical term) off the knitwear.
Scenario: A white tee that has stained under the armpits
Fix: “This is an on-going challenge, but there are various things you can use like baking soda. If you make a paste and scrub it into the fabric then leave it about two hours before you wash it that’s quite good at those yellow stains out – if you do it early enough before it gets too bad then you can get them out.”
Scenario: Jeans with a ripped knee
Fix: “Originally denim were designed as work wear for people who work down a mine or ride horses, so it is very durable but you will still get rips. Patching is the only way to fix this; there’s loads of interested patches and badges that can create an interesting and unique customised piece.”