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Sustainable Fashion

Imagery courtesy of Stitched Up and H&M

It’s that time of year again when piles of clothing, some loved, some not so much, gather waiting to be worn. There are those garments that we received as gifts, but, for many of us, the majority of them will have been impulse purchases, bought as we pop into our favourite store to find that there is, yet again, another sale on.

We live in a throwaway culture of excess, where so many items of clothing are bought and worn once, possibly twice, or maybe not even at all. A waste of money? Of course. But the damage already done and continuing to be done to our planet by this fast fashion is of more serious concern. Fashion is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil, and the textile industry is producing more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and aviation combined. In addition, it is estimated that 235 million items of clothing ended up in landfill in 2017. And it is only going to get worse. It might sound like a problem too huge for any of us individuals to tackle on our own, but there are ways that we can do our bit for the planet.

Firstly, the most obvious answer is to buy less. That can be easier said than done in a society firmly entrenched in buying newness so often. Recycling by regular trips to the charity shop is one fab idea. However, there are some other inventive ways that people are choosing in order to become more sustainable with fashion.

Since January is the perfect time to have a clear out of any unwanted items of clothing, and to start afresh with your buying choices, here’s some fun, sustainable ways of doing just that. And, in the process, you’ll be helping the planet.

Clothes Swap Events

These are events where individuals swap an item of their own clothing for an item of someone else’s. They are becoming ever more popular and can be a simple meet-up with friends in your own front room, giving you the chance, not just for a catch-up, but the chance to finally get your hands on that sparkly party top that you’ve been lusting after for months!

Nonetheless, amongst friends you’re unlikely to find the breadth of items that you might be looking for. This is where larger-scale clothes swap events can come in handy. Here, you have the potential to swap lots of items and come away with a whole brand-new wardrobe. As these increase in popularity, the number of events increases. However, if there isn’t anything popping up in your area soon, why not try setting up your own clothes swap event.

Here are a few handy hints to help you set-up a clothes swap, save our bank balances and save the planet:

  • Firstly, find a space such as a church hall or community centre.

  • Who will you invite? Is it open ended, or just for women? Friends, or is anyone welcome?

  • And will there be a theme to the clothes swap, such as vintage?

  • Get the message out to everyone. Email, shout on social media. Maybe set up a dedicated blog or Facebook page. Inviting early gives people time to gather all of their unwanted clothes together.

  • Now for the key details. State that clothing should be clean and in a good condition. Make sure that you are prepared with lots of bin bags, labels, pens and full-length mirrors. For added appeal, create makeshift changing rooms and have refreshments available.

  • Clothing doesn’t have to be left only on the day of the event. You can encourage people to drop it off in advance, giving you the chance to sort through it and remove any duds.

  • Make sure clothing is sorted based on type. Accessories, tops, skirts and trousers will want to be in separate piles.

  • Finally, donate anything leftover to charity.


Local to the Manchester area, ‘Stitched Up’, run by three women, Emily, Bryony and Claire, and based in Chorlton, holds regular clothes swaps events, but it also offers sewing and upcycling workshops. If you are a bit more creative or crafty, or want to try something different, upcycling your clothes can be a great alternative to owning something ‘new’, creating a product of higher quality than the original.

Claire and Emily were interviewed by the BBC on their dedication to the cause of helping people to stop buying new. Here’s what they had to say:

Certainly, this is a more time-consuming way of treating the planet with respect, and time is often a commodity that many of us can’t afford. But one thing you can be sure of, that overly popular Primark top you bought, that just about everyone was wearing, is no more, and in its place is a unique and stylish piece to take pride in.

High Street and Online

However, if time is of the essence, then the high street doesn’t need to be discarded altogether. There are a number of brands that are doing their bit for the environment. Stella McCartney has been creating sustainable and ethical-led collections since its launch in 2001. Whilst on the high street and online, Zara, Ebay and Levi’s are all working towards manufacturing clothing in a way that minimises any undesirable environmental effects. However, one high street store has stood out, regularly, proving that environmentally friendly does not have to break the bank. Each year, H&M launches the ‘Conscious Exclusive’ collection comprising of “high-end environmentally friendly pieces, aiming to move H&M’s fashion and sustainability development towards a more sustainable fashion future.” This all began in 2013, when H&M allowed customers to hand in unwanted clothing to any H&M store in return for a £5 voucher to spend in-store, being the first fashion brand in the world to do so.

Sustainable doesn’t have to be boring and sensible, or deprive you of those high street favourites. Instead, it is time to try new ways of finding new favourites that can be added to your wardrobe to be cherished. It is time to put more thought into those purchases. And it is time to enjoy your clothing, whether swapped, upcycled or bought sustainably.

Take a further look at the H&M Conscious Exclusive Collection

Discover more by visiting the Stitched Up website

About Our Author: Katie Calvert's background is in fashion and textiles with a first class honours degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion and experience in trend, PR and events. She decided to take the plunge back into education in 2015 to complete a Master of Arts in Multimedia Journalism. Using these newfound skills and her love of fashion and culture, Katie has been freelance writing for over a year.

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