Is being eco-conscious and fashionable mutually exclusive? If you are wondering, what to expect when you want to buy new clothes as an eco-conscious consumer, you are on the right page.
My first advice, if you decide to be more eco-conscious or sustainable when it comes to fashion, is to be reasonable. Don’t make hasty decisions such as: “I will never buy new clothes in Zara.” The intention is great but if one day you visit the store with friends and buy something, you will feel bad later.
As you know, I don’t like H&M. It is a big brand that claims taking sustainability seriously but keeps bringing new collections in its stores every few weeks. The fact that a small percentage of their clothes bears a conscious collection tag does not make it sustainable. I will have no problems with this brand if it is transparent, communicates the truth, and does not mislead its customers.
That being said, their children’s clothes suit my daughter perfectly, and most of what we buy inherits my niece. So as much as I don’t like the brand, we still buy some of my daughter’s clothes there. The main reasons are:
- I can’t find nice second-hand clothes in my daughter’s size,
- their sizing is perfect for my daughter,
- once it doesn’t find anymore, my niece inherits it – so in a way we circulate the clothes further.
But, let’s get back to what to expect when you want to buy new clothes.
If I need something, I visit my favorite consignment store and look for what I need. I want to buy an oversized rollneck in cream white, but that’s not how it works with second hands. You have to take what they have. And here is where it helps to follow my color palette. I wear the colors that suit my skin tone in my wallet, I am warm autumn, and once I am in a second-hand store, I look only at clothes in my color palette. It helped me avoid buying clothes that I like, but that would not suit me. It saved me a lot of money. And it also helped me create a capsule wardrobe that is cohesive, elegant, and chic.
Firstly, if you want pre-loved clothes, you have several options:
- If you want to buy clothes in great condition, find a consignment store in your locality. I am lucky because there are several in Geneva. They offer preloved designer clothes, shoes, and accessories. For winter, I got beautiful cashmere and wool sweaters from Prada, Gucci, and Vince that look new and cost a fraction of their original price.
- If you want to invest less money, visit your local second-hand store. I found several cashmere sweaters, jeans, and coats in charity shops in Geneva.
- Alternatively, you can look for pre-loved clothes on online platforms: Facebook Market Place, Vinted, Depop, or ThredUp.
- For a list of my favorite consignment and second-hand store, click HERE.
Secondly, if you want new, sustainable clothes, you have several options:
- choose clothes made by sustainable brands. If you don’t know any. check this list assembled by Good On You. But the clothes are usually more expensive than conventional brands.
- find a local sustainable brand – I have been wearing several Swiss sustainable and ethical brands for seven years. The initial investment is higher because you buy clothes that will last. My favorite brands are Pascale Cornu, Atelier Laure Paschoud, Avani Apparel, MICI – Made in Côte d’Ivoire, and Apesigned. They are all owned and run by women.
- As the last option, you can look for sustainable clothes on shopping platforms. If I can’t find what I look for second-hand, I look at Zalando.ch. You can now use a filter that will pick up only sustainable clothes (at least on the Swiss platform). But keep in mind that it is the platform that decides what they consider sustainable. Sometimes they consider sustainable even clothes that contain only 20% of sustainable textiles. So it is always good to look at the description of a particular item to see why they consider it sustainable. I look only for clothes that are made of organic cotton or Lenzing Ecovero fibers. This means that it is a time-consuming process – it took me several hours to find suitable tops and jeans.
We talked about it with my husband: being sustainable, when it comes to fashion is both easy and challenging. Easy, if you know where to look (Good On You application and website is a great starting point). Challenging, because you need to:
- CHANGE YOUR HABITS – plan your wardrobe (that’s where capsule wardrobe comes in handy) and subsequently your purchases
- EDUCATE YOURSELF – learn which fabrics are sustainable, where to find sustainable brands (online and brick-and-mortar), second-hand and consignment stores closest to your home, which conventional brands carry sustainable lines, and which are just greenwashing you.
- COMMIT TIME – as I mentioned before, when you look for something particular, it takes time. Shopping at second-hand stores is like a lottery – you never know what you’ll find. If you can spend more money find on the Good On You website a sustainable brand that you like. I like thrifting so I don’t mind investing time.