If you’ve been following me for a while you might remember I spoke about online sustainable fashion store Sheer Apparel a few months ago. Recently while reading the ever wonderful blog from the Saiint Sisters I saw that Paula, Sheer Apparel founder, had shared some of the lessons she’s learned along the way in the ethical fashion world, and I just had to ask to share with you all too, because they’re so spot on.
Below are Paula’s words, originally posted on Saiint
Keen to live my business values while working on the launch of my sustainable fashion retailer, Sheer Apparel, l made a simple New Year’s resolution a year ago – to buy only ethically produced pieces from sustainable materials or vintage, only those I truly needed, and to never buy on a whim.
I wanted to find out whether for me personally, it was possible (as well as affordable, enjoyable and easy) to be a much more thoughtful consumer of fashion.
In the age of fast fashion, with many garments costing less than a cinema ticket and ads for this season’s latest trends constantly screaming at you, you might think this was hard. And I probably wouldn’t have felt overly guilty if I’d cheated a little.
The truth is, shopping for only ethical clothing was not difficult as such. There are now countless sustainable fashion brands that produce aspirational, beautiful clothes – some of which Sheer Apparel already works with. Some brands, such as Filippa K, have been making beautiful clothing in a sustainable way since well before sustainable fashion was a thing. But it does take a long time to find a great selection of brands you want to wear, suitable for work and play, the gym and the bedroom. And that became the key motivator for starting Sheer Apparel.
Other than discovering many beautiful labels through hours and hours of research, here are some of my learnings from my (first) year in sustainable fashion.
- Exclusively shopping from ethical fashion brands is easy. I can give you three suggestions of ethical options for any fashion need you have – challenge me! I genuinely no longer feel the need for a top that’s been hastily assembled in a sweatshop and is not going to last three washes.
- Buying on a whim is never worth the money. The clothes I had lusted over for a while from brands I admire will stay with me for a long time. The ones I bought quickly without thinking are already halfway to the charity shop.
- We all probably shop more than we think. A real eye opener for me was that, while I thought about each purchase a lot and bought far fewer new things than I used to, I still bought about 12 new pieces throughout the year. Sounds about enough.
- Make it last. It’s amazing. No-one, and I mean NO-ONE, will care if you wear the same dress to three weddings, two christenings and two dinner parties in the space of 18 months. I’ve done it and I still absolutely adore the dress. Buy great quality and think of cost per wear, it always pays.
- Buying a heap of vintage clothes in a frenzy of newfound enthusiasm for vintage does not make you a sustainable fashion consumer. I have a couple of terrible shirts to prove it.
- Having fewer and better things is immensely liberating. I now allow myself to go for higher quality, slightly pricier things that I will love for longer, saving time and effort hunting for something new next time I need something for a special occasion. In fact, I have more to wear because a bunch of hasty purchases aren’t cluttering up my wardrobe, crowding out the quality pieces.
Of course I am far from being a perfect consumer, if such a thing even exists. With one exception about which I don’t have enough information, I did manage buy sustainable pieces. But I did still buy a fair number of new garments.
But I strongly believe that making step by step, but enjoyable, improvements is more likely to lead to lasting change than radical but personally unsustainable changes – much like with dieting. And after all, I still love beautiful clothes. But my relationship with clothing certainly has permanently changed for the better.
At Sheer Apparel, we continue to learn all the time about fabrics, processes and beautiful, ethical fashion brands, to enable our customers to continue to dress well and fell great about it. Luckily, that is a rather enjoyable job!