If you gathered all the garments you bought in a year, how would you feel? Do your purchases amount to a neat pile of carefully considered items that you love dearly and wear daily – or are you staring at a mountain of clothes you can barely remember buying, let alone wearing?
If you’re closer to the latter, chances are you could do to rein in your fast fashion habit.
‘Fast fashion’ is defined as cheap, mass-produced clothing designed to cater to the latest trends, and it’s having a huge impact on the environment.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, clothing production has approximately doubled in the last 15 years, while the annual value of clothing discarded prematurely is more than £300 billion.
The fashion industry is also the second most polluting industry (after oil) and produces nearly 20% of wastewater globally.
But with social media creating pressure on people to look good and have an endless supply of new outfits to post in pictures online, is it any wonder fast fashion is spiraling out of control?
So, in a bid to help you reduce your fashion footprint, here are seven ways to cut back on wasteful purchases and shop more sustainably…
1. Limit your exposure to influencers
A new survey by the Fashion Retail Academy reveals that more than half (54%) of people believe social media influencers have at least partly caused a rise in this type of clothing, a figure that’s even higher (73%) for 18 to 24-year-olds.
The study also found that Instagram is a source of fashion inspiration for 17% of people, up from 8% five years ago.
Being bombarded daily with enviable images of stylish people – and now with the option to shop directly from their Instagram posts – is a sure-fire way to make you want to hit ‘buy now’, so try to limit your exposure to digital influencers.
Whether that means unfollowing accounts that post daily #outfitinspo pics or cutting back on time spent on social media sites, you’ll reduce the temptation to shop the latest flash-in-the-pan trends.
2. Choose quality, not quantity
The very nature of fast fashion means these clothes aren’t designed to last. Made from cheap materials, they often come apart at the seams or stretch beyond repair after just a couple of wears, which is why so much clothing ends up in landfills every year.
To prevent needless waste, try to buy higher quality clothing that will last longer. It may be more expensive, but a cashmere jumper in a classic cut will serve you for years to come, as opposed to a flimsy polyester top where the threads come loose and the neckline gets stretched.
3. Try a fashion fast
The shopping equivalent of going cold turkey, a fashion fast means committing to not buy any new clothes for a certain amount of time – it could be a month, three months or even a year.
Quitting shopping will force you to reassess what you already own and find new ways to style existing outfits.
This is the perfect time to do a Marie Kondo-style clear out. You might be surprised by what you discover when you go ‘shopping’ in your own wardrobe.
4. Swap don't shop
According to Oxfam Ireland, 225,000 tonnes of clothing end in land fill in Ireland every year. So, rather than throw out your pre-loved clothes, why not swap them for something new (to you)?
There are plenty of public clothes swap events happening across the country, whereby you bring your clean, unwanted clothes for donation and take your pick from others’ pre-loved garments.
Sustainable Fashion - founded by Geraldine Carton and Taz Kelleher in 2018 - is a great source of inspiration and information.
5. Revamp your wardrobe
Whether it's your old clothes, the outfit you found in a charity shop, or your 'new' top from a clothes swap, your wardrobe can always benefit from a bit of sprucing.
Karen O'Mahony, the woman behind Rag Order, is proof of this as she is leading the charge in sustainable fashion in the most fabulous of ways - just check out Tara Stewart's wardrobe.
Before you throw away a piece of clothing, ask yourself if it could be tailored, altered or upcycled into something fabulous.
6. Shop for secondhand clothes
There are so many ways to say no to high street chains and find good quality secondhand clothes.
Charity shops are one way, of course – our top tip is to head to affluent areas where people donation designer cast-offs – and vintage stores are great because stock is curated to fit current trends.
Online, eBay is a treasure trove for retro bargains and unworn secondhand pieces – look for ‘BNWT’ on listings which means ‘bought new with tags’ – while Depop is where the cool girls go to sell their unwanted garms so you can snap them up.