Sustainable Style

It’s finally beginning to look like spring, which means many of us are keen to ditch the jumpers and coats and leap into a new wardrobe. But how can you ensure you’re not playing into the hands of the multitude of ethical issues that seem part and parcel of the fashion industry? And how can you do so on a strict student budget? Read on…

Admittedly, this post may at first glance seem a little shallow – with all the environmental issues facing the world, wittering on about the clothes you buy could seem trivial. However, the fashion industry has a massive impact on the environment, from unethical labour practices and the use of highly polluting petrochemical-derived materials to the instantly-disposable attitude embodied by constantly-changing trends.

At this most awkward of seasonal transitions (‘Do I need a coat? Yay, I don’t need a coat! First coat-free day of the year! It’s sunny, do I need a jumper? No, I don’t need a jumper, it’s SUMMER! Ouch, it’s freezing, should have worn a jumper. Does this scarf go with this top? I’m shivering now. Maybe I should start wearing a coat again…’) clothes are once again top of many a student shopping agenda – but what about the nagging problems of consumerism, unethical sourcing and environmentally-unfriendly materials? Thankfully, if you’re wise, an interest in the sartorial side of life needn’t be at odds with your environmental principles. Before you rush out to buy your spring/summer 2014 wardrobe, take note of the following hints…

Hit the sales

 Take full advantage of the sales: they offer an unbeatable opportunity to stock up on good-quality clothes at affordable prices, and it’s far better to buy clothes that are going to last for years than cheap ones which will fall apart after six months and have to be thrown away. Being a slave to constantly-changing trends is very unwise, as throwing clothes away after only a few uses because they’re no longer on-trend is one of the most wasteful practices known to mankind – where possible, go for classically-stylish pieces that you know are still going to look stunning in years to come.

Go vintage

arty clothes shot

arty shot of clothes.

 Vintage clothes are a good way around the dilemma of wanting to buy new clothes but not wanting to play into the hands of manufactured consumerism, and they will often last longer than cheap new clothes. Exeter has a range of popular vintage clothes shops, and hosts regular fairs as well – they’re always worth a look!

Clothes swapping

 So your wardrobe needs a revamp, but you’re both an impoverished student and fundamentally opposed to the disposable and consumerist nature of modern society? No problem – just get swapping. If you have a group of friends of similar size and anti-consumerist ideology to you, get together, bring your unwanted clothes and get swapping. If not, check out Exeter Style Cycle – they provide a useful way for Exeter students to buy, sell and swap clothes.

Moral fibres

 This might seem like a big ask when shopping on a tight budget, but try to avoid artificial fibres where possible. They’re produced from petrochemicals in a high-energy, pollutant-producing process, they don’t last as long as natural fabrics, and they’re non-biodegradable. Admittedly, natural fabrics are more expensive, but it’s better for both the environment and the classiness of your wardrobe to buy fewer clothes, but which are of a higher quality and will last longer, than to binge on huge amounts of poor-quality clothing that will fall apart after a couple of months. Excessive consumerism and all that. One of the best ways to ensure that your clothes are responsibly sourced is to buy Fairtrade – take a look at for details of retailers who stock Fairtrade cotton products.

Now, go forth and indulge your irrepressible sense of style – without any pangs from your environmental conscience.

Emma Lock, Education Officer


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