Sustainable Fashion

The issue with fast fashion

A colourful triangle called The Buyerarchy of Needs (with apologies to Maslow) by Sarah Lazarovic. The following terms are listed as a hierarchy: buy, make, thrift, swap, borrow, use what you have.

Fast fashion is the term used to describe the mass production and quick turnaround of cheap and low quality clothes in line with catwalk fashion, enabling consumers to keep up with changing trends at affordable prices.

The main problem associated with fast fashion is the creation of such clothing comes at a large environmental cost and encourages over-consumption, meaning items are worn only a few times before they are thrown away.

The UK throws away 300,000 tonnes of clothing every year, which amounts to 1/3 of clothing going to waste rather than being reused or recycled.

With 1 pair of jeans and 1 t-shirt estimated to use up to 20,000 litres of water (that’s 13 years’ worth of drinking water) it’s clear we need to fight our thirst for fast fashion and reduce how much clothing we throw away.

Try out the Fashion Footprint Tool from Farfetch to see the environmental impact of your clothes!

The good news is, a more sustainable approach to fashion is gaining momentum; for example, a recent survey found that those 50% of those aged 16-30 bought second-hand, swapped or borrowed more in 2020 than in the previous year and in September 2020, eBay recorded a 404% year on year increase in pre-loved sales since 2018.

By following the hierarchy below, starting with buying less, you can stay in fashion whilst reducing the amount of clothes that go to waste.

Wear what you have

When being sustainable with our clothes, the best thing is to make the most of what we already have in our wardrobes. It is estimated that around 30% of our clothes haven’t been worn in the past year.

Have a look through your wardrobe and think how you can wear different items together, or change a look using accessories.

There are lots of sources of inspiration to get you started:

How to Wear the Same Thing Over and Over Again (Without Anyone Noticing)

10 Chic Different Ways to Wear the Same Shirt

8 Smart Tips To Style Clothes You Already Have

clothes rail

You could also turn off subscriptions. To buy less, it helps to turn off email or post subscriptions to fashion retailers, avoiding that temptation!

Create a capsule wardrobe

Items of men's clothing, some boots, a watch, a belt, trousers, sunglasses and a t-shirt.

A capsule wardrobe is having only the essential items that you can mix and match to dress up or down, allowing you to make lots of outfits from less clothes.

How to create a capsule wardrobe.

If you do need to buy something new, find out the best way to choose well below.

Make your clothes last

3.3 years is the average amount of time people keep their clothes in the UK before throwing them away or passing them on. Just wearing clothes for an extra 9 months can have big environmental benefits.

80% of our clothes today are made from plastic, such as polyester. Each time you wash them, many tiny strands of plastic, called microplastics, shed into the water.

There are some simple things you can do to extend the life of your clothes, whilst reducing microplastics at the same time:

  • air out or spot clean clothes, washing fully only when you need to
  • wash at a cooler 30 degrees
  • air dry your clothes

Get to know your care labels

laundry labels

Download this free poster to help you get to know what the different symbols mean.

Simply knowing the best way to wash, dry and iron your clothing is the key to making your clothes last longer.

Repair or upcycle

Whether it's jeans, a jacket or a school uniform, Repair What You Wear have some step-by-step video guides to help give your clothes a new lease of life. Hampshire Libraries regularly run online workshops teaching clothing repairs.

If you want to update your wardrobe, here are some ideas for re-styling basic clothes items in a few simple steps.

Even clothes too worn to wear can be turned into something new or cut into cloths for cleaning around the house.

There are also plenty of clothing repair and alteration organisations across Hampshire.

Thread, measuring tape and scissors

Borrow or swap

We all feel that desire to get something new for a special occasion, whether it's for a wedding or prom. But how many of us will wear that item again?

An alternative to buying new is to rent instead! The benefits of renting clothes are clear: as well as reducing your wardrobe clutter, it lets you be adventurous and try new styles, all for a fraction of the cost.

You can find plenty of occasion wear rental shops in Hampshire, specialising in formal wear and wedding dresses and suits. See our map of where to hire clothes in Hampshire.

There are also plenty of online shops where you can rent the latest fashion, including:

Swap it

If you fancy something different to wear, that doesn’t involve spending money or buying new, throw a clothes swap event!

Shop second-hand

A second hand clothing shop or charity shop.

Within the next decade, sales of second hand are predicted to exceed fast fashion. That means more and more of us will be hitting the charity shops and using online platforms.

When you buy second-hand clothing, four things happen:

  • compared with buying new clothes, you are helping our environment by saving water, reducing use of raw materials and cutting CO2 emissions
  • extending the clothes lifespan by saving it from going to waste
  • encouraging a sustainable community
  • supporting a charitable cause

Find your nearest shops to buy second-hand clothes in Hampshire or take a look online:

You can find many of your favourite charity shops online too, see this list for details.


If you have unwanted clothing, you can help a good cause rather than chucking your clothing in the bin where its lifespan ends.

You can help a good cause rather than chucking your clothing in the bin where its lifespan ends. Even clothes that are too worn, including holey socks, can be recycled into something new if you bring it to a textiles bank.

As well as charity shops and textile recycling banks, many retail shops on the high street also have take-back recycling schemes.

Don't forget, you can also make some cash by selling your clothes online. Check out some top selling tips from Money Saving Expert.

Choose well

When buying new, finding something that you really love will mean you’ll get much more wear out of it. Find timeless items that won’t go ‘out of fashion’ and are made to last.

To help you buy less, recognise your preferred style and fit of clothing. If there’s anything in your wardrobe that you rarely put on, think why that is and only buy clothes you know you feel comfortable wearing.

There are lots of brilliant, sustainable brands out there, but even the best of these use valuable resources to make your clothes. We know that by making clothes last as long as possible, we make the most of these resources and don’t waste them. If you’re buying new, choose something you’ll be likely to wear, is easy to take care of and will last.

How can I tell if clothes are better quality?

Check out this recent research by Hubbub looking into clothing durability.


Maternity and children's clothing

As maternity clothing doesn’t get worn for long, and young children can change clothes sizes as frequently as every 3 months, renting might be an option for you. No need to buy an all-new wardrobe for just a few wears, try renting clothes that are comfortable, practical and flattering, at a fraction of the usual price.

Here are some of the maternity and children’s clothing rental services available to Hampshire residents:

Alternatively, buying second-hand items is a great, more affordable way to get hold of maternity and children’s clothing in a sustainable way.

You can also find local second-hand events targeted at families such as Little Pickles markets and NCT’s nearly new sales happening regularly across Hampshire where you can buy and sell baby/children’s items, prams and maternity wear. They are a great way to find high quality clothing at a bargain price. 

Reusable nappies

Concerned about the amount of waste created when using disposable nappies? Reusable nappies are a sustainable alternative.

We have partnered with a number of suppliers to secure Hampshire residents a 15% discount on reusable nappy products.

Learn more about reusable nappies and claim a 15% discount

Sustainable Fashion books available from Hampshire Libraries

Interested in learning more about sustainable fashion? Borrow one of these books from your local library:

  • How To Break Up With Fast Fashion, Lauren Bravo
  • Conscious Closet : The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good, Elizabeth L. Cline
  • Mend & patch : a handbook to repairing clothes and textiles, Kerstin Neumüller
  • Secondhand : Travels in the New Global Garage Sale, Adam Minter
  • Fashionopolis : The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes, Dana Thomas
Feel inspired to step away from fast fashion? Share your comments with us, your local waste prevention initiative, on Facebook (Smart Living - Hampshire), Twitter (smartliving_hcc), or Instagram (@smartliving.hcc).