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How to reduce your fashion consumption

Responsible for 92 million tonnes of waste and 10% of greenhouse gas emissions annually, it’s no secret that the fashion industry has a lot to answer for in the face of the climate crisis. Yet, when it comes to creating change, our wardrobes have more power than we think.

In a world of overconsumption, the greatest action we can individually take is as simple as changing our shopping habits. For many of us, it’s a familiar cycle: a wardrobe so full of choices and spontaneous purchases that it leads to decision paralysis and a lack of connection. What comes next is the desire to remedy this paralysis and lack of connection with more. And so, the cycle continues.

A world of overconsumption

So, how do we break the cycle of overconsumption?

1 - Stop and Take Stock

Breaking the cycle is as simple as reducing the amount of clothing in your rotation. It’s reported that most people wear a mere 20-30% of the clothing in their wardrobe, so stop and take stock. By assessing what’s already in your closet, you’re bound to discover pieces you’d forgotten or, at the very least, pieces you’re ready to part with. This can be a great way to reacquaint yourself with your style. And when it comes to the wardrobe cleanse, we’ve put together a guide on how to recycle your pieces responsibly here.

Next, let this reflection lay the groundwork for a shopping break or wardrobe fast. Challenge yourself to only work with pieces you own for a season or set a limit for new items. Sustainability writer Tiffanie Darke provides a framework here with her concept The Rule of 5. Inspired and entirely achievable, The Rule of 5 proposes that you limit yourself to buying only five new fashion items a year. Excluding lingerie and socks, but including bags and shoes, Tiffanie suggests you think of it as buying one new item per season. With an emphasis on limiting and looking to other means of wardrobe fulfilment (i.e. swapping, mending and renting,) it’s all about reducing the amount of clothes in circulation. Like anything, small actions can make a huge difference so start with a few but no less considered shifts and work your way up.

2 - Choose Better

Buying less begins with buying better and the process of working towards a considered purchase is a way to foster a sense of connection with what we buy and wear. It’s this lack of connection that’s a key driver behind throw-away consumption culture. And because you’re buying less, there’s more room to invest.

When you are shopping, look to brands and pieces that feel authentically aligned with your style and values. There’s significant style potential to be gained by eliminating decision fatigue with carefully considered pieces that work across the full spectrum of your wardrobe. Before every purchase, it can be helpful to ask yourself the Big 4: Does it ‘feel’ like you? Does it fit properly? Can you see yourself wearing it in five years? And finally, does it work with at least three other pieces in your wardrobe?

Choose Better | The Big 4

3 - Think Like a Stylist

The best outfits are born in the details. Whether it’s a belt or an accent colour, getting creative with the styling details can not only bring an outfit to life but maximise your wardrobe too. When in doubt, we’re always looking to Andrea Cheong for inspiration and Fashion Writer Mandy Lee who created the #75hardstylechallenge as a way of firming up your personal style.  

And finally, the last tip for reducing your fashion consumption: spread the word! Whether it’s swapping pieces for a season or holding one another accountable, creating meaningful and lasting change is so much more fun with friends.