My pledge to be ASAP – as sustainable as possible
When I started writing this blog seven years ago, it was as a way of sharing information. At the time, the fashion industry and press were catering almost exclusively for women who wanted – or felt the need – to wear heels. Which I didn’t. But as a fashion journalist, I was able to discover brands making great flat shoes for women, and this was a platform to tell other like-minded people about it. Fast forward to 2019, and the fashion industry may have woken up to our comfort needs, but we still have a long way to go in other areas.
I’ve now been a fashion journalist for 12 years, but I’ve spent the last few months working almost exclusively with sustainable fashion projects; writing features and content for brands and online platforms including Common Objective and #TOGETHERBAND. I’ve learnt an extraordinary amount of terrifying information about the way our clothes are produced, and I’ve had an awakening.
People Tree V&A print TENCEL ® Lyocell trousers, £115 (peopletree.co.uk); Grenson ‘Ethel’ leather sandals (3 years old); #TOGETHERBAND recycled ocean plastic friendship bracelet representing Responsible Consumption and Production, £35 for two (togetherband.org)
The fashion industry is by its very nature unsustainable, forever pushing the new and fuelling the need for more. I already knew this, but I guess I’d not faced it front on until now. Because as a fashion journalist, I have to hold my hands up and admit to being part of the problem. I have been guilty of using dangerous phrases such as “must haves!” and “need to know trends!”. I’ve been part of the machine that makes people feel irrelevant if they’re not wearing something new. So from now on, I want to take responsibility and try to be part of the solution instead.
En Brogue will still offer the same kind of articles as it does now, with styling tips and some carefully curated shopping advice. But the styling tips will involve pictures of me in my existing wardrobe – I’m buying nothing new for at least a year, and I am no longer accepting gifts from brands – and the shopping will only feature labels that have ethical and environmental practices that fit with my beliefs (I’m going to be using the Good On You app religiously!).
There are a few unavoidable caveats. Unfortunately, there are clothes in my wardrobe from shops that I will no longer be supporting with my cash or with shopping links, but I’m not going to deny that I own them, nor am I going to throw them away; that would just be dishonest and add to the clothing waste problem. But I will talk about the reasons I’m not shopping at those particular places anymore, as well as asking those brands questions about their practices, and also update you if they improve the way they do things. I also own a fair amount of stuff in fabrics that aren’t sustainable; I wouldn’t buy them now I’m equipped with more knowledge about their impact.
Atterley 100% polyester dress (about 6 years old; polyester is not a sustainable fabric); Shoe The Bear leather, cork and EVA sandals (2 years old); Wicker Wings wicker and leather bag (had since December and have used countless times already). TOP IMAGE: Boden linen jumpsuit (one of my last gifts! Linen is a natural biodegradable fabric); Zara Viscos T-shirt (2 years old, Viscose is not sustainable); Payukan polyurethane sandals (not biodegradable but built to last and the brand donates to sea turtle conservation projects)
I’m also really keen to champion the good guys, so if you see me working with brands or featuring new season stuff, it’s on the understanding that a) I have vetted them beforehand and b) if I’m wearing them, I’ve asked to borrow the clothes to shoot, and will then return them. I still want to have the confidence to talk to you about comfort and quality, so it’s important for me to try out and feel the clothes and shoes on your behalf. But there’s absolutely no need for me to buy or keep them.
I’m definitely not perfect and I’m learning as I go. And I’m not here to preach or judge. It’s up to you how much you are able to do in your own way, and, to quote a large supermarket chain, every little helps. It really does! But this is the way I have personally chosen go forward. I am lucky enough to have a platform and an engaged group of followers, and I want to use that opportunity responsibly.
My career is probably going to take a hit, but I think in our current climate emergency, it’s worth taking a stand for what I believe in. Otherwise, I don’t really believe in it do I….
I’d love to hear what your thoughts about sustainability in fashion and hear about your own journeys. Leave comments below!
Hannah this is fantastic. I’ve been moving this way slowly, I haven’t stopped buying but in general I have been trying to shop from brands that use sustainable materials. The brands have also improved and realised that not everyone interested in saving the planet wants to look like they’ve just got back from Boomtown.
The hard one for me has been my decision not to buy any more new leather and resisting the siren call of the new seasons offerings!
We’ve been conditioned (by people like me I admit) to always think we “need” something new. I really don’t need anything new for a while! I suspect after a year I will buy very little, maybe only a couple of pieces a year and they will be very considered. Good for you for all you are doing and thanks so much for reading x
This is so brilliant to read; I really enjoy your blog but you capture many of my own feelings of unease and building alarm about how much this industry contributes to the climate emergency we’re facing. It is very welcome to have a voice like yours role-modelling a shift to a different way of living.I have hardly bought any clothes for the last few years as I already have a bulging wardrobe of clothes that are still perfectly good, and I would love to see some inspiration for rediscovering things that I haven’t worn recently. I would hope you get more interest and wider following as a result of your decision: I for one am with you!
Thank you so much x
This is fantastic to hear! I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, but it’s only just started filtering through. I’d love so much more info and following your blog has been amazing! I’m clothes mad 😩 so this is good to hear your thoughts & feelings about this and I’m feeling the same, but don’t know where to start. What are the better fabrics to look for and are there any high street stores already stocking things to help the environment?? Thanks for all your info! I feel the need to get this message out to people! Much love for what you’re doing! 🙏🏻
I wrote a piece a few months ago about being a more sustainable shopper (just scroll through the home page and you should find it). In a nutshell though I would say avoid polyester and look for natural fibres like organic cotton and linen. There are many high st stores with small ranges (I like Monki Cares, for example) but I worry that many are token. The big high street brands should take a stand and roll it out across their entire ranges. The Good On You app is really good for helping you navigate it all. X
Maybe this would be interesting to look into the Guppyfriend washing bag https://www.wearethought.com/guppyfriend-washing-bag
Yes I’ve been meaning to get one. I must do that today!
Well done ♥️ And thanks
This is so brilliant, so good to see you leading the way. I’m trying to do more, and sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing, but it’s good to know there’s a community of like minded folk also thinking about this stuff. Seeing some styling tips on the sorts of clothes we probably all already have (from previous years “must haves”!) will be a real help, am looking forward to being inspired to be more creative with what I have, hooray!
Thank you I’m so pleased you are pleased!! 😀
Love this. I made a decision to reduce my clothes shopping, and have started to enjoy making again. Still not perfect – don’t know enough about the origins of the fabric I buy, for example – but at least I know it’s my effort that’s going into making it, not someone potentially working in poor conditions/being poorly paid/treated. I have however bought shoes (all flat!) but again trying to consider what I’m buying. So I know I can do more, but for me it’s a start.
Sounds like you are doing great!
I love this! It’s great to see an influencer aim to do good and not just be all talk. I do have a suggestion though with gifts from brands- if the brand is super sustainable and they have gifted you something you love, why not keep it but then give a cash donation to a sustainable charity in its place? That way you are keeping something you love, it’s from a good brand and you’re also helping out a charity. Secondly (and this would need some further thought around how it would work) if you get gifts sent to you you don’t want to keep, rather than sending them back why not competition them up for your followers? This then encourages followers to not buy if they win, but also you could make a rule like ‘to enter please donate £5 to this charity’ etc. I’m not sure, it needs more thought around it but it would be good to think about how you could not ‘waste’ gifts- if you send them back to the brand do we know for sure they then re-gift them? Lots of food for thought I guess. Would also love to maybe get some charity shop hunting tips as that’s a really sustainable way to shop if you really want something ‘new.’ Keep up the good work! 🙂
Thanks for this – great ideas! I actually don’t really get sent stuff without prior approval, so I get the opportunity to politely turn the offer down and explain my reasons. I also just need to cut down on my possessions for the sake of my storage! So with sustainable brands I want to champion I may borrow something to touch, feel, try on at home and shoot, and then return it. But yes, something involving the readers would be a great idea. I will have a think about how best to do that!
Hello Hannah, I think this is fantastic, and brave. I’ve followed your blog for about five years (it’s pretty much the only blog I follow) and I’ve welcomed your increased content on sustainability. But I can see that what you are talking about is ‘next level’ and I hope it brings you positive things. Personally, I went through the same sort of ‘awakening’ moment a few months back, I decided that I had to face up to what was happening and change my life accordingly in as many ways as I can (within the framework of family life and being a carer). In terms of fashion, I didn’t ever buy loads and loads, but now I’m really trying to buy not any unless I need it – apart from, I bought a Rapunai t-shirt the other week to wear while staffing the recycling stall at our school fair, and a Wyatt & Jack bag to support their sustainable brand. I think the bigger shift for me, is that I used to spend hours down a rabbit hole of online clothes shopping, and that’s been replaced by reading zero-waste and wildlife gardening related stuff. You’ve mentioned TerraCycle a few times; I’ve set up a TerraCycle public collection point locally and we are getting 5-6 binbags full of rubbish a week. All in all, whatever happens down the line, my life’s much more rewarding and productive now than it ever has been. I love learning about how innovative and caring people can be. I have made new connections with like-minded people. It can be hard work but I feel I’m on a better path – mentioning this because sustainability might look a bit ‘hair-shirt’ but I’ve found it to be it’s so rich and interesting. Thanks again Hannah, it’s a great thing you are doing. Christine
Thanks Christine. It’s fab to hear your story too. I’m guessing you are an Islander!! I love Rapanui and I’m planning to visit the Wyatt & Jack shop this weekend. I hope Terracycling will becomes the norm. And totally agree – I find it far more rewarding to do this than shop online!
Just a coincidence, I’m at the other end in country – Edinburgh. I hadn’t realised Rapunai was IOW until I read a couple of your posts recently. Hoping to do a Wyatt & Jack inflatable amnesty collection in a few weeks time.
Yes both are Isle of Wight! I’m proud of my fellow Islanders 🙂
This is so heartening to read, an I am really looking forward to following your journey. I sew a lot of my own clothes, which has given me a real understanding of the complete impossibly of producing a T-shirt ethically for a fiver. However, fabric production is still contentious, so us sewists are still on a similar journey. I suspect that age and stage of life also helps me. I’m in my 40’s and have 2 young kids so am “out out” less, than I used to be and so have less requirement for shiny new things (I always find a night out seems to be the biggest culprit for people requiring new things).
Slow Fashion Season have a goal to get 10k people across the globe to commit to a clothes buying ban for 3 months, starting next month. I’m sure you are across this, but if not, it might be worth sharing? As you say, you have an engaged audience, and while I commend your year long ban, that can be scary/unachieveable for a lot of people. 3 months might be far more realistic.
I haven’t come across them thanks. Will look it up! I’m also in my 40s but interestingly bought far less in my 20s. I had no worries at all back then of wearing the same clothes over and over again. Keen to get back to that mindset of loving owning clothes rather than consuming them.
I’m a fashion obsessive and a dreadful hoarder which means your post was the wake up call I needed. If someone working in the fashion industry can do this, so can I! Thank you for helping me take a stand. The one thing I would urge you to do is to talk more about this not just in terms of climate change or the environment but also attempting to improve the rights of workers, predominantly women, globally. I know you did this in your post from March – being more sustainable = being more ethical and humane. It’s a hugely complex picture that I’m only getting my head around so thanks for getting me focussed.
Thanks so much for taking the time to message. It means a lot to know opening the conversation is making a difference. And yes, absolutely this is such a broad subject with so many issues. For me, the beginning of my journey is more on the environmental side but I absolutely care about it all. I think on a personal level it’s less overwhelming to tackle it bit by bit. But many of the brands I will no longer endorse are ones that lack the transparency required to ensure that everyone in their supply chain is treated fairly. Thankfully there are some really good guys out there covering all bases. I will be championing them from now on!
Good for you, I’m left wondering if I could stop buying for a whole year! I do try and buy less and more sustainably though!
I’m thinking that the trends are still applicable, I’m sure most of us do this in some degree – styling items we already have in a trend orientated way. Although I do try and buy for longevity, it’s nice to feel that I tweak things to stop looking dated. I’m loving that my baguette bags are on trend again (I hadn’t stopped using them, but cross body bags have been more of a staple for me), and all but one of mine have optional cross body straps.
Sounds like you’re already doing a great job!
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I pledged to give up clothes shopping for a year last August. I had a wardrobe of stuff I don’t wear, spent ridiculous amounts of time on the internet hunting down a ’must have’, choosing to go shopping as either a reward or entertainment etc etc etc.
I can’t say I have succeeded 100% but 95% is good enough for me and the joy of being able to go and buy a new something when the old one was unwearable due to holes (my replacement rule in play) was great!
I’m using a tailor, photographing my self in new variations I’ve created so I can remember the inventions and am repeating outfits with tweaks and clean undies during a week, as endorsed by That’s Not My Age – Alyson Walsh.
I love Alyson! And good for you – sounds like you have made a huge success of it. If everyone did the same, it would make an enormous difference.
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This article has really spoken to me. Thank you, I’m attempting to buy less and also buy smarter. I still have to buy some pieces for work but it’s in a more concidered way. It’s not perfect but I will be looking into more ethical brands and using what I already have. Thank you for a great article. I love your blog.
That means a lot to hear, thank you for taking the time to tell me
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About 8 or 9 years ago I made a pledge to myself to not buy new for a year. I let myself buy secondhand via the internet (only really eBay back then as an option), dress agencies and charity shops. And I did it! I really enjoyed the whole process. It made me look at what i already owned to make the most of those items. And it showed me how little new stuff we actually need – you can either find a current trend lurking in your wardrobe already or, with a little patience & fine tuned hunting, you will find it somewhere second hand. Hope your year proves as exhilarating & invigorating!
Wow how inspiring – you were obviously well ahead with your thinking! I’m really enjoying it so far and have genuinely not missed having anything new.
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