Sustainable Fashion and YOU

Clothes racks in a charity shop

9th July 2020


If we couldn’t afford to keep up with the latest trends, we’d try to save up as much as we can, spend less and would value what we purchase more. We would only be buying the necessary and more durable items and spend less money in the long term.

On the other hand, most of the eco-friendly brands are expensive. Not all of us can afford to buy a pair of jeans either for €110! The price is high because of the ethical, and therefore costly means of production, textiles and labour costs. If we want to shop in an environmentally friendly way, pay fair wages to the workers and use fewer resources in the production process, we have to pay more.

However, there is another solution: the charity and second-hand shops, clothes repair shops, clothes-swapping, and many other creative ways to give your old clothes a second life! So, let’s explore what sustainable fashion is all about!

The charity shops are finally open. You might desperately want something new to add to your wardrobe, without wanting to support the fast fashion brands that cancelled orders that were already placed, leaving textile workers unpaid. Or perhaps over the quarantine period you had some time to declutter and without a doubt, found loads of stuff you don’t need anymore. I’m not talking about the items that suddenly and almost magically became a size too small, maybe we should hold on to those for more active days to come!

Some of us enjoy popping into charity shops, looking for unique pieces of clothing or jewellery with their own history. The shop’s income is used to support vulnerable people around the country and globally, which makes these organisations so important!

The charities too were calling for donations. But volunteering with Vincent de Paul for the last week, I realised that it’s not the donations, but the volunteers to sort the endless flow of donations, that the charity shops desperately need. It’s amazing how every couple of minutes there would be a car stopping and dropping in a couple of bags with clothes, books, and other things. There are so many items donated! As the shops have never seen before! And most of them will be shipped out of the country to be given to those in need, wherever they are!


a window sign stating that they are not accepting donations

According to the World Resources Institute, ‘The average consumer bought 60 percent more clothes in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment for half as long’. Of course, the fast-fashion businesses provide jobs. However, people producing these clothes for mass production are paid very little, and are usually women. They are a part of communities from low and middle-income countries, and it’s them, who produce the clothes we buy in Ireland. There is also the question of child labour that arises. It’s quite hard to weigh the benefits and the drawbacks of fast fashion for those communities.

It also takes so much resources to make a clothing piece! How much water does it take to make a cotton T-Shirt?



Photo by National Geographic by the World Resources Institute

Making a pair of jeans produces as much greenhouse gases as driving a car more than 80 miles, and the clothing made of non-biodegradable fabrics can sit in landfills for up to 200 years!

The European Clothing Action Plan says that the textile industry is the second largest contributor to global pollution when most of the textiles can be recycled. Businesses should take responsibility for textile recycling, and some do so. There are a couple of textile recycling centres in Ireland. Check out this article if you want to learn more about what to do with your textiles after they have served their purpose.

So, what is the definition of sustainable fashion? Does it include clothes made from natural materials? Yes, but not only this, there is so much more to it! Here is a chart that explains some other factors that construct sustainable fashion:

Pie chart labelling elements of sustainable fashion

You might know some small businesses that have turned their hobbies into an ethical business. If you want to get some inspiration, check out the Sustainable Fashion Dublin Instagram page. And a shout out to @lemonqueen Galway girl that produces unreal jewellery and clothing pieces that are so worth your attention! If you know of any other small, eco-friendly businesses, do let us know and we’d be happy to spread the word!

Channel your inner crafty spirit and create something that is in your unique style! Tie-dye, textile paints, polymer clay, embroidery etc. The best thing is the more you get into it, the more fun it is! Simply speaking, sustainable fashion is not about saving the environment by restricting your choices, quite the opposite. It’s all about being free, being yourself, expressing, staying in harmony with nature and getting creative without having to spend loads of money. Anyone can do it!

Sustainable fashion doesn’t only include clothes. Notebooks, accessory bags, back bags, also makeup, hygiene products etc. – all those items are part of it! For example, you can turn your old T-shirt into a bag or a pillow, and make it fit perfectly for your new purpose. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out @reworkbydurk page, that shows examples of the ‘reworked bits’, or a free- spirited DIY channel on YouTube called HGTV handmade. The item you made yourself or bought from an online or local hand-made shop will feel unique, special and more valuable than your Penneys T-shirts (although you can use an old Penneys T-shirt and add something to it too, to make it special).

When the shops closed, we understood that we can live a bit more sustainably and that we don’t need to buy as much. Some of us may have tried little DIY hacks, while we had some (or a lot of) free time! Our style is our own. But the style is not only how your outfit looks – but also what is behind its creation!

Feel free to share any tricks you use for your sustainable shopping!

If you want to learn more, please check out these websites:








Featured photo by Elizabeth Stolbova



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