Slow wardrobe

August 2008

Make fashion an investment and join the growing trend for clothing that never tires.

If you still think luxury is about a constant stream of low-grade bling rotating in one end of your wardrobe and out the other (straight into landfill), you're behind the times!

The 21st century ethical luxury has taken on a whole new dimension. Rather than bulk-buying disposable fashion with a short shelf (or rail)-life, savvy fashionistas are investing for the long term. With a few tricks of the trade, they're looking great without leaving a trail of textile trash behind them.

Here's how to get in on the act:

Buy to last: Choose clothes that are well made from good quality materials that will wear well.

Look for classic cuts that will transcend the seasons when updated with different accessories.

Buy vintage: The quality of fabric and workmanship is often much higher than with mass-produced clothing, and you'll be guaranteed a unique look.

Customise your kit: Re-style old garments you no longer wear, to make new and original outfits. Shortening a hemline, adding a belt or sewing on quirky buttons or patches are super-cheap and eco-friendly ways to create a totally new look.

Try a complete makeover: If you're tired of wearing something, try it in a different role. Wear evening clothes in the day, tuck, pin or ruffle fabrics, and if that's not enough get out the scissors and dye for a complete transformation.

Check out the Thread Style File to see just how inspiring your wardrobe could become if you let your fashion-recycling imagination run wild!

Love it for longer: Really look after your clothes. Learning to sew on a button, fix a hem and patch or darn a hole could double your wardrobe's lifespan. If a repair job's too daunting, hand it to the professionals. If clothes are worth wearing, they're worth caring for!

Pass it on: When you've exhausted these possibilities, rather than sending clothes you've finished with to landfill, give them a second (or third) life.

Host a swapping party with friends, or log on to one of the growing number of swapping sites - for example, www.bigwardrobe.com and www.fashionspace.com.

Recharge your fashion fund by selling clothes on Ebay (a great source of recycled fashion).

Help others to benefit by giving unwanted clothes to charity shops (in-store or via a collection bank or collection service). They sell-on decent items, and designers such as TRAID's (Textile Recycling for Aid & International Development) team fashion new items out of the best part of unwanted garments. If your togs are beyond even that, they can still be shredded and rewoven into new items via charity-run textile-recycling schemes.

Close the loop and buy recycled: When you genuinely need to buy something new, indulge in wonderful pieces made from recycled clothes. Try Junky Styling for fantastic directional couture tailoring made from salvaged suits; Good One for sassy streetwear; From Somewhere for impeccably cut pieces from offcuts from Italy's top design houses; and Howies, Muji or American Apparel for leisurewear from recycled yarn.

Joanna Yarrow is a broadcaster, writer and consultant specialising in green living. She's GMTV's eco expert and presented BBC Three's Outrageous Wasters

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