Guest Blog: Jo Bunner from The Good Clothes Philosophy

I’ve decided to host a clothes swap! I’ve been running and attending regular swaps for years and thought it would be rather wonderful to host one at Jane’s Place as part of Global Sharing Week.

I’ve invited image consultant, Jo Bunner from The Good Clothes Philosophy, not only to provide valuable styling tips; but more importantly, to share her ethos of how to shop in a sustainable and ethical way. Jo stopped buying ‘new clothes’ 5 years ago and relies on charity shops, clothes swaps, vintage fairs and car boot sales for her wardrobe.  A truly inspiring approach.

To find out more, I asked Jo…. 

Just what is EcoFabulous?

For me it is a belief that caring about the environment and loving clothes don’t have to be mutually exclusive terms.

Clothes have always been an important part of my life; I spent my childhood doll years creating outfits for them, moving on to making my own clothes, then formally training to become a Fashion Designer/Pattern cutter. By the time I left the fashion industry in 1995, it had become cheaper to buy an articulated lorry and employ a full time driver to make regular runs to Romania to get our garments produced rather than use local manufacturers; a situation necessitated by the pressures of lower and lower prices demanded by the retailers in this relatively new phenomenon called the Fast Fashion Industry.

The textile and fashion industry has always had a detrimental impact on the environment and its people: in our industrial revolution the cotton mills saw phenomenal growth, utilising the new technology of weaving and dyeing to keep up with demand.  The result? Chemical laden water sources and a working population (mainly women and children incidentally) who developed various respiratory diseases, including brown lung disease or byssinosis.

Happily, this is now a thing of the past. Or is it?  A couple of hundred years later it feels like we’ve just moved the problem out of sight; in much the same way as we’ve pushed our clothing manufacturing offshore, we’ve also pushed its inherent health and safety problems overseas as well.  You only have to read around a bit to see that this industry is still hugely damaging (see below for a few suggested links:

Fashion Revolution:

To Die For, Lucy Siegle: 

Love Fashion, Hate Sweatshops:

The True Cost movie:

Wrap: )

And the more you read and learn the worse it becomes – a guilt trip in every pair of jeans you buy! But it does act to remind us of the fact that those piles of clothes we see in the High Street stores and online aren’t magically delivered there by clothes fairies, or by a Fashion Santa whose team of fashion elves work tirelessly, endlessly behind the scenes.

Nowadays fashion is produced as trends, rolling blocks of time lasting around 21 days in which to design, pattern cut, source fabric and trims, manufacture and deliver the finished garment to store. The result (a highly edited list):

  • An industry that is second only to the oil industry in pollution terms
  • A labour force – 70% of which are women aged 17-25 incidentally – paid well below poverty level with no H&S or Trade Unions to protect them
  • Cheaper and poorer quality clothes; after all what’d be the point of making something to last when it’ll be passe in a couple of weeks?
  • Clothing mountains of unimaginable size and scale: 350,000 tonnes and £100 million in the UK alone is dumped to our waste sites
  • Ever changing fashions and trends you’d do well to keep up with, financially and physically
  • Lack of appreciation and care for what we put closest to ourselves every day.

Complex, deep and wide ranging, the issues are huge and like many things in our world can feel overwhelming – where to start, what can one person do? I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe there are ways where, in finding our own ethical compass, we can make small steps towards slowing down the fashion train.

So here are just a few suggestions to start you down the road to EcoFabulous!

  1. Clothes Swaps. Get some friends together over a glass or two of wine or have a look on the Global Sharing Week website for others near you . Anything left over can then be taken to your chosen charity shop.
  2. Charity donations. Anything in any condition can be utilised by charity shops to raise revenue for the organisation and benefit the wider – even global – community, it may not go into the shop for sale, but it could enter a whole new arena of sharing economy like Oxfam’s Frip Ethique
  3. Second hand outlets like Ebay, dress agencies, Etsy etc. Buying from these outlets keeps the pieces circulating within the world and can benefit individuals as well as whole communities
  4. Do. And Mend. Try your hand at sewing, either making from scratch or simply altering or mending something to bring it back into your wardrobe. I teach at a couple of sewing schools and the demand for sewing lessons is constant and growing; it has not only the benefit of adding a unique item into your wardrobe, but you also derive huge satisfaction from creating something yourself.
  5. Get your colours done. This way your wardrobe becomes more streamlined, co-ordinated and can help to curb those impulse buys; you know the ones – they are hanging in your wardrobe now, unworn, possibly even still have the tags on because they just don’t go with anything else.
  6. Organise your wardrobe. I always suggest by colour (yes mix your tops with your skirts, with your jackets, trousers…) this way you’ll start to see how things can be coordinated to make the most of what you already have, the pieces you just don’t wear (donate, sell, swap), duplicated items – come on, how many black cardigans do you really need?! – and you’ll also see those ‘gaps’ which could pull a whole suite of outfits together. These can then go on your shopping list…
  7. Go shopping with your list – and stick to it! Create your list from need rather than want: are you replacing a worn out item, or if you say more than 3 times ‘I really could do with x to go with y, z, a, b…..’ then on the list it goes. But if you do see something not on your list, think – what will this item go with? If you can come up with more than 3 pieces/outfits then it may have a place in your wardrobe.
  8. Quality over quantity. And I’m not just talking purchase price here as it doesn’t necessarily follow that the more expensive the item the better quality it is – nor does it mean that the brand is any more ethical. Quality for me is more about the value of the garment to you: Do you love it? Do you feel great when you wear it? Will you wear it lots? Can you see it being one of your favourite go-to items? Then it’s a keeper.
  9. Look for ethical brands like People Tree , Fat Face , Monsoon and SeaSalt who consciously and transparently put people and planet on a level with profit.
  10. Care for your clothes. Wash them carefully (and when they are actually dirty), lower the washing temperature, avoid using dryers – mmm, the smell of air-dried washing! – avoid harsh detergents and not only will your clothes last longer but you’ll also consume less energy (saving money and resources) and reduce the quantity of pollutants entering our water system.

Finally, there’s one big thing everybody can do: share the EcoFabulous philosophy! 

Please visit Jo’s website The Good Clothes Philosophy for more information and services.