5 Steps Towards An Ethical Wardrobe

Image provided by Everlane

An entirely ethical wardrobe isn’t easy to obtain and doesn’t happen overnight. At ESH, we’re far from perfect but we believe in always taking conscious steps towards a kinder, more responsible wardrobe.

Of course, we’d love our wardrobes to consist of nothing but fair trade organic brands, but most of us just simply can’t afford it. A 100% ethical wardrobe is something most of us can only view as aspirational, and something that takes time to achieve. There are 5 steps we can take in the meantime to improve the social and environmental footprint of our clothing consumption, inspired by Anushka Rees, writer of Into-Mind,  a blog about mindfully creating the perfect wardrobe. 

Anushka Rees' Ethical Closet pyramid taken from her website  Into-Mind

Anushka Rees' Ethical Closet pyramid taken from her website Into-Mind


1. Love what you’ve got

You may be hoping to rid your wardrobe of anything with bad juju, but think about it – it wouldn’t make sense for to throw away your old clothes when there’s life left in them. Hold on to what you have for now, look after it and make it last - but only if you love it.  If you have a bunch of items you are not sure about, try the KonMari approach to sorting out your closet. Maire Kondo, known for her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” believes that you use a tactile and intuitive approach to sorting your wardrobe, saying “you must take each outfit in your hand” and asking yourself “does it spark joy?”

If you do have an item (or 10) that lack that “spark”, list them on trademe, or sell or donate them to a local op shop.

For the pieces that you want to keep and look after, we found a great beginners guide to caring for your clothes here


2. Only buy pieces you love

If you don't love an item of clothing you're considering buying (maybe because of an inticing price tag?) it’s probably going to end up forgotten at the back of your closet. Most of us have been guilty of impulse buying, and we all know how often these purchases lead to the dreaded buyers remorse.  If you’re not sure, sleep on it. If you still like it after a day or two, then you’re more likely to wear it. If you’re still not sure, try the MonKari approach above when choosing a garment.

You should also consider how each purchase complements your overall wardrobe. In her book "The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe" Anushka Rees says “Your wardrobe should be more than the sum of its parts”, explaining that we should aim to build a coherent wardrobe and pieces that are versatile and compliment your existing wardrobe. For a guide to creating your dream wardrobe, check out Anushka’s blog piece, "How to Build a Perfect Wardrobe".   


3. Buy quality

Higher quality = longer lasting = less wardrobe turnover. Generally (but not always) when you pay more, you get better quality. We often joke about using the justification of “it’s an investment piece!”, but if you apply the above principle of only buying pieces you love, then you will get FAR more wear out of the purchase, reducing your fashion footprint.

Quality items also make you feel good and give you confidence and a stronger sense of personal style. You’re also more likely to take good care of something that is quality, making it last longer.


4. Buy second hand

Rummaging through op shop racks is a joy for some people, a chore to others. Luckily these days it’s far easier to buy vintage without putting in the hard work. Trademe, and international e-commerce platforms like Ebay, Etsy and Asos Marketplace make vintage buying easy, and affordable.

Or if you’re really into quality vintage, check out The Mercantile. New to the NZ fashion scene, The Mercantile are an online carefully curated online store selling “Exceptional pieces where consciousness prevails mass production and generic design”. Check out their vintage range for inspiration, and if you’ve got the budget for an “investment piece” you can score a wonderful vintage gem (like this classic Burbury Trench).

If you want to stick to conventional op-shopping, look for quality and good fabrics. Keep an eye out for our monthly Op Shop guide for inspiration and check out our last journal entry We Love Preloved.


5. Buy ethical

Consider not just where the garment was made, but where the fabric is sourced, the working conditions of the cotton growers, the textile makers, etc. If you’re unsure, check out the ‘about us’ section of the companies website, or email them asking them about their supply chain.

There are plenty of reputable options, like Kowtow, Everlane, Bon Label, Dorsu, the list goes on. We will be featuring brands like these in upcoming journal posts, so stay tuned.