Tips to Sustainable Fashion: Thrifting Shops, Clothes Swapping, and More

Ever wondered how can we reduce our fashion environmental impact? Here’s how to stay fashionable but sustainably.

Want to dress well but at the same time, you’re also trying to be more mindful about your clothes consumption? It’s been said that the fast fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. So, that clothing haul trend on TikTok? Probably not the best idea if you’re planning on saving planet earth. 

According to Maria Sandra Wijaya, Taylor’s University’s Programme Director for the Bachelor of Fashion Design  Technology, the fashion industry produces about 80 billion clothes annually. “Thirty percent of clothes produced are never sold and companies like luxury brands burn their goods to avoid having to put them on sale. We’re the second largest polluter and yet we’re still growing.” When asked how everyone can play a role in sustainability in fashion, she says that consumers need to be educated about mindful consumption while brands should be more transparent about their production as consumers have the right to be informed. It’s, hence, our responsibility to make conscious decisions and be mindful of our clothes purchasing habits. 

But is it possible to be conscious about our consumption AND still look good? Well yes! Choosing a more sustainable option to upkeep your look doesn’t have to come at the expense of style or even your moolah. So how can we reduce our fashion environmental impact? Here are a few ways to be fashionable, done sustainably:

#1. Spring clean your wardrobe


We get it. Most of us experience the I’ve-got-nothing-to-wear syndrome every now and then despite having one-too-many outfits. But the truth is, the reason why you feel this way is likely that you’ve outgrown the apparel in your wardrobe. 

So, before you add any more items to your closet, first remove what you wouldn’t or no longer see yourself wearing in the near future. But wait. How is this sustainable? Well, instead of throwing out your garments that’d end up in the landfill, there are a few ways to discard unwanted clothes.

  1. Hand your clothes to someone. What if you’ve no one to hand them down to? Believe it or not, there are community groups whereby you can give away your clothes that are unwanted but still in good condition. Check out Beli Nothing Project, a community group where people actually give away and/or receive items for FREE.  
  2. Donate clothes to charity. Where to donate unwanted clothes? You can donate your clothes for a good cause. Besides the orphanages, some places like Kedai Bless or Jumble Station accept and resell clothes in good condition and use the profit to help those in need.
  3. Bin them. But not just any bins as textiles can take up to 200 years to decompose. Kloth Cares is a fabric recycling movement to keep clothes out of landfills. You can bin clothes that you no longer wear (ahem your old underwear) in their bins wherever you find them and that includes Taylor’s Lakeside Campus!
A woman choosing an apparel

#2. Reorganise your existing clothes


Now that you’ve gotten rid of clothes you don’t wear, it’s time to reorganise the rest of your clothes. You’d probably find pieces of garments that you ‘lost’ or rekindle your love for ones that you haven’t worn in ages. Either way, it’s time to rearrange your clothes according to your needs!

Whether it’s clothes to attend classes or outings, try them out and match different pieces and then keep them together in your wardrobe. This way you’ll save time from having to think “What to wear?” when you’re rushing out. Don’t be shy to try out new styles. You’d be amazed by how many ways you can style a white button-down shirt or a black t-shirt. 

PS: To switch up your styles, try layering your outfits with your existing pieces like cardigans, lightweight jackets, outer shirts, or a blazer (we know how cold lecture theatres or the mall can get).

Girl organising her wardrobe

#3. Get ‘new’ clothes


Okay. You’ve done all of that. But you’re still unhappy with what you have or don’t have a specific attire to attend a function. Now you’ve permission to find something ‘new’. Before you dash to the fast fashion clothing store, do these instead: 

  1. Go thrift shopping. You may be familiar with thrifting shops as more people are jumping into the bandwagon. Thrifting shops get their clothes through public donations, outstanding, or rejected stocks from another store or manufacturer. By thrifting, you aren’t purchasing new NEW clothes which would contribute to more consumption — and that’s a good thing. And if you’re in luck you may just find a branded item for a super good deal! 
  2. Attend clothes swap parties. If you haven’t heard of it, yes there exist clothes swapping parties whereby you get to exchange your clothes with someone else’s! Local community groups like Style Swap Malaysia and organisations like Fashion Revolution Malaysia hold clothes swap events every now and then. If you can’t find one near you, try hosting one yourself! This way you get to try out different styles of clothes for free or at a VERY low cost!
  3. Go vintage. And by that we mean dig out your parent’s closet. You’ve probably seen TikTok fashion trends whereby TikTokers style themselves in vintage clothes and go about their days. Why not see what hidden gems your parents have and give that a try? Who knows you could be the next vintage fashion influencer!
A rack of clothes

#4. The Last Resort


Say you’ve done it all and still can’t find a suitable garment to dress for an occasion and you’d have to resort to buying new clothes. So now you’re browsing at the store. Just before you hit the checkout counter, always check the labels on the garment. Try to buy clothes that use natural materials like cotton as much as you can and avoid synthetics like polyester. 

That’s not all. Transparency is also key. The more information you can find on the label about its production, the better it is. Where is it made from? Does it state the material composition by percentage? The brand from which you purchase, are their workers paid a living wage? Your clothes don't just impact the environment. The fashion industry affects the well-being of those who make your clothes too.

And finally, before you swipe your card or scan that QR code at the counter, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you really need it and why? 

  2. How often would you wear it? 

  3. Do you have other clothes that could go with it to maximise its use?

If your answers are mostly yes, then sure. Just remember to be committed to every single purchase. 

PS: We recommend you to purchase from conscious and more sustainable clothing brands. Check out local sustainable fashion brands here.

Image of clothes fabric

We hope this article gave you some ideas to dress more sustainably. Got more ideas? Tell us how you practise mindful consumption in the comments here.

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