Why this spring is all about the rise of the no-buy wardrobe

Not just on social media though, celebrities are also proving that it’s chic to repeat with the likes of Michelle Obama, Tiffany Haddish, Keira Knightley and Lady Gaga all recently rewearing outfits in public. (At the 2019 Oscars, Gaga wore a Tiffany diamond necklace that had previously been worn by none other than Audrey Hepburn.)

But, of course, the Queen of no-buy has got to be Meghan Markle. Currently the third most influential celebrity in fashion, Markle is well-known for giving favourite pieces several public outings, from her khaki J.Crew jacket to her velvet Tabitha Simmons Kiki boots and her black skinny-leg Outland jeans.

It’s the beginning of spring, we’re fresh out of fashion month so naturally, we need to talk about trends. What’s hot? What’s fresh? What will everyone be wearing that we need to buy, like yesterday? Lilac? Trouser suits? Teeny-tiny bags? Whilst the start of a fashion season usually signals a deluge of newness, 2019 has other plans.

This spring’s hottest trend isn’t what’s new, but rather what’s old; dresses, tops, coats and shoes – whatever you already own that can be dusted-off, re-styled and worn in place of buying something new. Welcome to the season of the ‘no-buy’ wardrobe.

Chic to repeat

Once considered a fashion faux-pas, wearing the same outfit twice (even three, four or five times) has been embraced by those in the fashion-know. Recent months have seen pro no-buy hashtags pepper our favourite OOTDs as influencers champion their old clothes rather than box-fresh hauls. “A lot of what I wear isn’t brand spanking new…it felt right to spend the last month talking about the pieces that had stood the test of time.” explains journalist and influencer Katherine Ormerod, who started the #thisoldthing hashtag at the end of 2018.

Shopping exclusively from her own wardrobe, Ormerod spent four weeks reinventing old clothes by styling them in different ways and posting them to her Instagram account. Similarly hashtags #notnewyear and #secondhandfirst are being used by the likes of influencers Ella Grace Denton, Kristabel Plummer and Lissie Waite, as well as by journalist Daisy Buchanan and Danish fashion blogger, Signe Hansen, to promote a no-buy approach to getting dressed.

The fast-fashion churn

Put simply, wearing your old clothes has never been so fashionable, but why? As a nation, we are at peak wardrobe-bulge. According to recent statistics, the UK buys more clothes per person than any other European country, with the average consumer buying 26.7kg of fashion items per year. (No wonder we’re all in desperate need of Kondo’ing our closets!) With the boom of lightening-fast-fashion and brands making ‘add to basket’ quicker and easier than ever (boohoo.com almost doubled its sales last year), our fashion consumption has skyrocketed and it’s no secret that this is having a detrimental effect on our planet.

“One hundred billion items of clothing are produced globally each year,” says Orsola de Castro, founder of sustainable fashion activism organisation Fashion Revolution. De Castro explains that a whooping 78% of this ends up being thrown away, “that’s one truck of clothing going to landfill every second”. With landfill sites creating harmful methane emissions, cutting these down is imperative. And yet a report released by the Environmental Audit Committee last month stated that, less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing. “We have really lost any kind of common sense” says de Castro.

Not only this but the manufacturing of our clothes uses up precious raw materials such as water and fossil fuels and it produces carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming. Some components of the process, such as chemical dyes and coatings can be toxic, whilst the plastic microfibers in synthetic fabrics contribute to ocean pollution.

Of course, there is also the exploitation of those producing fast-fashion, with many garment workers being unfairly paid and treated. Only last month an Oxfam report found that women in Bangladesh and Vietnam are being paid as little as 51 cents (less than 30p) per day. And it’s not just overseas workers, the Environmental Audit Committee reports that some garment factories in the UK are not paying the minimum wage.

“We need to create a whole new culture around clothing” says de Castro. Climate change, pollution, exploitative supply chains, it’s not hard to see that breaking the churn isn’t so much of a choice as a necessity. How would the planet look without fast-fashion? “It would look better dressed for sure” says de Castro.

Breaking out of the cycle

When, once upon a time, reading this might have been news to most of us, high-profile initiatives and even prime-time TV (such as the BBC’s Fashion’s Dirty Secret with Stacey Dooley) has made sure that in 2019, we are more aware than ever about the impact of our shopping habits. (In fact, global fashion search platform Lyst has seen a 47% increase in searches for sustainable-related keywords.) So what does this mean for us and our fashion stash? We know our wear-once-throw-away culture can’t continue but never buying clothes ever again hardly sounds realistic or, well, particularly fun. Hurray then for the no-buy wardrobe – the sustainably stylish alternative.

“I tried on every piece that I owned which made me totally re-evaluate what I has” says Ormerod explaining her approach to no-buy. “I Marie Kondo’ed my wardrobe and really whittled down the pieces that sparked joy.” These pieces included Stradivarius white lace-up boots, a pair of well-loved Louboutin high heels, Levi’s Wedgie jeans and the “ultimate” cream chunky knit – a sacrifice on style? I think not.

“Who cares if it isn’t on trend? If you really love a certain print or dress, then you should carry on wearing it regardless of what anyone says. There’s ways to update it and keep it fresh.” explains Kristabel Plummer of I Want You To Know, who also endorses the ‘no-buy’ wardrobe approach. As for top tips on restyling old pieces, Ormerod says it’s all about accessories, “footwear can totally change the attitude of things you’ve been wearing one way forever. I’m also a big fan of belts – you can layer a chunky sweater or blouse over a dress and cinch it with a great belt.”

Restyle, rewear, recycle

As well as plundering our own wardrobes, rooting through the stylish stash of others is part of the no-buy ethos too. “It’s about redefining what ‘new’ means to you. New into your life, rather than new and bought from a fast fashion store” says Jemma Finch of conscious fashion platform Stories Behind Things. Along with co-founder Ella Grace Dent, Finch set up The Big Clothes Switch, a series of pop-up events where you take along pieces that you no longer want and swap them for something you do. As they say, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

On that note, the boom of resale platforms means that if we do need to buy something new, we can do it with a conscience by buying someone else’s old. Launched last summer, The Resolution Store sells a curated edit of second-hand pieces from the most stylish of influencers including Pandora Sykes, Lucy Williams and Camille Charriere. With over 13 million users globally, Depop not only sells the pre-loved pieces of influencers but celebrities too, such as FKA Twigs and Glamour cover star, Maisie Williams, who both donate sales to charitable causes.

So, does the rise of the no-buy wardrobe signal the end of high street shopping altogether? Ormerod says it’s all about being more aware of what we already have and introducing considered pieces now and again, “It has to be about the mix of old and new and investing in long lasting, multi-use fashion which will sit in our wardrobes for a lifetime. Plummer agrees “I’ve gone from buying constantly, to taking weeks or even months to consider whether I really need something.” But ultimately the no-buy wardrobe is a lesson in breaking out of that fast-fashion cycle and appreciating our clothes. As de Castro says, “the truth is we need to fall in love with the clothes we already own and make sure they last. When it comes to what we can do for the planet this is the most important thing.”

10 easy steps to curating your no-buy wardrobe

Sort it

Unless you are Marie Kondo herself, the chances are your wardrobe is more stuffed than a Christmas turkey. If you can’t see the clothes you have then you won’t know to wear them so tip everything onto the bed then re hang it all using space-saving hangers.

2. Organise it

“Make your wardrobe as easy to navigate as possible” says Plummer who recommends organising your wardrobe by colour or into full looks. This will give you an idea of what goes with what and the range of outfits that you already have.

3. Re-style it

As Ormerod says, accessories can give an old outfit a whole new lease of life so play around with shoes, belts, bags and jewellery. This season is all about hair accessories so try updating a look with an alice band, scrunchy or slide.

4. Reinvent it

If you’re bored to tears of your old denim jacket and those skinnies are leaving you decidedly ‘meh’ then try reinventing them with some personalisation or turning them into something different all together. “Up-cycling can re-inject love into an old piece” says Finch. Check out Stories Behind Things upcycling workshops.

5. Mend it

If a broken strap/missing button/unravelled hem is stopping you wear something then get it fixed. Most dry cleaners will do basic repairs and it’s worth tracking down your local cobbler for replacing walked-out heels. The Restory is a brilliant online recovery-service for luxury pieces.

6. Swap it

If you’ve really fallen out of love with something or have a hankering for a new addition to your wardrobe then try a swap shop. You can find the details of The Big Clothes Switch here, or why not organise a swapping event with a group of friends or work colleagues.

7. Sell it

Don’t throw old clothes in the bin. If you’re finished with an item then clean it up and list it on a resale site. Depop and eBay are great for high street items whilst Vestiaire Collective is the place to resell luxury pieces. These sites are also brilliant for finding second-hand treasures – try the The Resolution Store for ‘it’ brands such as Ganni and Rixo. It’s also worth paying a visit to your local vintage store and charity shop for pre-loved bargains.

8. Really think about it

It’s unrealistic to think that we’ll never buy anything new again and no one wants to feel guilty about shopping – it’s a joy after all. But we can all be more conscious of what we’re buying by taking a few moments to ask ourselves whether we really want it/need it before hitting click to buy.

9. Learn about it

FashionRevolution.org is a great source of information and advice on what we can all do to help. Follow the #LovedClothesLast hashtag for practical tips and sustainable outfit inspiration or follow #haulternative on Youtube to find out how you can enjoy fashion without buying something new.

10. Wear it

Whether it’s something you already owned, bought second-hand or on the high street, time and energy has gone into making our clothes so wear them, love them and enjoy them. “It’s good for the soul to cherish things that hold meaningful memories – that red dress that makes you feel great, that denim jacket that just seems to fit so damn well, that jumper which is just the right shade of pink.”, says Finch. “Celebrate that!”.

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