The fashion industry has been in the spotlight in recent years due to the negative impact it has on climate change and the people working within it. Madiy Warner, from the Diocese of Gloucester, shares how selling a few unwanted items of clothing online fuelled a complete change in her view of fast fashion and her mission to actively seek sustainable alternatives.
I was about the furthest thing from a sustainable shopper until a couple of years ago when I started to discover and use second-hand clothing apps such as Depop and Vinted. Over the months that followed, I slowly noticed my shopping habits start to change as I became more aware of the impact of fast fashion*.
After learning that the fashion industry is responsible for 8–10% of global emissions, according to the UN (more than the aviation and shipping combined), and that it takes 10,000 litres of water to make a single pair of jeans (BBC), I started to become conscious that the environmental impact of the clothes we buy is huge.
Combining this with the appalling treatment and conditions of garment workers (an Oxfam 2019 report found that 0% of Bangladeshi garment workers and 1% of Vietnamese garment workers earned a living wage), I came to the decision that I would prioritise buying second-hand or sustainable clothing whenever possible.
As part of this journey, I created an Instagram account (@ethical_wardrobe) to share my progress and what I’ve been learning with others.
I also decided to take part in Tearfund’s 30-day fashion fast where I wore the same 10 items of clothing for the month of March in 2022 and documented my journey on the account.
This fundraising activity allowed me to bring God into my sustainable fashion journey. Knowing that the money I raised was used to help vulnerable communities around the world adapt to the climate crisis and lift themselves out of poverty – poverty the fast fashion industry is guilty of fuelling – really brought me closer to God and allowed me to live out Proverbs 29:7, ‘The righteous care about justice for the poor’.
Once completed, I reflected on my experience in a post and shared: “I have definitely learnt that the level of clothing most of us have is completely excessive and very far from essential.”
If you’re interested in sustainable fashion but not sure where to start, I have a few tricks that helped me:
- Shop second-hand: start using Depop or Vinted when looking online for clothing, before going to fast fashion retailers.
- Support sustainable brands: look for brands that prioritise sustainability and ethical production practices. These brands often use eco-friendly materials and have transparent supply chains, and pay their workers fair wages.
- Buy less and choose well: practice mindful consumption by trying to only buy clothes when you need them. When shopping, choose versatile pieces that can be worn in many ways.
- Rent your wardrobe: instead of buying new clothes for a special occasion, use a site such as Rent the Runway to hire clothing for an event.
- Repair your items: it’s never too late to learn how to do small repairs on worn-out items of clothing. This can significantly extend the life of your clothes and helps to reduce waste.
*Fast fashion: “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends” (Oxford Languages definition).
Green Christian is holding a training event around fast fashion on 3 May 2023. ‘Faith in fashion? Christian perspectives on unsustainable clothing practices’, led by Prof. Tim Cooper. Tim is internationally recognised for his research on the life-span of consumer durables and has led several research projects on sustainable clothing funded by Defra and WRAP.