What does it mean to be an ethical fashionista and how can we help the planet survive our constant need to look on-trend? The answer isn’t an easy one since the industry relies on many inputs like chemicals, water, energy, transport, plastics etc. to exist. More recently sustainable fashion has become a hot topic, with celebs like Emma Watson taking a stand, and many brands like Stella McCartney innovating to make sustainable fashion less boring. Gone are the days that you need to wear organic hemp every day to be an ethical fashionista. Sustainable fashion can be beautiful and even if you don’t wear organic fabrics, there are many other ways to support the sustainability of the industry.



1. Wash your clothing less frequently

You obviously can’t wear your shirts many times in the middle of a summer heat wave, but items like jeans can usually be worn a few times before they are washed.

Reduce the washing temperature of the water to about 30 degrees Celsius, as hotter water uses more energy.

Buy clothing that doesn’t need a lot of ironing and rather hang dry than tumble dry.

Fill the washing machine so that you don’t waste water, and use eco-friendly detergent.

Try to do less dry cleaning which uses potentially harmful chemicals.

See more fabulous crease-free items (laser cut dresses and jumpsuits) from Isabel de Villiers in our online shop.


2. Rent or borrow an outfit from a friend 

Try to resist buying outfits that won’t be worn many times. Sustainability is a great reason to ask your friend to borrow that dress you’ve always loved.

Another idea is to rent a super fabulous designer dress at a fraction of the price of buying it. My Best Friend’s Closet does just this. You can pick a garment online or at their showroom in Cape Town and rent it for four days. Brilliant idea, especially during wedding season, for a day at the races or when you’re going to that 30th/40th/50th birthday party.


3. Buy second-hand clothing 

Check out your local area for good second-hand and vintage stores. My favourite is called The Changing Room. Not only can you buy designer used items online but you can also send them some of your own clothing to be sold on consignment. Check out Luxity for a similar service on luxury accessories.


4. Buy quality clothing that is trend-resistant

Invest in good quality, classic garments that you can wear or layer for any season. One expensive, beautifully fitting jacket is far more sustainable than 10 inexpensive high trend items that are of poor quality and look dreadful next season. The rule of thumb when you buy an item is: “Can I wear this item 30 times before I discard it?”

See more beautiful, sustainable fashion by local designer, T_niche, in our online shop.


5. Know your clothing store/label

Make sure you check your clothing store’s sustainability policies, usually found on their website. Do they monitor suppliers’ chemical emissions? Are they aware of employee wages and working conditions? Do they give back to the industry from which they benefit?

Aside from their transparent procurement policies, H&M has a great initiative where you can drop off used clothing that they will recycle for you. They will ensure that the garments are reused by either turning the yarns into recycled cotton, donating them to charity, or using parts to create a new garment. Whichever way they are recycled, you can rest assured that they won’t end up in landfill.

I emailed H&M to make sure that their branches in South Africa also participate in this project. They responded within a few hours with the following: “You are welcome to bring any unwanted, old clothes to any of our branches near you – regardless of the brand and condition. We are not able to accept any shoes and accessories.

For every shopper bag filled with clothes, you will receive a 15% discount voucher, which can be used on any one item on your next purchase. However, until 25 January 2019, you will receive 2 vouchers for every bag you hand in.”

Also check out Asha:11 a super planet-conscious label made in South Africa and Kenya.


6. Look out for innovators that recycle plastic

Some brands do their bit by reusing plastics. Examples are G-Star RAW For The Oceans denim and H&M’s new Conscious Exclusive collection that are made from recycled Polyester. Another local innovator is Spirit Girl that makes fitness and swimwear from recycled plastic.


7. Support local

Not only do your clothes need to travel far if they are produced elsewhere, but if they are made locally, a job is created which helps the SA fashion industry grow.

EDCON has made a real effort in the last few years to support the local fashion industry with more than 50% of their garments made in SA. They also have development programmes like the EDCON Design Innovation Challenge that mentor new designers and teach them about the business of fashion.

Woolworths also has their Style By SA range that is designed and produced by highly talented local designers.

We at Equilibrio also try to do our bit by supporting the local industry. Before we add a local brand to our online store, we visit the designer’s studio to see who makes the clothing. Every brand is carefully chosen, and every item curated with care. We also promote many good SA labels that are not on our store.

See more Lodewijk sustainably made luxury ostrich leather bags and cuffs on our online shop.


Remember that once you’re done with a garment it is always better to donate than to trash. Look out for a local Hospice shop or something similar where clothing can either be sold at a big discount with proceeds used for charity, or can be distributed to those who need them.

I hope that some of these tips encourage you to think more carefully about sustainable fashion. Small changes can make a big impact.



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