Consumption

Go slow and take good care

introduction

Did you know:
Women tend to wear their clothes four times or more before throwing them in the laundry hamper. Men only wear theirs twice.

SO, WHAT CAN I DO?

Ask questions and be critical. In all sectors, consumers are becoming more conscious and more outspoken, asking questions about labels, resources, production circumstances, etc. As a retailer or manufacturer, you should be able to provide adequate answers to these questions. 

There are other ways to fill your closet than just buying new (cheap) clothes time and again. Explore the possibilities, such as swishing, swapping, second hand stores and online platforms. As a consumer you’re free to swap or even sell your clothes, giving them a second life. This spells big business opportunities.

In terms of maintenance, there’s one golden rule: buy slow and take good care.

Repair. Things are moving on the repair or DIY front, as seen in the rise of sewing and knitting workshops, which cater to people who want to make or repair their own clothes again.

Recycle. If we want to encourage recycling, upcycling or giving things a new life, we need to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to donate his clothes. And this is where the retailer or fashion entrepreneur comes in.

strategies for Consumption

Plan your wardrobe

Carefully planning your wardrobe pays off: it’s bound to result in a more personal style as well as better clothes, while also helping you save money by avoiding bad buys.

Food for thought:

Women spend almost a year of their lives standing in front of their wardrobes... 

BUILDING YOUR WARDROBE

The website Into Mind gives a good overview of how to make the ten basic principles your own. The website also contains information on how to maintain your wardrobe. For instance the post 10 Step Wardrobe Revamp is a fun source of inspiration! 

 

CHECK BRANDS, FABRICS, AND LABELS

Don’t be afraid to check brands, fabrics and labels when buying something new.

FABRICS

Though it is not easy to determine which materials are environmentally friendliest, it is safe to say that some materials clearly have more impact on the environment than others. Take the time to catch up on some information in the Resources section. When buying new clothes, for instance, you can make a point of checking the labels and opting for items made from organic cotton, lyocell, hemp, bamboo or recycled materials (such as recycled plastic).

'MADE IN'

Though Asian-manufactured clothing does not necessarily equal unsustainable clothing, the general rule ‘the closer the better’ still stands. For a little background on this statement you can click through to the part on local production. Be careful though: the 'made in' label doesn't necessarily indicate where an item is produced. If you really want to know where something was made, you'll have to ask yourself. By doing this, we'll hopefully achieve a more transparant way of working.

BE CRITICAL

Retailers that invest in sustainability often train their staff to inform customers about the origins of the items they sell. But even when this is not the case, you can still do your part as a consumer by asking about these origins. The more such questions reach the shop manager, sustainability or general manager, the greater the odds that sustainability will eventually make it onto the agenda. So be critical and keep asking questions whenever you buy an item.
Note: As a retailer it may be interesting to give your own staff a sustainability crash course, so they’ll be able to answer your clients’ questions!

tips&tricks

  • Invest in high-quality clothes - how to recognize clothing that is well made
    Go for quality clothing that lasts long. A few tips on how to develop an eye for quality can be found below. (Sources: Trashfashion.nl, Caftans&Ma…
    Read more

  • The Buyerarchy of Needs’ - think before buying something new
    Sarah Lazarovic had some doubts about what consumers really need these days and she used her reflections to compose her very own version of Maslow…
    Read more

  • Into Mind - tips on minimalism and the maintenance of your wardrobe
    Give the composition of your wardrobe some thought. There are several tips & tricks to help you manage your wardrobe. The website ‘Into Mind’ …
    Read more

  • Schone Kleren Campagne - tips on buying sustainable clothing
    The Schone Kleren (clean clothes) campaign published a brochure full of tips on how to buy sustainable clothing. The online brochure ‘Looking for …
    Read more

  • Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken / Ga Goed Gekleed - community website
    Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken (conscious consumer network)  is a community website on sustainable living, consuming less and consuming differently. …
    Read more

  • Know your labels
    Labelinfo.be offers a useful overview of sustainability labels. You can select lifestyle and clothing to limit the scope to those labels that are …
    Read more

  • Think about how to discard your old clothing (and textiles) as a consumer
    Put the textile/clothing you want to get rid of in two categories and choose the best way to discard them accordingly: Clothes that cannot…
    Read more

  • Tools for entrepreneurs
    Higg Index - Sustainable Apparel Coalition De Higg Index is a tool developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition for the purpose of measuring…
    Read more

  • Shopping guides
    Rank a Brand Rank a Brand is an online platform that helps consumers in their search for sustainable brands (from clothing to electronics, tel…
    Read more

  • Online platforms: sustainable shopping & tips for consumers
    There are a couple of websites that you can go to as a sustainable consumer. Several online platforms list (online and/or offline) retailers, bran…
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

Take good care of your clothes

Sometimes sustainability can be in small things, and as a consumer you can definitely do your part. Old habits die hard, but keep in mind: the things you’re used to doing or that your parents may have taught you are not necessarily the best options. Washing machines and laundry detergents have changed, and other rules apply these days.

For instance, a dryer can be a big help, but it puts an enormous strain on the environment too. Moreover, the quality of washing powders has gone up, so check if you’re not overusing. The washing temperature also has its consequences: don’t make the water too hot, as it is bad for your garments. On a brighter note: we iron too much!

Food for thought:

Lowering the average washing temperature in Europe to 3°C would result in a reduction in CO2 emissions that equals removing 700 000 cars from our roads. (I Prefer 30)

Some basic guidelines to help you out: try not to wash your clothes too often and wash them at low temperatures (30°C). Use the dryer as little as possible and opt for an airer as an alternative. In addition, you can also try to iron a little less by putting freshly washed clothes on a hanger as quickly as possible (avoiding wrinkles). You can also hang wrinkled clothes in the bathroom when you take a shower. The steam will help lessen the wrinkles (a top tip for travelers!).

tips&tricks

  • Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken / Ga Goed Gekleed - community website
    Netwerk Bewust Verbruiken (conscious consumer network)  is a community website on sustainable living, consuming less and consuming differently. …
    Read more

  • Love Your Clothes - platform with tips for consumers
    On the British online platform Love Your Clothes you can find a lot of tips on how to take good care of your clothing. There are do’s and don’…
    Read more

  • Into Mind - tips on minimalism and the maintenance of your wardrobe
    Give the composition of your wardrobe some thought. There are several tips & tricks to help you manage your wardrobe. The website ‘Into Mind’ …
    Read more

  • Consider the maintenance of your clothes: some tips on washing and ironing
    On the website of Dialoog you can find plenty of tips to maintain your clothes as sustainably as possible. A few highlights: Washing ecologicall…
    Read more

  • Keep an eye on these washing innovations!
    Some Australian creative adventures developed the Scrubba wash bag to wash their clothes easily and without electricity whilst travelling. Initial…
    Read more

  • Give advice on how to mend the clothing that you sell
    We all know the feeling of discovering these little plastic bags with spare buttons inside our new jackets. As a designer, why not take the extra …
    Read more

  • Online platforms: sustainable shopping & tips for consumers
    There are a couple of websites that you can go to as a sustainable consumer. Several online platforms list (online and/or offline) retailers, bran…
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

Need some variation? Swap, rent or buy second hand

As a consumer, you can act sustainably by not always buying new items, but taking a good look at what you already own and swapping the pieces that you no longer wear but that are still in good condition or by buying second hand or renting clothes.

THE BUYERARCHY OF NEEDS

Sarah Lazarovic had some doubts about what consumers really need these days and she used her reflections to compose her very own version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The pyramid playfully reminds us that -- next to the usual impulse buys -- there are other ways to breathe new life into our wardrobes. (More information)

The Buerarchy of Needs

 

SWAPPING

You can participate in swishing/swapping events that take place all over the country or perhaps organize your own afternoon/evening -- among friends or for a larger crowd. Belgian events of this type can be found at swishing.be.

 
RENTING

Next to thinking long and hard before buying new clothes or swapping clothes, you can also rent your clothes. These days the two main variants are:

  • Clothing libraries, where you can borrow clothes with various subscription options, just like in any regular library. This case offers several interesting examples.
  • Online rental platforms, where you can order clothes online, like in your ordinary webshop, but where you will have to send the items back after a certain period. You can find some examples in this case.

The idea of renting our clothes coincides with the shift in ownership. When we no longer own clothes, new business models will emerge that incorporate leasing systems or even ‘deposits’ on clothing. Read all about this in our Retail section or turn to MUD Jeans for inspiration.

 
SECOND HAND

Consider the second-hand market when you want a bit more variation in your wardrobe. There are lots of on- and offline initiatives for all kinds of clothes, no matter the segment, label or brand.

tips&tricks

  • The Buyerarchy of Needs’ - think before buying something new
    Sarah Lazarovic had some doubts about what consumers really need these days and she used her reflections to compose her very own version of Maslow…
    Read more

  • Swishing & Swapping - swap your clothes
    The terms ‘swishing’ and ‘swapping’ are often used interchangeably as both refer to the act of giving a piece of clothing away and getting another…
    Read more

  • Think about how to discard your old clothing (and textiles) as a consumer
    Put the textile/clothing you want to get rid of in two categories and choose the best way to discard them accordingly: Clothes that cannot…
    Read more

  • Buy/sell second-hand
    A small sample of the options available for selling/buying second-hand: Online: LabelCrush (Belgium): online platform reselling design…
    Read more

  • Clothing libraries and online rental platforms
    Next to thinking long and hard before buying new clothes or swapping clothes, you can also rent your clothes: Clothing libraries Clo…
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

Learn some basic skills

While it used to be the most natural thing in the world to mend your own clothes, nowadays we have forgotten how to do this. 

The argument that we have to save in order to buy something new is less valid these days than it used to be. Buying new things is no longer an attack on your wallet. Quite the contrary: because ‘time is money’, buying something new may actually be cheaper than trying to fix old stuff.

Yet this attitude is slowly changing. Several initiatives are emerging, both online and offline, to help consumers (literally) take matters into their own hands again.

Offline you can get together in a Repair Café, where you get help with your first steps into the world of repairing. In the meantime, sewing and knitting workshops are also on the rise.

Online there are also loads of places to go to to learn about repair, DIY, … and to score tips & tricks on how to creatively transform old clothes into something new.

tips&tricks

  • Upcycle your old clothes or textiles
    The internet is chock-full of creative tips & tricks that will help you transform your old clothing into something new. Some examples: The…
    Read more

  • Several ways to (learn to) mend your own clothes
    Repair Cafés Online tips & tricks: The internet is full of tips, tricks and tutorials. The website of Care2, for instance, lists some of…
    Read more

  • Give advice on how to mend the clothing that you sell
    We all know the feeling of discovering these little plastic bags with spare buttons inside our new jackets. As a designer, why not take the extra …
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

When worn out: bring back

What to do with clothes I no longer like? This question undoubtedly pops up at least a few times a year. What are the possibilities in that case? Do you give your unwanted clothes away, sell them online, donate them to charities, exchange them for others at swapping events?

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

  • door-to-door clothing collections by charities
  • depositing items in your municipality’s clothing drop boxes

The clothing that is collected via these two channels is picked up and sold to sorting companies. Charities can invest in their mission thanks to the money they make on this. The sorting companies select those items that are suitable for the second hand market. These clothes are then shipped to e.g. Africa and Eastern Europe in large quantities (sometimes pressed into bales). Textiles that can no longer be worn are turned into cleaning cloths and insulation materials for the automotive industry, or burned. Only a small percentage is actually recycled. Because textiles have to meet a lot of requirements before they can be recycled (in terms of purity and so on; see End of life), this strategy is not nearly as popular as we’d like.  

 
RETAILERS ALSO STEP IN

Retailers have been involved in this story for quite some time now, sometimes putting take-back boxes in their stores so customers can drop off old clothes in exchange for a discount. The profits earned from these projects are donated to charities or invested in research on innovative recycling techniques.

 
KRINGWINKELS/SECOND HAND STORES

If you prefer to give your clothes a second life, you should look for initiatives that sell second hand. They’ll take your clothes and put those that are still in good condition in their stores, so others can buy and enjoy them.

 
WHERE ELSE?

Next to these more traditional options, there are still more fun and interesting ways to collect clothes!

To those who fancy a night out and like to gain something from depositing their clothes, swishing or swapping events hold the key. These initiatives have taken your garden-variety swap to the next level. The idea is to bring your clothes and hand them in in exchange for some coins, tokens, tickets … that in turn allow you to buy other people’s clothes. Easy, and fun!

In addition, the internet also offers a lot of cool platforms that help you get rid of those items you no longer want. The Belgian website Oh my dress is one of them. Surfing to Vinty Women is another way to sell your pre-loved designer clothing (or to score a new old item), while you can also put your clothes on the United Wardrobe platform and check out the people behind other closets.

tips&tricks

  • Swishing & Swapping - swap your clothes
    The terms ‘swishing’ and ‘swapping’ are often used interchangeably as both refer to the act of giving a piece of clothing away and getting another…
    Read more

  • Think about how to discard your old clothing (and textiles) as a consumer
    Put the textile/clothing you want to get rid of in two categories and choose the best way to discard them accordingly: Clothes that cannot…
    Read more

  • Returning clothes to the store
    The ‘End of life’ section offers useful information on what to do with clothing that is damaged or worn out and where to go with items that you si…
    Read more

  • Buy/sell second-hand
    A small sample of the options available for selling/buying second-hand: Online: LabelCrush (Belgium): online platform reselling design…
    Read more

Discover the other tips & tricks

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