Woman looking at clothes

The Greta Effect

As we make the switch toward conscious consumption, our wardrobes – and the planet – benefit

It’s not the first time that a public figure has had an impact on how we style ourselves: Rachel Zoe gave us the Zoe-bots, with their oversized sunglasses and floaty frocks; Alexa Chung popularised chic tomboy; Jennifer Aniston gave us ‘The Rachel’ haircut; and the Kardashians…well.

Perhaps the least said, the better on that one.
But there’s a new style icon in town and she’s having a bearing, not only on what we’re buying and wearing, but also on how and where we’re buying it.

As a 17-year-old Swedish schoolgirl – and as one who has said ‘Either I buy secondhand or I receive clothes from someone else‘ – she’s not the likeliest of poster girls. Her name is Greta Thunberg. Heard of her? Of course you have.

The Greta-effect, as it’s been dubbed, is one of the drivers behind an increasing determination among fashion-conscious consumers to minimise their footprint. Research shows that 14 million Brits have pledged to reduce – or in some cases, completely abandon – their quick-fix, fast fashion purchases – and, significantly, 67% of these are in the 18-24 year-old age group.

When it’s estimated that around £140 million worth of clothing goes to landfill each year, it’s not all that difficult to see why consumers might be pausing for thought before taking that dress or t-shirt to the till.

In fact, the ripples of deliberation are already being felt: retail giant ASOS reported an unprecedented 68% profits plunge at the end of last year, and Zara’s UK profits dropped by 56.9%.

You don’t have to go so far as wearing your grandfather’s old boxers, though. Some buyers (37%) claim that higher prices are a barrier to buying more sustainable fashion – and when you can fill several large shopping bags at Primark for under £100, who can blame them for thinking this?

Vivienne Westwood said: ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last.’

That’s sage advice – and research shows that, outside of that 37% figure, many people are increasing their spend per item, with a view to longevity. Investment dressing, if you will.

Buy a piece – preferably something with some decent eco-credentials – wear it frequently, look after it, clean and store it appropriately and be wearing it for years to come.

That said, we’ve been conditioned, over the course of recent years, to crave and expect gratification – by way of social media, by way of delivery methods and by way of on-demand services. How to balance this binge-mentality with restraint?

Charity shopping provides one of the answers.

Woman looking at clothes

By having your wardrobe on a constant cycle of wear-donate-purchase-wear, you can shop constantly and frequently update your wardrobe. Any mistakes can be disposed of responsibly and without too much financial loss – and any gems can be worn (smugly!) over and over and over again.

The thrill of unearthing a good find can soon become the replacement for that little rush of dopamine that comes with a ‘proceed to purchase’ – and hell, if you want the validation of a tonne of likes on your find, then head to Instagram and upload an #ootd with a #slowfashion hashtag.

There’s a growing community of users who are filling their squares with their #preloved finds and providing loads of inspiration along the way.

Kilo sales are another way of combining the reduction of your footprint with the joy of returning home weighed down by armfuls of swag for a mammoth try-on session. Browse the rails, weigh your find, pay by the kilo: whether that ends up being one heavy winter coat or a slippery rainbow of flimsy blouses.

Swaps can be arranged between friends and acquaintances but are increasingly organised on a large scale, with events popping up all over the place – have a google of ‘clothes swap’ or ‘swishing’ to find one near you (though the coronavirus may put a damper on these for the near future…).

And for those toying with the idea of taking up a new hobby – head to Pinterest or YouTube for upcycling ideas and ‘new lease of life’ ideas for your wardrobe.

Because really – sustainability aside – who has time to stand in high street brand queues?

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