Women in the fashion industry share tips on how to be a more sustainable shopper

Women in the fashion industry share tips on how to be a more sustainable shopper
  • PublishedApril 3, 2024

Are you trying to get on top of your spending? Worried your shopping habit is contributing to landfill? Or maybe you’re trying to break up with fast fashion for good?

Whatever your motivation, re-examining your approach buying clothes can be good for your budget and the planet. We spoke with a stylist, a sustainability advocate and a designer, to get some tips on how to maintain your personal style while being environmentally conscious. 

Stylist Emily Deneys 

A colourful collection of clothing - dominated by pinks - on wooden coat hangers inside an in built wardrobe.

Emily Deneys says going through your wardrobe with a fresh set of eyes — a friend or stylist — can help you discover ways to restyle what you have.(Supplied: Emily Deneys)

Emily Deneys works part-time as a stylist in the central Victorian town of Castlemaine, on Dja Dja Wurrung country.

She encourages her clients to shop their wardrobes rather by “showing them how they can restyle their clothes and view them in a different light”.

Her approach:

Ms Deneys’s philosophy is “buy less, but buy better quality”.

It can be more expensive, but she says you can spend time saving up for one particular item.

She cares for clothing with longevity in mind, for example, by spot cleaning a garment instead of washing it.

What you can try:

She also recommends embracing repetition. “There’s nothing wrong with re-wearing,” Ms Deneys says.

Ms Deneys says she always suggests clients unsubscribe from clothing companies’ email marketing, which is designed to influence you to keep buying.

Sustainability advocate Clare Press

A woman with long blonde hair smiling with teeth in front of a colourful painted outside exterior wall.
Author Clare Press says her approach to shopping has changed over the past decade.(Supplied: Clare Press)

Gadigal/Sydney-based Clare Press is the author of Wear Next, Fashioning the Future, which explores the future of the fashion industry. She’s also the host of the Wardrobe Crisis podcast.

“We are drastically over-consuming and under-using our clothes,” Ms Press says. She believes there’s a “cultural shift” for the better taking place.

Her approach:

Ms Press says she can’t remember when she last ordered an item of clothing online.

Instead, Ms Press says she’s “creative” when wanting to freshen up her outfits, borrowing from a friend or buying second-hand.

What you can try:

“If — like me — you’ve already got a big wardrobe and you’re already feeling like you’ve maybe got too much, then I would encourage you to question the almost unexamined urge to just buy new stuff when you’re feeling down or when you’ve got a big event coming up,” she says. 

Ms Press also says “there’s nothing wrong with buying a considered purchase that you care about” but says it should also realistically be within your budget.

Fashion designer Fernanda Covarrubias

A woman in pink velvet flared pants and a red and pink velvet top posing against a fireplace.
Fashion designer Fernanda Covarrubias works with deadstock and upcycled materials.(Supplied: Fernanda Covarrubias)

Fernanda Covarrubias is a fashion designer in Naarm/Melbourne’s inner north specialising in ‘upcycled couture’.

Originally from Mexico, Ms Covarrubias moved to Australia eight years ago and works mostly with “deadstock” fabric – a term used to describe leftover or unsold materials from textile companies and apparel manufacturers.

Her approach:

Ms Covarrubias’s wardrobe is a mix of her own designs, second-hand op shop finds and other local independent designers.

The “most important thing” is knowing your own style, she says.

“You can be sustainable in any budget you have, as long as you know your personal style.”

She says even if you have splurged on some unique and locally made items, buying basics from op shops can help you to extend your wardrobe, and get more wears out of your more exciting items.

What you can try:

As a designer, she says there’s nothing worse than saving items in your wardrobe for special occasions.

Wear your beautiful thing today. Make the most of them because you are investing in them.”

For beginner op shoppers, Ms Covarrubius recommends putting aside some time, making a list and going with a friend to avoid “[coming] home with a bunch of things you are never going to wear” or being overwhelmed and having no idea where to start.


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