Wear love lasts longer
March is Slow Fashion month at Wastebusters. The campaign celebrates the clothes we love longer as part of efforts to tackle the growing problem of textile waste.
Wastebusters operates two reuse stores, one in Alexandra and one in Wanaka. Every day, our reuse team receives a wave of donated textiles to sort, display, and return to the community for another use. It’s a win-win: items stay in use longer and the value of the sale supports the practical zero waste solutions and community education provided by Wasties for our communities.
But unfortunately, even with an enthusiastic community that loves second-hand shopping, we can’t find new homes for all the clothes dropped off at us. Unfortunately, many clothes from fast fashion brands are not resalable through an op-shop. They are designed to look good on the hanger when new, not to last. After they have been washed a few times, they begin to stretch, wear and fade. Fabric is cheap, styles are short-lived, and this type of fashion is essentially disposable – buy it cheap, wear it many times, and throw it away.
If a T-shirt looks shabby after a few washes and costs less than $10 new, nobody wants it used. That means it’s destined to go to the landfill. Wellington-based textile reuse consultancy The Formary carried out a review of circularity in the garment and textile industry in Aotearoa, New Zealand, in November 2020. Waste created an “eco- anxiety ‘among staff’.
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We certainly see this pressure affecting our staff at Wastebusters. Globally, we are producing and consuming more apparel than ever before, with global production doubling in the past 15 years and utilization rates falling by 40%. Op-shop staff probably have the clearest picture of the wave of waste created by fast fashion, and it can be overwhelming.
So Wastebusters decided to do something about it. We’re just a small social enterprise, but we encourage people to rethink their fashion choices so they’re sustainable for the planet and the workers who make them, as well as our wallets. A much larger movement is underway to rethink fashion in Aotearoa, New Zealand, led by the Mindful Fashion collective. Mindful Fashion brings together many of our leading apparel designers and manufacturers to figure out how to design waste and keep textiles from ending up in landfill.
It’s great to see the industry tackle these big issues, and because we all wear clothes, we all have the power to accelerate these changes. Slow Fashion Month encourages us all to take a step back and reflect on our clothing choices. There’s a short-term high when we buy something new, but how does that compare to the longer-term satisfaction of owning and wearing something we love? Could we buy fewer items and spend a little more on each, so we can keep them longer and wear them more? Do we need to shop for new clothes this winter, or could we shop our wardrobe and find new ways to style the pieces we already own? What about the things hanging in the wardrobe that we never wear – do they need love and repair, or is it time to pass them on to someone else via an exchange of clothes or by donating to an op-shop such as Wastebusters?
If you want to try Slow Fashion this month, there are four easy things to think about. Choose well, wear, repair and buy second-hand first. “Choosing well” is really at the heart of slow fashion, because if you love an item of clothing and it’s built to last, then you’ll continue to wear it, which is one of the most sustainable choices we can make. Take care of your clothes by following washing care and washing no more than necessary. And if you need something new, look for a clothing company that supports the Mindful Fashion movement or try second-hand shopping first. Often you can buy quality items for a bargain, and by keeping them in circulation you save both energy and resources.
As part of Slow Fashion Month, Wastebusters is conducting a survey and collecting stories about your favorite piece of clothing – the one you have the most fun owning. We have been overwhelmed with so many heartwarming stories including:
“A cashmere sweater inherited from my grandmother. It’s been going on for decades now. So warm and cozy. It smelled like mothballs for a long time, but eventually it wears off.”
“A pair of Nom*D wool socks that have holes in the heels. I love socks and picked these up again.”
“First Levi’s jeans I bought after a big weight loss. Bought years ago and have been mended and patched many times.”
My favorite garment
Production Manager, Mons Royale
The piece I loved and probably wore the longest is a black Chloé blazer. I bought it in London when I was 25, about twenty years ago. I invested in it because it was a classic piece – I knew it would be something I would wear for years and years, so it was worth the money. A lot of time and effort has gone into fitting this garment, and you can really tell. The fit is amazing and the shape doesn’t really date – but it also has an X factor and no matter the situation, you never feel overdressed or underdressed. I love it because I could wear it with jeans, and then I could also wear it with a dress and heels.
The fabric is a beautiful coated cotton, with a shiny appearance, with a silk lining. I wore it so much that the lining ended up ripping, then I cut out the lining, took a design out of it, and lined it with a pink pinstripe silk. The original liner was amazing. It was white with dice on it – so it always felt like you were rolling the dice when you wore it. You never knew what was going to happen when you wore this jacket. I wore it when I worked in London, when I was a mum in Wanaka, my friends borrowed it and now my teenage girls borrow it and love it too.
Treble Cone Ski Manager and Head of Sustainability at Real NZ
For me, slow fashion is all about making thoughtful purchases based on a real need in the first place. I love this shirt which has been sewn several times. It’s just a basic Kathmandu shirt, but it’s been on so many hikes, ski tours, camping missions. I took it to a recent Repair Revolution event and we patched it up with tartan swatches and now it looks really cool.