Buying more ethically and sustainably: my journey to cut down on high street fashion

Hi everyone! So if you’re new here I thought I better start this post of by explaining that recently (the last few months) I’ve really been trying hard to be more conscious with my fashion choices, with the aim of transitioning to buying almost exclusively second hand, vintage or ethical and sustainable clothing.

Since I’ve been a lover of vintage fashion from a young age this always felt like an achievable aim for me as I already knew my way around buying vintage clothing, as well as sourcing second hand clothing in general. I’ve even wrote a handy guide, which I’d recommend reading if you’re new to vintage or buying secondhand clothing online.

However, I also love new trends in fashion and unique and independent designers so I knew resisting the high street would be hard for me. Especially, since some of my favourite memories with friends have been shopping with them.

And that’s why I wanted to come on here and be honest about the struggles and slip-ups I’ve had, not only to try and re-commit myself but also to highlight that you don’t need to be perfect (and trust me I feel the pressure to get it 100% right).

Also, I may also want to get out a confession that I just bought a pair of new espadrilles because although I had tried looking for them second hand and for vintage ones I hadn’t found any as perfect. They were also that dreaded thing shops do to sucker you in … on sale.

So I caved and I bought them but only because I had wanted them for a long time (months, hence why they were on sale) and with a promise that I would wear them and could envision at least 5 different outfits (that I already owned) that they would go with. And I guess that is the message I’d like to spread, instead of making yourself feel guilty, make the most of your purchase (and make the most of your old high street purchases too).

Dress: Charity shop (from Monsoon originally)

Shoes: Warehouse x Shrimps

It’s not always possible due to different circumstances to buy new and as ethically as you possibly can (money, time and convenience are all valid factors) but try to reduce these events as much as possible. And when they do happen, make sure you wear the item till death (and then repair when possible). Digital Writer for Elle and vintage Instagram seller, Daisy Murray wrote a great Instagram post about how she thinks strategic high street buys can be still be a part of slow fashion, which I would seriously suggest checking out.

And if buying a particular item turns out to be a mistake and you can’t return it, sell it on Depop or on Ebay (donating to charity shops is also a good alternative for good quality items but a lot of items donated are sent overseas, so where possible try donating to friends as a better alternative instead). As much as I really try to consider my purchases now, I still make mistakes (especially with online vintage where you can’t try a piece on beforehand) and I really want to ensure I get better at making sure such pieces are being worn and loved so expect to see those pieces hit my Depop (@aprilrain3) shop more often.

Another example of something I bought new in the last few months is trousers for a job. I honestly tried looking for them on Ebay, Depop and charity shops (and succeeded at first because I thought I needed black trousers, turns out I needed a different colour) but was unsuccessful. So I got some on Asos instead because I’ll be honest it was convenient and both pairs were part of their eco-edit (to cut a long story short I got two different pairs of trousers because in the UK khaki means green but in the US it means beige, so when I saw khaki/ beige I thought I could mix it up a bit at work and have both but they just meant beige only, ha, ha) and they had a petite leg so I didn’t need to alter them.

Luckily, in this scenario I was able to donate the trousers I got to colleagues who needed them for work (and in the spirit of a full disclosure, I also got some back up pairs from other high street stores, when I realised I only had one pair of work trousers, which I also donated). I did not however donate the khaki pair (the pre mentioned green pair) but I found some ways to rock them with items I already owned and if I ever don’t have a place for them in my wardrobe anymore I will sell them (at the point I realised the error it was too late to return them).

Maison cleo blouse

Top: Maison Cleo

Trousers: Asos (Eco-edit)

Shoes: H & M

I also bought a few items while I was in China because honestly I didn’t realise how hot it was going to be and I was suffering so I bought some espadrille trainers (yes, I know I have a problem) which I wear all the time and love from H & M. Unfortunately, all the items I bought were from fast fashion sources because there were no vintage or second shops available where I was staying. However, all the items I did get are all items I see myself keeping for a long time but this is not something I want to repeat in the future and I know deep down that I did take advantage of the fact that I didn’t have other options a little bit to justify the items I did get.

On my blog, going forward if I’m wearing the item I will mention where they are from and link back to this post for explanation. Other than that if you see items that are from fast fashion brands it will say ‘old’ or ‘secondhand’ in brackets because it will be items I already own or purchased secondhand. On Instagram, I currently only tag brands that I like the ethics of and will explain the origins of any pieces I am wearing if asked.

Shirt: Stolen from Martin

Tank top: (old)

Trousers: No Me (bought in China)

Belt: Charity shop

Shoes: Vegan Dr Martens

Looking forward

Now I’ve got all my confessions out of the way I thought I better set out my path going forward and also just reiterate that I don’t feel guilty about fast fashion purchases I have bought in the past and love (I’ve got pieces I literally wear almost every day) and I am trying not to feel guilty for tripping up (as that will just make me want to give up completely). It’s going to be hard, and it can definitely be difficult on a budget, which is why in the future I definitely want to focus on some budget-friendly sustainable and ethical clothing posts, as well as trickier items (work out clothes and swimsuits for one).

As I’ve mentioned in this post, clothes shopping with a friends can be a challenge if you are trying not to buy new. Luckily, my friends let me drag them along to vintage shops and I also feel comfortable still going to high street stores with them. I’d rather help them to make a decision and buy a piece they really like and I generally try not to impose my beliefs on others (as I find people are more likely to want to talk to you about something if it’s just a fact about you rather than something you’re constantly preaching about).

So instead of not talking about the difficulties I’m going to embrace them and rant about them on here (sorry about that) but also start exploring helpful topics, such as how to make the most of your clothes (such as how to get your clothes altered/ how to repair and wash clothes).

My commitment then is to transparency, even if I make mistakes. I’m going to start small and aim for nothing ‘new’/ obtained from an unsustainable source for a month but that doesn’t mean you probably won’t be hearing about my vintage clothing finds. Also, I’d like to mention something that clicked for me recently as a fashion lover/ collector, trying to be more sustainable doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a tiny wardrobe, you just need to have more thought about what goes into it.

Denim vest: Charity shop

Skirt: Charity shop

Shoes: Shrimps x Warehouse

Dress: Vintage from Depop

Shoes: Shrimps x Warehouse

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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Ethical clothing: Lucy and Yak review

I’ve been a big fan of Lucy and Yak for a while now and I have actually talked about their dungarees that I got discounted on their Depop in a previous blog post (any samples/ items with a slight fault go on their Depop; it’s definitely a great place for some bargains). In fact, after doing some digging on their website I actually found out that Lucy and Yak started their company on Depop first before they got their website!

Winnie the Pooh

For those who aren’t familiar with the brand, Lucy and Yak describe themselves as an ethical company, which to them means that their employees and manufacturers receive a fair, living wage. The company is also working towards being sustainable and have started off with their packaging. When you receive their dungarees they come in a super stylish material bag, which is actually all recycled material and their mailing bags are 100% biodegradable. They kindly link to the website they buy their mailing bags from on their website (which, I’ve just linked to) and from what I can see these bags should be able to decompose in industrial compost deposits (i.e. if you live in a UK and have a compost/ garden waste bin from my knowledge of this subject they should be able to go in that bin). They are hoping to be 100% plastic free in the future.

Lucy and Yak clothing is made in North India and on their website they highlight how their tailors are paid four times the state’s minimum wage. The living wage for India according to the not for profit Labour Behind the Label is 18,727 rupees a month (this figure is from 2015 however so it might be slightly out of date).

The link Lucy and Yak provide to map their employees wages against is in line with the current rate for the minimum wage in Rajasthan, India. I couldn’t find a living wage specifically for Rajasthan, however, I did find a chart that showed that minimum wage in 2018 was 4,162 rupees a month but the living wage varied from 7,170 rupees for a single adult to up to 19,700 rupees for a large family.

For an unskilled worker in the garment industry in which the minimum wage is 5,538 rupees a month their Lucy and Yak wage would then be 22,152 rupees. Lucy and Yak emphasise on their website however that their workers are highly skilled so I would assume they are earning more than this.

The figure I gave though is the absolute minimum their workers could earn and is more than the living wage for the country according to all the statistics I could find.

The company also stress on their website that in their tailor, Ismail’s factory, some of the tailors ‘live comfortably working part-time”. They also highlight how they were able to help build a brand new factory that is more spacious, clean and with air conditioning.

I am aware at this point that this post probably sounds sponsored but I can assure you it is not. I just really love the time and effort that goes into this company, especially in their pages on their website (it’s refreshing for these pages to actually be helpful and transparent) and I know personally I will be buying for them again in the future. I honestly went a lot more in detail about what actually goes on behind a brand in this post than I ever have done and I was pleased with what I found (hopefully I will have this same result with brands I review in the future).

However, without further ado let’s discuss what I got. I’ve wanted this coat for a while and initially couldn’t decide whether to pick it up in pink or brown, but after deciding via Instagram poll, I decided to go with the rose pink. This coat was £60, which is cheaper  price than I have seen from other ethical companies on average and I have seen similar coats priced at that amount in for example Topshop. Places like Primark and New Look however are likely to be a fair bit cheaper.

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What really sold me on this jacket apart from my desire to be a pink fluffy sheep is that it is made out of 100% recycled bottles. I don’t know about you but to me that was such a cool concept; the idea that you could wear a jacket made out of bottles.

Environmentally, there are advantages and disadvantages of using recycled polyester, which Lucy and Yak detail on their blog. Essentially it allows items like plastic bottles to be reused and repurposed, however, it doesn’t stop the problem of what happens to the item in the end. Also, every time you wash an item made of polyester it sheds microfibres that make their way into the ocean. This reason is why Lucy and Yak thought outwear would be a better use for this material, as generally coats needs to be washed less often. They also highlight a company that sell a bag which catches the microfibres released in the wash. It doesn’t solve the problem of what to do with the fibres afterwards but it is definitely a potentially helpful solution (I for one will definitely look into buying one when I need to wash the coat).

The jacket itself is super cosy; it has no lining which means it’s more of a lighter jacket than a full on winter coat but that also makes it feel like a blanket. It came in a beautiful fabric bag, which I’m obsessed with. I also love how it’s pink to match the coat!

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The rose pink of the coat is absolutely perfect and stunning in person. Overall, this is definitely a great autumn jacket and I think layered with other light jackets or cardigans underneath would work for the cold as well. It fits oversized so that means you can definitely fit a cardigan or light denim jacket under there. However, it’s not too oversized if you get what I mean.

Sizing wise I would say this coat fits true to size for an oversized (but not too oversized fit). If you’re at the top end of the size you’re looking to buy I’d probably advise sizing up if you’re really after that oversized look.

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Beret: Gift from a friend 

Jacket: Lucy and Yak 

Top: Olive Clothing 

Trousers: Topshop 

Shoes: Vegan Dr Martens 

Packaging wise, as mentioned before it came in recyclable plastic wrapping, then a fabric bag and then more plastic wrapping (I think this may be in case the coat sheds but I’m not entirely sure why it was there). However, when I looked this was biodegradable as well.

I do though have some problems with this coat that I wanted to talk about as well. For one, the coat sheds quite a bit and since it’s shedding plastic I don’t feel good shedding down the street (this has calmed down the longer I’ve had it though). Also, as mentioned although the lack of lining makes the jacket cosy; I think with a lining it could work better for colder temperatures and it would stop some of the jacket shedding on your clothes when you first wear it. I’ve been wearing this jacket non stop for a week or two now to really test it out and in that process one of the buttons has fallen off. I’d understand if it’d been a few months of heavy use/ to a year but for a week, I think the buttons may need to be secured better.

Overall, this is a super cosy jacket (in a really unique rose pink) and I really like the innovative nature of how it’s made. If this is a better sustainable option, I’m not sure just yet but it is a ethical one from a brand I really admire. I think a few tweaks to the design would make it absolutely perfect!

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’d be interested in a review of other Lucy and Yak styles in the future (I’ve definitely been eyeing some more of their dungarees) or maybe even an interview with the company about their brand (I think this definitely would be really interesting) then let me know in the comments!

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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This post is entirely my own opinion. The jacket was purchased with my own money along with the clothing mentioned in this post. 

Any brands in the background of my photographs are entirely coincidental (the only time I had to take photographs was in London with my friend on Oxford Street). I understand the irony of having a very capitalist background to a ethical/ sustainable fashion post but hey, that’s the world we live in! 

I’m on a journey to make my wardrobe more ethical and sustainable (luckily a lot of what I buy is vintage which helps) but I’m not all the way there yet so the clothes I mention will reflect this.