Wear the love lasts longer

Photo: Damian Foster
Photo: Damian Foster
March is Slow Fashion month at Wastebusters. The campaign celebrates clothes we love for longer as part of efforts to combat the growing problem of textile waste.

Gina Dempster
Gina Dempster
Wastebusters runs two reuse shops, one each in Alexandra and Wanaka. Every day our reuse team receives a wave of donated textiles to sort, display and send back out into the community for another round of use. It’s a win-win: the items remain in use for longer and the value of the sale supports the practical zero-waste solutions and community education provided by Wasties for our communities.

But sadly, even with an enthusiastic community that loves second-hand shopping, we can’t find new homes for all the clothes that are dropped off to us. Unfortunately, many of the clothes from fast-fashion brands are not resellable through an op-shop. They are designed to look good on the hanger when new, not to last. Once they’ve been washed a couple of times, they start 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 a couple of times and throw it out.

If a T-shirt looks shabby after a few washes, and it costs less than $10 new, then no-one wants it second-hand. That means it’s destined to go to landfill. Wellington-based textile reuse consultancy The Formary carried out a review of circularity in the clothing and textiles industry in Aotearoa New Zealand in November 2020. It reported that "several charitable organisations observed that the sheer volume and seemingly endless supply of clothes and large amount of waste was creating ‘eco-anxiety’ among staff members”.

We definitely see this pressure affecting our staff at Wastebusters. Globally, we are producing and consuming more clothing than ever, global production having doubled in the past 15 years and use rates dropping by 40%. Op-shop staff probably have the clearest picture of the wave of waste that’s being created by fast fashion, and it can be overwhelming.

So Wastebusters decided to do something about it. We are just one small social enterprise, but we are encouraging people to rethink their fashion choices to be sustainable for the planet and for the workers who make them, as well as for our wallets. A much bigger movement is under way to rethink fashion in Aotearoa New Zealand, led by the Mindful Fashion collective. Mindful Fashion is bringing together many of our leading designers and manufacturers of clothing to work out how to design out waste and stop textiles ending up in landfill.

It’s great to see the industry tackling these big problems, and, as we all wear clothing, we all have the power to speed up these changes. Slow Fashion month encourages all of us to take a step back and think about our clothing choices. There is a short-term high when we buy something new, but how does that compare with the longer-term satisfaction of owning and wearing something we love? Could we buy fewer items, and spend a bit more on each one, so that we could keep each one for longer and wear it more? Do we need to shop for new clothes this winter, or could we shop our wardrobe and find new ways to style pieces that we already own? What about the things hanging in the wardrobe that we never wear — do they need some love and repair, or is it time to pass them on to someone else through a clothes swap 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 it, fix it and shop second-hand first."Choose well" is really at the heart of slow fashion, because if you love an item of clothing and it’s designed to last, then you’ll keep wearing it, which is one of the most sustainable choices we can make. Look after your clothing by following the wash care and not washing items more than you need to. And if you do need something new, look for a clothing company who is supporting the Mindful Fashion movement or try shopping second-hand first. Often you can pick up quality items for a bargain, and by keeping it in circulation, you are saving both energy and resources.

As part of Slow Fashion month, Wastebusters is running a survey and collecting stories about your favourite item of clothing — the one that you got the most joy out of owning. We’ve been overwhelmed with so many heart-warming stories, including:

“A cashmere sweater I inherited from my grandma. It’s been going for decades now. So warm and cosy. It smelled like mothballs for a long time, but finally that is dissipating."

"A pair of Nom*D wool socks that have holes in the heels. I love socks and have darned these ones."

"The first pair of Levi’s jeans I bought after a large weight loss. Bought years ago and has been mended and patched several times."

My fave item of clothing

Natalie Norman
Natalie Norman

Head of production, Mons Royale

The piece that I have loved and probably worn the longest is a black Chloe blazer. I bought it in London when I was 25 years old, 20-something years ago. I did invest in it because it was a classic piece — I knew it would be something that I would wear for years and years so it was worth spending the money on. A lot of time and effort has gone into the fit of that 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 what 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 look, with a silk lining. I wore it so much that eventually the lining ripped, and then I cut out the lining and took a pattern off it and relined it with a pink pinstripe silk. The original lining was amazing. It was white with dice on it — so you always felt like you were rolling the dice when you wore it. You never knew what was going to happen when you wore that jacket. I’ve worn it when I was working in London, when I was a mum in Wanaka, my friends have borrowed it and now my teenage girls borrow it and love it too.

Ewan Mackie
Ewan Mackie

Treble Cone Ski Manager and Real NZ sustainability lead

Slow fashion for me is all about making well thought-out purchases based upon real need in the first instance. I love this shirt, which has been sewn up many times. It’s just a basic Kathmandu shirt but it’s been on so many hikes, ski tours, camping missions. I took it along to a recent Repair Revolution event and we patched it up with swatches of tartan and now it looks really cool.

We’d love to hear your stories. Share them with us at www.wastebusters.co.nz or on Wastebusters’ Facebook page.

Slow Fashion events at Wastebusters

Alexandra Wastebusters upcycling workshop - Saturday, March 26, 10am-1pm.
Upcycle a loved but worn garment by turning it into a cushion cover.
Registrations are limited; email alexia@wastebusters.co.nz.

Wanaka Wastebusters repair workshop coming mid-March.

Gina Dempster is communications manager at Wastebusters. Each week in this section, one of a panel of writers addresses issues of sustainability.


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