Thursday, 28 September 2017

Putting my money where my mouth is: sustainable swimwear and the benefits of buying ethical clothing

At the start of 2017 I made a pledge to myself; I would stop thoughtlessly buying new clothes, and would replace old clothes either with second-hand purchases or with ethically or sustainably made versions as and when I needed to.
For the most part, this hasn't been hard, because I started off in a privileged position wardrobe-wise: I have a lot of clothes so I have plenty of outfits to choose from, and nothing is going to get worn out from being washed too much any time soon. 
I'm also lucky because I fit into standard size clothes and live near an area that has excellent charity shops, so I can pick up a nice new dress for a few pounds if I do fancy a shopping trip. Working for a company that doesn't have a strict dress code means I'm not restricted to wearing certain clothes at certain times.

I knew there were going to be times this year that buying clothes according to my new rules was going to be harder, and so far the biggest challenge has been swimwear. I wanted to go swimming more often, as well as trying wild swimming, so I wanted a practical costume to replace an old high-street buy that was starting to sag! I'm fussy about swimwear at the best of times, and have struggled to find one-pieces that feel comfortable, so the temptation to relax my rules and just go shopping on the high street was quite strong. I'm glad I persisted and followed my rules though, because I found Davy J swimwear, and bought a fab one-piece and bikini! Placing restrictions on yourself that limit your shopping options might seem counter-intuitive, but stick with me. If you already have a bulging wardrobe and the mindset of "why have one when I could have five", or you're so overwhelmed by choice that you have loads of clothes you never end up wearing, this can be helpful and save you money in the long run. There are so many positives to shopping ethically wherever you can, here are a few I discovered:

Supporting ethical businesses means no one gets exploited. The higher price tag on ethical fashion might seem extortionate compared to high street prices, but in reality it just reflects that everyone involved in the production of the garment is being paid a fair wage. Davy J is a small business manufacturing small amounts of stock, so they won't have the economies of scale that a large high-street chain benefits from. As a bonus, they have developed an amazing swimwear fabric made from recycled fishing nets, so the environment isn't being exploited either! 

Supporting small businesses means great customer service. If you're fed up with arguing with multi-national companies on Twitter or never getting a reply to your complaint, try buying from a small business for a refreshing change! My swimwear came with a personalised note, and swapping something for a different size was no problem at all.

Shopping thoughtfully and paying more can save you money! When the first set of swimwear arrived and I tried it on, it didn't fit perfectly, but if it had been cheap and from a high street shop I might have decided it was good enough, worn it once, not been happy and never worn it again. But because it cost a bit more I had to really think about whether I would want to wear it over and over again, and decided to swap a couple of pieces for different sizes which was definitely the right choice! Having to save up or plan purchases means I don't waste money by impulse-buying things that I don't really need.

Buying from specialised businesses means you benefit from their expertise. Davy J only makes a capsule collection of swimwear in a few different colours, so they know their product really well (If I had followed their sizing advice rather than assuming I knew best, I would have picked the right sizes for me the first time!). Because they specialise in making swimwear for active people, the fabric is strong and durable, and they enclose specific care advice to make sure your purchase lasts as long as possible. This is in contrast to a point that came up at The Laundry Pile panel discussion: many of us accidentally ruin clothes or hasten their demise because the manufacturers have not included specific enough washing instructions on the care labels (or if they have, the instructions are in the form of pictures which nobody understands!)

I know that sustainable shopping might not be possible for some of you for a number of reasons, but if you can, take a look at some alternatives to the high street, you might be pleasantly surprised. I’ve been discovering some great resources that aim to make ethical brands easier to find and shop with, so I’ll be sharing those on the blog over the next few weeks.

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