This year I set the goal of shopping more sustainably. Now being over halfway through the year, I’ve noticed a few things about the accessibility, affordability and habits around sustainable fashion through my own experiences of attempting to cut out fast fashion, but also attitudes of others towards fast fashion.

So to turn these attitudes and opinions into an attempt of official stats, I hit the Instagram polls again and my lovely followers over there produced some very interesting results.

Dress bought from This is Unfolded

100% of voters said that they wanted to buy MORE sustainably. I first thought that this was a great start, but then I realised not 100% of voters have tried to cut out fast fashion.

Instead, I realised that this highlights the problem: If 82% of voters thought that it was hard to cut out fast fashion, despite all of these voters wanting to be more sustainable, there must be something unattainable when it comes to sustainable fashion.

Skirt and top bought second hand on Vinted

Perhaps now is a good time to consider what we mean by sustainable:

GreenDreamer defines this as “clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in an environmentally friendly way

For me, this includes brands that create clothing following this definition, and ways of reusing preloved clothes aka. by buying second hand clothing.

Top bought second hand on Vinted

The fact that 75% of voters have thought about cutting out fast fashion, but 0% have achieved it demonstrates that there must be many hesitations around sustainable fashion.

When fashion dominates a lot of our everyday life with; work wear, sports wear, loungewear, and casual wear, buying clothing is impossible to cut out.

To name a few; “Not size inclusive”, “No returns”, “Prices” “False advertisement”, “Damages not disclosed”, “Dodgy stains”, “Sizing issues”, “Hygiene”, were just a few of the hesitations that were highlighted to me by voters about methods of sustainable fashion.

Dress second hand from vinted

Earlier I stated that I have spent this first half of the year trying to shop more sustainably and I too have come across these issues.

I’ve changed my shopping habits towards buying second hand clothing on online sites like Vinted and Depop, and charity shops rather than buying new.

88% of voters have shopped for clothing in charity before, but only 65% think about looking at these stores for specific items before looking at a fast fashion shop

Less voters, 75%, have used second hand sites like Vinted and Depop before. This is where it gets interesting, 72% of voters look on these second hand sites for specific items before shopping in a fast fashion store.

Personally, I think this difference between shoppers being more likely to look at an second hand site over a charity shop stems from our online shopping habits which have only been enhanced by the pandemic. Shopping online is still offers immediate purchase and fairly quick delivery from the comfort of our own homes.

Top second hand from Vinted ft. My beautiful friend Rebekah

Another issue with sustainable shopping is they might not have what you’re looking for or it being in your budget. I needed a swimsuit but I couldn’t afford some from the more sustainable sites, and I needed one within a certain time frame so I turned to Sainsbury’s TU for a bikini and Victoria Secret for a swimming Costume.

I do have to admit I’ve also had a few additional slip ups whereby I bought some joggers, cycling shorts, and some trousers from fast fashion retailers but justified these purchases with the excuse of I love these items, I would wear them to death and they weren’t duplicates of something I already owned. In my eyes, having this slightly more sustainable way of thinking is slightly better despite still ultimately feeding into the production of fast fashion.

Even this in itself goes to show that sustainable fashion isn’t accessible, price wise or with the same efficiency to fulfil immediacy like fast fashion can — that is painfully true to admit.

“Sustainable Fashion is for people with money – a lot of us turn to fast fashion because it’s all we can afford”

A voters thoughts.

“Sustainable Fashion needs to be more accessible to buy it”

A voters thoughts.

“Sustainable Fashion is gentrified”

A voters thoughts.

Many voters had similar things to say, and their hesitations are genuine reasons to continue using fast fashion.

I guess my advice would be to the 100% of voters who do want to shop more sustainably is to make some smaller swaps.

Check for items in or on second hand sites or on Ebay first, or if you can afford more sustainable shops look at those before turning to fast fashion. Also when buying from fast fashion, make sure you LOVE the item and will get A LOT of use out of it.

I also had some great advice from my voters on Instagram:

  • “Once you’re in the habit [of buying second hand], it’s second nature”
  • “Sustainable fashion prices are worth it for the better quality”
  • “Clothing is cheaper in charity shops, and it’s better for the environment, and the money goes to a good place”
  • “Charity Shops and Depop are better financially [for buying clothes]”
  • “Oxfam shop online does returns which is really useful for sizing issues”
  • “Consider buying fewer things but that you love, and less of what you only like”
  • “Learn basic sewing to repair items, rather than chucking them and replacing them”

Equally, I have tried to give a sustainable fashion brand a go to give some scope to this blog post.

I took a look at This is Unfolded and fell in love with a dress over there.

Unfolded claim that they are; “Affordable, sustainable fashion that changes lives. We remove waste from clothes production and fund kids education with the savings, all whilst paying workers better”

Their mission is actually quite admirable and I really enjoyed the shopping process knowing that my dress was being made not in mass but on demand with minimal to no fabric wasted. Any scraps of fabric that there was from the entire collection was turned into a facemask which came as a cute surprise with my order and is equally something I am still getting a lot of use out.

As everything is made to order the process takes much longer. They release a collection with an end date and only then do they make and send the garment.

It was much more affordable than other sites I have seen, but still £35 for a dress with a discount code (full price £40).

I would buy from Unfolded again, knowing the item is worth the price in quality and sustainability.

Other sustainable fashion retailers that voters said they had found were:

  • Hara
  • Cavalier
  • M&S
  • Lucy and Yak
  • Billabong
  • Girlfriend collective
  • Sea Salt Cornwall
  • 3rd Rock
  • Thought
  • Organic Basics
  • Tala
  • Goose and Gander
  • Nu-In
  • SOS activewear
  • Rapanui
  • Reformation

So to answer the question of whether or not sustainable fashion will ever be attainable, my answer is; Kinda

Buying second hand is mostly working for me. And if i need something else and if I am in the privileged position that I could afford to purchase a particular item, I will look for a more sustainable brand.

For now I would say that it isn’t attainable. Many brands aren’t yet size inclusive and the affordability creates a class division within sustainable fashion which needs to be solved.

However, This is Unfolded is the nearest to ‘affordable’ that I have seen so perhaps sustainable fashion is beginning to take a step nearer to being attainable.

I hope so.