"If you can’t see yourself wearing the item 40 times, then you shouldn’t get it," sustainability journalist Lucy Siegle tells vlogger Grace Mandeville on the new BBC series Fashion Conscious. Unfortunately, however, I think it's safe to say most of us are all guilty of buying something without considering how many times we'll actually wear it. The dress we bought for the Christmas party. The top we got for a first date. Likelihood is there's a fair few items rotting away at the back of our wardrobes, having only seen the light of day once or twice.
Sustainable fashion is currently the phrase on everyones lips, and thank god for that. Whether it's major fashion houses or high street retailers, everyone seems to be hopping on the bandwagon of sustainable fashion.
According to Anna Brismar of Green Strategy, sustainable fashion is described as "Clothing, shoes, and accessories that are manufactured, marketed, and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects." Brismar continues:
"In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components."
Actor and Vlogger Grace Mandeville set out to discover just what sustainable fashion meant in 2019 in her new BBC documentary Fashion Conscious. This show uncovers the impact of our shopping habits and looks at how we can reduce our environmental impact while still expressing ourselves through what we wear. I chatted to hear about what she learnt from the process and what items of clothes she's kept hold of for years.
Lollie King: What inspired you to embark on this journey for Fashion Conscious?
Grace Mandeville: It went from thinking I knew a lot about being "fashion conscious" and knowing what our clothes are doing to the environment to realising that I had a lot to learn — that’s when I knew this was the documentary for me. It was a show I was certain I would love to watch so obviously it was something that I wanted to involved in too.
LK: What have you learnt & how has it changed your habits?
GM: I’ve learnt that there are some incredible humans out there creating sustainable materials that we need bigger brands to support. I’ve learnt that we all need to be educated about what our clothes are doing to the water when we wash them — spoiler, we are creating microplastics! I’ve also learnt that expensive clothing doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for the environment or well made. For me, this experience has just made me think more about my everyday choices. I’ve bought less and I even bought my brother some clothes from a vintage market for his birthday rather than new clothes like I did last year.
LK: Is there a piece of clothing in your wardrobe you’ve had for ages that’s evolved with you and your style?
GM: There’s more than one item. When I was younger I used to have this rule that if I went shopping I’d rarely make a purchase on the day, but if I was still thinking about it for days after then I’d go back and buy it. Weirdly, these are the items I still own — I still wear a coat from Zara that I bought when I was away acting for CBBC at the age of 15 (so, 10 years ago). I also have this tradition where I’ll treat myself to an expensive item of clothing after I achieve a big dream or career goal and although I’ve slowed down on this tradition, these items are the ones that I’ve worn for years and years and years. I don’t think it’s because they are expensive, probably more to do with the fact that I’ve got a memory linked with each item and so I'll always appreciate it and look after it.
LK: What are your top tips for shopping more sustainably?
GM: I’d really recommend you check the materials in your clothing when shopping and thinking about what might happen to it in years to come — will it recycle, will it cause microplastics, will you keep it forever? You will be surprised. In the same shop, I saw one thing that was 100% polyester (plastic) and one shirt that was 100% lyocell (wood pulp) — it might change your choice on what to buy, but it's also a good habit to get into.
LK: Some argue that sustainable shopping is unattainable for some, as it can come at a price. What do you think we could do to make sustainable shopping more accessible?
GM: More sustainable future fabrics such as Pineapple leather is obviously going to be very expensive and unattainable for a lot of people and this is because it’s a rare material to be produced currently, though the more talk around it, the more likely bigger brands will start investing in making it cheaper. But I feel like sustainable shopping comes down to the attitude of the shopper. For example, if you buy ten £4 tops every month then the chances are that some of this is going to be thrown away and probably end up landfill which isn’t sustainable but if you buy one £4 t-shirt that you love and wear every month for years and years then I'd say that’s a sustainable attitude.
Watch the full series of the BBC's Fashion Conscious on iPlayer.