page title icon Sustainable Fashion – Is it a fad, or is it the future?

How-To Guide #1

By Maleehah Hussain

Reading time: 9 mins

The most sustainable outfit is probably the one you already have hanging in the back of your wardrobe. It may be one that you no longer glance at, but that doesn’t mean you can’t glam up the outfit a little and give it a fresh look. From different accessories to changing up the length, small tweaks can have a huge impact.

Sustainable fashion has been a long time coming; whilst fashion trends change every season, sustainable fashion is a new style that is here to stay. So that means that the days where you would have to choose between fashion that makes you look good and sustainable fashion are long gone.

Over the past decade, whether it is small businesses or high-end stores, there has been a shift towards providing consumers with sustainable fashion. This means that consumers no longer have to worry about choosing between being stylish or fashion that is environment friendly. 

However, despite this upwards trend towards sustainable fashion, there is quite a bit to do to tackle fast fashion. Including making it easier to access sustainable fashion and for consumers to understand where their garments come from, the materials and manufacturing processes used, carbon emissions produced and what workers are paid. In addition, increasing transparency and educating consumers means ethical choices can be made when buying new items.

All this talk about sustainable fashion – But what does it mean?

Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that has been designed, manufactured and distributed in an environmentally friendly way. This also includes minimising the exploitation of workers, ensuring they are provided with healthy and safe working conditions and paid at the least minimum wage. 

Control by Consumers 

Sustainable fashion is driven by consumers asking themselves questions regarding every purchase they make, something we should all think about incorporating not only into our shopping habits but as a lifestyle change. For instance, are you going to wear a piece of clothing more than once, or will it end up in the back of your wardrobe and never see daylight again? Would you rather pay a little extra and buy something of higher quality or pay for something cheap that will end up in tatters after the second wear?

As Lucy Seigle, Ethical Living Journalist for the Guardian put it  “Fast fashion isn’t free, someone, somewhere is paying”

Fast Fashion

Alternatively, fast fashion is a way consumers are provided with the latest, on-trend fashion on demand. However, this does not come without its consequences, including high carbon emissions, unsafe working conditions, child labour, and low wages. 

Did you know?

Growing conventional cotton uses up to 11 times more water than organic cotton

We know that making this jump from a wardrobe filled with fast fashion to sustainable fashion can be a little jarring for many consumers. So we have come up with a quick list of tips that you can incorporate into your shopping lifestyle to make it more sustainable. 

Sustainable fashion can have different categories, and just like in other areas of tackling climate change, more than one solution is required.

  • Ethical Fashion: Production, Working conditions, fair-trade
  • Circular Fashion: Recycling, Upcycling, Thrifting
  • Slow Fashion: Sharing, Renting,
  • Conscious Fashion: Eco-friendly, green fashion

Upcycle old Clothes

The most sustainable outfit is probably the one you already have hanging in the back of your wardrobe. It may be one that you no longer glance at, but that doesn’t mean you can’t glam up the outfit a little and give it a fresh look. From different accessories to changing up the length, small tweaks can have a huge impact.

Support Sustainable Brands 

Whether you purchase your clothes from high-end brands or local businesses, think of their entire production process “Is this brand sustainable?” Ask yourself:

  • Which raw materials does this brand use – Are they organic? Are they light on the environment?
  • Do they use environmentally friendly packaging? Is it recycled? Recyclable? 
  • Where do they source their materials from?
  • Who made the clothes? Was it underaged children or adults being paid next to nothing or adults being paid the living wage?

Shop Local 

Before clothing items inevitably end up at the back of your wardrobe, they have to travel many miles to get there. 

Avoid adding to your carbon footprint by shopping locally; this allows you to show your support for businesses in your community and reduces the carbon emissions that deliveries from overseas would have otherwise generated. So a tip for next time you’re out shopping for your latest outfit is to ask where your clothes have been manufactured rather than the location of the store itself.

Shop Second Hand 

Visit your local thrift stores or charity shops to make your next purchase; it’s easier than ever to source high quality, second-hand clothes, especially with the growth of apps such as Depop, Vinted and social media marketplace. 


Not all issues related to sustainability lie with the brand, but it is also down to you to shop smarter. For instance, if it is your sixth pair of sandals, you need to take a step back and ask yourself whether you truly need this or if it’s just another impulse buy? With every purchase, consider quality over quantity. Is it better that you spend a few more pounds and buy something that will last you a long time or something cheap that will be in scraps after a few uses?

Did you know?

Upcycling clothes and extending the life of a garment by nine months reduces its carbon, water and waste footprint by 20-30%

Rent Clothes

Renting clothes can be your saving grace when it comes to those one-time outfits that you know you probably won’t wear again but will heavily dent your wallet, for instance, wedding clothes. Occasion outfits can often be very fancy and not something you would wear every week. A stylish, environmental and purse-friendly solution is to rent an outfit. Many online and high street boutiques specialise in this.

Pick Versatile Pieces

Trends come and go, so why not pick timeless classics that never go out of fashion and style each outfit differently rather than going wild making purchases of pieces that are trendy and will become a fad before you know it. Keeping it simple and classy can do wonders for your wardrobe, purse, look, and environment.

Fashion fades and only style remains the same’ ~ Coco Chanel


Another tip to consider is the materials of the clothes you buy. For instance, hemp, organic cotton and linen are more environmentally friendly than polyester acrylic and nylon. Single fibre fabrics make a garment easier to recycle at the end of its life.  Check the label or product description online before deciding to buy.

Did you Know?

It is estimated that it takes about 70 million barrels of oil to produce the polyester used in fabrics each year. 

Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for Organic certifications for plant-based fibres and ethical indications and standards for wool such as ZQ certified wool or GOTS certified

ZQ is a wool certification standard that stands for a better quality of life. For the animals, for our planet, the people, and you. GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standards and is a certification that requires at least 70% of the fibres used must be of organically certified materials.   


We know all of this information is a lot, and a complete change to your wardrobe and places to shop can be hard to handle, so we’ve chosen six sustainable fashion brands based in the North of England to help you make the change.  

  • Suzy Loves Milo – Located in Manchester Suzy loves Milo is a place of vintage and upcycled clothes. 

Instagram: @Suzylovesmilo

  • Phloem –  “Phloem is a brand dedicated to creating garments that minimise their impact on the planet, and are produced in an ethical and sustainable way.”

Their clothing is made from 100% cotton. In addition, the production of clothes is controlled and certified by GOTS. Not only that, but their production factory is powered entirely by renewable green energy, and, as you would expect,  their packaging is 100% recyclable.

Instagram: @PhloemClothing

  • The Bee Thrive – The Bee Thrive is a Manchester-based brand featuring organic, ethically sourced materials and responsibly made clothing. 

All of their garments are manufactured in two clothing factories located in the North West of England, helping them keep the carbon emissions generated from shipping their products low.

Instagram: @TheBeeThrive

  • Rozenbroek – All garments by Rozenbroek are designed and hand made in their solar powered factory based in Yorkshire. 

They only use organic fabrics, most of which are locally sourced. In addition, all of their products are either made to order or made in small batches, which is the most sustainable way to avoid overproduction and unnecessary materials.

Instagram: @RozenbroekMade

  • Bukky Baldwin – Every item of clothing by Bukky Baldwin is made using 100% recycled polyester and produced locally in Manchester.

Their garments are made to measure, and the founders work on patterns and designs so they can use any excess material from the design process. Packaging is either fully recyclable or made from recycled materials.

Instagram: @BukkyBaldwin

  • Pantee – Pantee is a brand that upcycles unsold t-shirts, transforming them into underwear and reducing the number of deadstock garments going to landfill. Their packaging is 100% plastic free and recyclable.

Instagram: @Pantee


Who says sustainable fashion has to be basic, boring, and bleak? 

The drive for more choice when it comes to sustainable fashion can only come from consumers asking questions about how pieces are manufactured, the materials used and the pay of those people involved in making the garment, and then choosing to buy the item of clothing because of these factors. 

While we are seeing increased choice on the high street and independent labels, there is still a long way to go until sustainable fashion becomes the norm. A change across the fashion industry is required to address the damage to the environment in the pursuit of fast fashion. 

Have you rented or considered renting an outfit this year?

Are there any other sustainable brands that you love? Drop a comment and let us know. 

If you’re interested in learning more about energy systems and how we can make choices in our homes, neighbourhoods and towns to reduce carbon, check out our other blogs and resource section for more information. 

Instagram: @oldhamenergyfutures


Further Reading

If this article has caught your attention and you are interested in learning more about the impact fashion is having on our environment, have a look at these quick links for further information…

Share this...

Leave a comment