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Ethical Fashion - The Stylin' Three Rs

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Every eco-fashionista knows that one doesn't have to sacrifice style for green cred. Gone are the days of ill-fitting garments made of itchy hemp and amorphous silhouettes.

The three tenets of the responsible, intelligent consumer - reduce, reuse and recycle - doesn't necessarily mean an entire afternoon dedicated to trawling several charity shops in the hopes for that one great find.

Our hunger for cheap clothes in large quantities fuel the market power of clothing chains like Primark or Forever21 who depend on our throw-away culture to secure their large market share of the high street apparel industry. But there is a way to resist this approach to dressing oneself by using the three Rs.

Reduce:

Let's be plain. You don't need 20 pairs of jeans or trousers, half of which don't fit properly, in your wardrobe. You also don't need 20 black t-shirts with slightly different necklines. You may think you got them for a bargain at £5 each, but you know as well as I do that they'll fall apart and lose their colour after half a dozen spin cycles. Think about the pieces in your wardrobe that are a good fit and that you feel confident in. Then, consider buying three or four high quality pieces and spend upwards of £25 on each garment safe in the knowledge that they will last you at least a couple of years, if not more. Always look for Fairtrade cotton symbols on the garment and organic is now easier to find, so aim for that benchmark as well.

Re-use:

Your mate has just texted you to say that she/he's had a massive wardrobe clear out and there's four bags of clothes ready for the charity shop - can you believe it? Get yourself down there immediately and vet the bags for key wardrobe pieces that would work for you. The other thing you should consider is a clothes swap event. Swishing is a really good website to help you find your nearest one.

Recycle:

This is by far my favourite of the Rs in terms of designer fun. 'Upcycled' designer clothes are one way to combat the increasing problem of fast fashion ending up in landfills after less than one season. The designers will find surplus stock, end of roll or vintage textiles and recycle them into a fashion forward collection. There are old veterans of this approach to fashion design based here in London: From Somewhere, Junky Styling, Goodone and Dr. Noki reign supreme at the moment. But just last week at the Source Expo, an international tradeshow for sustainable fashion, I discovered three labels on the scene that are new and noteworthy:

MIA fuses recycled fabrics (t-shirts, men's ties) and traditional Malawian textiles, fusing Western styling with the vibrancy and richness of the Malawian prints.

Nurmi Clothing uses surplus stock from what's left of the Finnish textile industry. The upcoming Spring/Summer 2012 Collection uses bold, graphic prints from end of roll early 1990s material. Nurmi combines this reclaimed fabric with new material sourced ethically and made with sustainable materials like hemp and organic cotton.

Riciclabò is an Italian-based label. The pieces are created from second-hand clothes and textile production rejects. The designs incorporate refined tailoring and sustainable fabrics.

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