KN Green Week: Confessions of a (mostly) reformed ‘Shopaholic’

9 May 2019

For most of my life, shopaholic is a label I would have happily applied to myself. Shopping has always been a happy place for me. I have sought solace in the late night opening hours of Oxford Street’s shops after a tough day at work. I have laughed uncontrollably trying on ridiculous outfits while meandering the shops with friends on Saturday afternoons. I have felt a rush of delight at finding the perfect outfit for a friend’s wedding.

Despite the joy I have derived from shopping in the past, I have recently been on a journey which has left me ill at ease with my shopping and fast fashion habit.  It is a journey I would like to share.

The reality of fast fashion

We used to have two fashion seasons a year: spring/summer and autumn/winter. Now the top high street brands introduce new collections weekly and often have daily drops of new products. Despite there being fewer than 8 billion people on the planet, it is estimated that we produced 150 billion new garments globally last year. In the UK we purchase 38 million new garments every week. This is what we mean when we talk about fast fashion.

There have been elements of the fashion industry, such as the treatment of garment workers globally, with which we have all likely been uncomfortable for some time. If a shop on the British high street is charging a tenner for a dress, it is difficult to see how the workers in that supply chain can have been properly compensated for their work.

This was certainly one of the first issues which started to tweak my conscience and dampen any joy that finding a ‘bargain’ might otherwise bring.

I still wanted to shop though, so I avoided the cheapest shops on the high street and my guilt about the ethics of fast fashion lessened.

But then the concern over the proliferation of our use of plastic started to garner headlines. Were all these synthetic fabrics we were clothing ourselves in equivalent to plastic, destined to pile up in landfill and remain there for centuries? Indeed, the recent trend for faux fur started to cause me particular angst. As I saw rail after rail of brightly coloured faux fur coats in the post-Christmas sales, I couldn’t help think about the article I read which suggested that polyester, which typically makes up faux fur, could take anywhere from 500 – 1,000 years to biodegrade!

I had already resolved to stop buying bottled water, so wasn’t it hypocritical of me to blithely buy lots of clothes that would long outlive me on the planet?  I also started understanding the impact that microplastics are having on our oceans. These fibres are released into the environment every time we wash clothing made of synthetic fibres.

So I then started worrying again about how much clothing I was accumulating and where it would go when I was finished with it.  But at least I could still enjoy purchasing clothes made of natural fibres, right?

Well no - Stacey Dooley and a very worthwhile BBC documentary quickly cured me of that delusion.

As well as educating me that fashion is the second most toxic industry on the planet, ranking only after the fossil fuel industry, I also learnt of the devastating impact cotton production has had on water supplies as producers try to keep up with the insatiable desire for more and more garments. Cotton is an incredibly water intensive crop and over production of it in Central Asia led the Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world, to completely dry up.  So, overconsumption of natural fibres was clearly no longer an option either.

What can I do?

So, we have established there are serious ethical and sustainability questions surrounding our current consumption of fashion. Are there realistic steps we can take to make a difference? Is it still possible to indulge a love of fashion without forsaking our love of the planet?

Happily the answer is yes! I am certainly not perfect, still learning and still fighting a regular compulsion to shop, but I have found the following really helpful in my efforts to change –

  1. Clothes swaps. It is estimated that around 30% of the clothes in European wardrobes are not worn. Following some Marie Kondo inspired wardrobe cleansing, my friends and I set up a ‘Swap Shop’ WhatsApp group where we share photos and details of clothing we no longer wear. Not only have I nabbed some fab items but it is actually really satisfying seeing a piece of your clothing bringing joy to a friend and getting a new lease of life! We’re also trying to share clothes more for events such as weddings instead of buying something new for a one off event.
  2. Be more mindful when considering purchasing something. It is generally considered that an item should be worn at least 30 times to justify the impact of its production. Will you wear it that much? Do you really love it?
  3. It is also worth checking out the growing number of sustainable brands (more of which below) and consider buying second hand. There are some great new resell sites such as Depop and Vestiaire Collective where you can buy and sell clothes easily and pick up some great bargains.
  4. Look after and love what you own. Take good care of your clothes so they last longer, consider repairing items instead of disposing of them, and learn to love fashion repeats.
  5. Help to reduce the spread of microplastics by using products such as Guppyfriend when washing items made of synthetic fibres. These help prevent fabric shedding and capture microplastics which do shed so they can be properly recycled.

Tell me more

There are some great slow and sustainable fashion resources which can help inform your shopping, remind you why you might not need a new outfit for that party on Saturday night and help you to find ways to appease your desire for new threads (hello swap shops!).

  • Eco Age – a sustainability consultancy who also publish great articles on a whole range of environmental issues including sustainable and ethical fashion and beauty;
  • Good on You – an app which provides ratings on fashion brands based on their impact on people, the planet and animals;
  • Love not Landfill – a ‘campaign which wants to encourage young Londoners to donate their unwanted clothes to charity, put them in clothes banks, swap them, borrow them and buy second hand’. They run regular events for clothes swapping and up-cycling, amongst other things.  

Overcoming a lifetime of shopping habits in a culture where people are increasingly wary to even be seen multiple times in the same outfit on social media requires a real change of mind-set. While this shift in mind-set is a challenge, the benefits– to your bank balance, your wardrobe space and most importantly, to the planet – make it a change worth making and one this former shopaholic will continue working on personally and championing publicly.

KN Green Week blogs:

  1. Friday 3 May - Climate change and the individual: Where to begin… by starting to ask the right questions
  2. Tuesday 7 May - Eating the Environment Better
  3. Wednesday 8 May - Plastic Packaging – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  4. Friday 10 May - Can law help save the world?

Latest blogs & news

World Environment Day - The green lining of the Coronavirus lockdown… and how to continue to ease our environmental impact

As the UK settles into its tenth week of lockdown, we are starting to see glimpses of hope that we might soon be back to work, the gym, and school. But while we are all looking forward to enjoying things we did before lockdown, we shouldn't be so hasty to revert back to all of our old ways.  

London Climate Action Week: Climate refugees – an international legal conundrum

In the last week, Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said the world was increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid” where the wealthy pay to escape the impact of climate change and the rest of the world is left to suffer.

London Climate Action Week: International criminal law and the environment – considering a law of ‘ecocide’

In April 2019, Polly Higgins, a British barrister, passed away after devoting ten years of her life to a campaign for a new law of ‘ecocide’ – a law that would make corporate executives and government ministers criminally liable for the damage they cause to the environment.  In this blog, we consider the current framework for punishing environmental crime at international level, and what the proposed crime of ecocide might look like.

London Climate Action Week: Funding environmental cases & the Aarhus fixed costs Rules

Access to justice is central pillar to the rule of law. Ensuring individuals and organisations can afford access to justice is a real challenge, none more so than in environmental cases where the success is not driven by monetary reward.

London Climate Action Week: Saving Londoners from nitrogen dioxide, one judicial review at a time

According to the most recent data, two million people in London are living with illegal levels of air pollution. Nitrogen dioxide is one of the main pollutants and road transport is estimated to be responsible for 50% of total emissions.

KN Green Week: Can law help save the world?

We have seen in recent months various and different attempts by those who want to change the course of government policy on the issue of climate change.

KN Green Week: Confessions of a (mostly) reformed ‘Shopaholic’

For most of my life, shopaholic is a label I would have happily applied to myself. Shopping has always been a happy place for me. I have sought solace in the late night opening hours of Oxford Street’s shops after a tough day at work. I have laughed uncontrollably trying on ridiculous outfits while meandering the shops with friends on Saturday afternoons. I have felt a rush of delight at finding the perfect outfit for a friend’s wedding.

KN Green Week: Plastic Packaging – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

No doubt many of you reading this will have heard about the ‘Attenborough Effect’, sparked by his two latest series, ‘Blue Planet II’ and ‘Our Planet’.  Whilst these series have changed the way many of us think about plastic and have made us see that things have to change, it is important that we understand that we, as individuals, have to be part of that change. How?

KN Green Week: Eating the Environment Better

The aim of this blog is not to point the finger and attribute blame to people who eat meat, mangos and Manchego. I myself am far from perfect, and am fully aware that I need to re-evaluate my relationship with cheese and stop eating so many avocados.  What this blog is intended to do, however, is to make us all think about, and be aware of, where our food comes from, the impact that food production has on the environment, and what we should be doing to reduce that impact.

KN Green Week: Climate change and the individual: Where to begin… by starting to ask the right questions

Emily Carter is lawyer living in central London with two small children. Although she knows a thing or two about the law, she is not an expert in the science of climate change or the answers to the current crisis. She has, however, been asking herself some questions

Environment

Environment

Plastic Patrol paddle board clean-up

Members of our Environment Committee and Charities and Communities Committee took to the Limehouse Basin canal on paddle boards to clear its plastic waste. The cleanup was organised by Plastic Patrol, an international not-for-profit organisation tackling plastic pollution.

View the photos

London Climate Action Week blog series

We explore the current climate crisis, focussing on the role of the law in responding to the impact of climate change.

Read our blog series

Bartlett Mitchell/Kingsley Napley Green Roadshow

In May 2019, Bartlett Mitchell, our internal catering company, hosted their Green Roadshow and coffee morning at our office. There was lots of chat about environmental issues and lots of people with reusable cups to hand.

Find out more about Bartlett Mitchell

KN Green Week blog series

We have published blogs on four topics questioning the decisions we make on a day to day basis – about food, packaging, clothing and finally, the potential of the law in holding governments to account.

Read the blog series

Cape Town drought - let's be water wise

Read the blog from Laura Ryan.

Read the blog

How to live a (more) plastic free life workshop

It was a pleasure to welcome Bettina Maidment (founder of 'Plastic Free Hackney') and Daniel Webb (founder of 'Everyday Plastic') on 20 June for their Guardian Masterclass on 'How to live a (more) plastic free life'.

Find out more about the workshop

Cycle to Work Day 2019

Members of our firm took part in Cycle to Work Day on Thursday 8 August 2019.

Learn more about Cycle to Work Day

Share insightLinkedIn Twitter Facebook Email to a friend Print

Email this page to a friend

We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

Leave a comment

KN Green Week blogs:

Close Load more

Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility