A cross-party group of MPs has suggested the introduction of a 1p tax on each item of new clothing to encourage retailers to work in a more sustainable and eco-friendly manner. This would mean that those retailers which continued to make clothing from virgin materials would be penalised, as would those who didn’t set up a recycling scheme for their clothing.
We spoke to two personal stylists — people who style others for a living — to find out how they view sustainable fashion and to get their opinion on the proposed 1p garment tax.
“As a personal stylist, I see first-hand the sheer amount of clothing people own.”
We had a chat with Lizzie Parsons, image consultant, personal stylist and owner of a designer second-hand online boutique, to find out her opinion on fast fashion.
As you might imagine, Lizzie loves to buy second-hand clothes, and always has done.
“My aunty had a second-hand clothing shop in the 90s, before it was a movement and trendy, and visiting her shop was like Christmas for me. At least 85% of my clothing is second hand. I like to root out designer gems in charity shops and vintage stores.”
She owns a beautiful black cotton dress from Monsoon, which she bought new 10 years ago and still enjoys wearing today. No fast fashion here!
The second-hand clothes in Lizzie’s boutique are sourced from two places: clients’ wardrobes, if they no longer fit, and business colleagues/friends. If a client doesn’t want a garment anymore, and Lizzie isn’t selling it herself, it will be sold by the client themselves, donated to charity, or used to create something they might love.
Lizzie explains further:
“I encourage clients to use old clothing for other things like cushion covers, for example. I also encourage clients to alter clothing that just needs a couple of tweaks [instead of getting rid of it].”
When asked about whether she considered the materials her garments are made from, Lizzie said:
“I am becoming more conscious of it over the last couple of years. I will always point out the merits of great natural fibres in garments to clients. Most of my clients also want to avoid synthetic materials like polyester.”
When we asked her about the proposed 1p clothing tax, Lizzie had the following to say:
“I think it’s a good idea as long as the tax isn’t passed on to the consumer. The environmental impact [of clothing] is an urgent problem that needs to be rectified quickly.”
Finally, we asked Lizzie what she thought about the fact that each person in the UK owns approximately 26.7kg of clothes.
“Honestly, I am not surprised. Many people panic buy. They buy clothing for many emotional reasons which unfortunately does not leave the owner of the garments with a beautifully, curated wardrobe that is fit for their lifestyle and body shape. As a personal stylist, I see first-hand the sheer amount of clothing people own.”
“The honest truth is we own way too many clothes”
We also spoke to Marian Kwei, celebrity personal stylist and senior editor of ITS Fashion magazine, and she is all for the 1p tax being brought in for fashion retailers who don’t act sustainably.
You might wonder where a celebrity personal stylist would acquire their clothes — we certainly would, so we asked the question:
“I pull (borrow) the garments from fashion PR”, explained Marian — these then get returned to the source and reused. This sounds like a rather eco-friendly way of doing things!
When asked about the use of second-hand garments in her role as a stylist, she said:
“I have used second-hand clothes in the past and would do again. Once it suits the shoot brief, it doesn’t matter [if it’s brand new or second-hand]”.
Marian feels the same in her personal life, and scours second-hand shops with enthusiasm, mixing pre-loved garments with high street and high fashion to create her look. While shopping for clothes, she keeps an eye out for the materials used and avoids cheaply manufactured fabrics that “don’t stand the test of time and cost the environment much more to manufacture”.
Finally, I asked Marian what she thought about the fact that each person in the UK owns approximately 26.7kg of clothes, and she left us with this statement:
“The honest truth is we own way too many clothes, which then go into landfill. I think what we all need is to have the fundamental pieces of a closet and work from there. We need to stop shopping just for shopping’s sake”
What to do with unwanted clothes
If you have clothing you’d like to get rid of, please don’t send it to landfill — if there’s wear left in it, someone will want it. You could sell it on a website such as eBay or HEWI.
Sharon Wolter-Ferguson, founder of HEWI (formerly Hardly Ever Worn It) said:
“Fashion should no longer be wasteful. There are too many options out there for resale, of which HEWI London and HEWI Street are two! Now we have just introduced swap, making it easier than ever to liberate your style, without any financial outlay – it’s fun too!
“An item you wore a couple of seasons ago, or even several years ago, could now be styled completely differently, using today’s trends, to achieve a totally fresh look.
“Open your wardrobe, give it a go and if you really can’t restyle something, resell it! The resale industry actively discourages waste and supports sustainability by facilitating the circular economy.”
Alternatively you could donate your clothing to charity or gift it to friends.