Can You Love Fashion And Still Buy Sustainably?

April 12, 2021
Can You Love Fashion And Still Buy Sustainably?

Sustainable fashion is a tricky subject and this is a question I’ve grappled with for a while now because I genuinely enjoy following trends, have a (possibly) unhealthy love for shopping and I just can’t seem to keep my closet down to the meagre 33 items for a capsule wardrobe. If you can relate to this let’s chat about my staggered approach to breaking up with fast fashion.

This is not the kind of break up where you move overseas, change your number and quickly latch yourself onto something (someone) else. I’ve been in a relationship with fast fashion for as long as I can remember so I plan on this being a healthy, adult break up – one with boundaries, clear expectations and possibly over-communicating.

In a previous post about sustainability I shared that I’m a far shout from Sustainability Queen and I’m okay with that. My approach to sustainability has always been about making small changes to my lifestyle and if all of us adopted this approach we could actually make a real difference. So read all of this through the lens of ‘trying is better than nothing’.


I hear this all the time and the short answer is: yes, it is expensive because you’re choosing the (hopefully) forever option rather than the fine-for-now choice. And this obviously comes with a premium price tag. The way that I’ve navigated sustainability on a budget is to do tons of research which may look like buying the fine-for-now item to gauge if I’d be willing to invest in the more sustainable item later down the line. An example of this is, last year I purchased a pair of super affordable black sliders from H&M to see if I liked the fit and how many outfits I could pair them with. After a couple months they started breaking but by that point I’d already decided to invest in a good pair of original Birkenstocks that could last me 5+ years. So although I’ve bought one pair of fast fashion sandals I’ve since invested in the more sustainable option so I won’t need to continually buy a new pair every year. One step towards the break up – GO ME! If you want to understand exactly why slow fashion is more expensive give this a read.


I’ve always loved a good spring clean but since opening my Yaga store I’ve been even more ruthless with the clearing out process. For one, it’s nice to have some extra room in my Harry Potter sized cupboard and it’s even better that I get to make money from the clothing I’m no longer wearing. This is a great way to save up for a big-ticket items, spendy sustainable pieces or simply to give your wardrobe an overhaul. With just two batch uploads (there’s a third coming soon) I’ve been able to give unloved pieces a new home, invest in some great sustainable fashion purchases & make many people happy – so for me there’s no downside to reselling items that are still in good nick. This also enables others to shop sustainable rather than fast fashion.


As someone that grew up on hand-me-downs the idea of rummaging through a (sometimes) smelly Tears clearance bin could set me running at quite a pace to the nearest fast fashion retailer. So knowing my affliction with rummaging for hours just to find that one gem I’ve instead found some pretty incredible premium online vintage stores that will do all the rummaging for you. As a curve women, it’s very seldom that I actually find anything in my size so I’d rather pay that little bit more for a beautiful vintage Burberry trench from Me On You which can be bought from the comfort of my home. The revelation that vintage shopping doesn’t mean hours in a secondhand store has set me free to live my best sustainable fashion life. If you’re keen to shop secondhand but you’re not sure where to start, this post has some great tips and recommendations. I’ve also listed some of my favourite local premium vintage stores: The Changing Room | Me On You |  Better Half  |  Afraid of Mice


The one thing I’ve seldom done since moving toward sustainable fashion is spur of the moment buying and when I do this I’ve often made a bad choice & had to return the item or have serious buyers remorse. I’ve learnt that buying sustainable fashion is all about making an informed decision which means lots of research into fabrics, fit, integration into your existing wardrobe, your ideal style & possible resale value. If research isn’t really your thing, Aurora Sustainability are a wonderful resource on all things sustainability. This post about why you should break up with polyester is fantastic!


If you’re a nineties kid you should understand the Clueless reference. I clearly remember watching this scene where Cher scrolls through countless outfit options on her (now ancient) computer before finally selecting a cute checkered two-piece set and from then on I’ve idealised having THAT amount of clothing, but sadly it’s just not sustainable. I have however found a better version & it’s called Style Rotate! You can scroll through beautiful occasion wear dressing and pick one to rent. This is a great way to wear fun new pieces for engagement parties, weddings, graduations, etc without having to buy a dress and then have it simply hang in the back of your closet, forever forgotten.

Coming from the person that had a body image wobble and ordered over a thousand rands worth of clothing from the fast fashion mega store a few weeks ago, writing this post has been a great help in reigniting my excitement and love for sustainable fashion. But like I said, if we could all do our little bit (while still giving ourselves grace for a wobble) it will make the biggest difference to over consuming and adding to the fast fashion culture.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and any tips you have on changing your mindset around shopping sustainable fashion.

*Post created in partnership with Aurora Sustainability – my favourite resource for all things sustainable living.

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Lalannie Knoll April 14, 2021 - 12:11 AM

My mindset shift came about when I heard about the ‘who made my clothes movement’. I realized that I was part of the problem by succumbing to fast fashion again and again. I thought that having a cupboard full of clothes was the way to go yet I struggled to put an outfit together.
As I got older, I’ve also found my preferred style so now I only bother looking at clothes in my colour spectrum and style.
Having less clothing actually forces you to be creative in styling them in numerous ways and you can actually see what’s in your cupboard.
Fast fashion is also just a fad and will no longer be relevant after a few months.

When I shop now, I look for cotton, linen, rayon, bamboo and tencel. These fabrics are sustainable and will last longer. I check the label and if it’s polyester I put it down even though I like the item and this has simplified my shopping tremendously.

I have also realized that you never get your money back for your second hand clothing even if the price tag is still on. This made me realize how much money I’m wasting.

A few years ago, I noticed that a friend of mine would buy herself one pair of beautiful shoes per season and it would be pricey. I joked with her that I won’t spend so much on a pair of shoes. I bought a few cheap pairs so I could mix and match yet it added up the same as her pricey pair. At the end of the season, some were looking tired because of the amount of wear and others only saw the light maybe once. In hindsight I’ve come to realize that I only have two feet and really don’t need that many shoes. I now buy a great quality albeit expensive pair when needed with the idea of it being long haul. Last winter I bought one jersey and wore that pretty much all the time (it was also lockdown) and nobody looked at me funny for wearing the same jersey.

I love your idea of selling your clothing because you can then change up your wardrobe and buy yourself something else.

Apart from second hand and vintage stores, there are quite a number of companies in SA that do small batch runs which allows them to be sustainable. I usually seek these stores out as well as it’s sometimes different to the run of the mill, great quality, the workers are paid a decent wage and it’s not a huge conglomerate profiting.

So yes, you can love fashion and still buy sustainable. I’m not a minimalist yet but each day I try again.
The change starts with you. You have already started the journey and like they say, the more you know the better you’ll do.

Carlyn April 27, 2021 - 9:18 AM

Love this! Thank you Le’Chelle! It’s almost like you climbed into my head and we shared thoughts! Especially on trying a cheaper version before committing. There are also seasons in which fast fashion help – like during pregnancy and after, when your body changes but maybe not forever. In this case, when I went through it, I tried to buy local fast fashion (Mr Price and Pick n Pay Clothing are trying!), so it is at least supporting our country.

As you note, in my research I found that it is so complex and the value chain in itself is vast – but if we all do our part, whether it’s personally, industry-wise or lobbying government, behaviors change and we get closer to looking after people and the environment. This, while building a wardrobe and using our creativity to express who we are inside and out which also helps our mental health! Hard work but worth the effort. Technology changes are also slowly getting there to make products which are factually kinder to the environment.

Thank you for sharing your journey, knowledge and tips!


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