Do you have a death plan for your clothes?

I am deadly (no pun intended) serious.

When you bought your last item of clothing did you think about what would happen to it when you no longer wanted or needed it?

If you did then I salute you because you are in such a minute minority I doubt it is even measurable.

Most of us do think about what we buy. We probably buy a lot of second hand clothes, we may even have swaps with friends and family. When buying new we probably avoid fast and ultra fast fashion and stick to independents, or what we consider to be “safe” and “quality” outlets (more about this another day – do you know who owns Karen Millen, Wallis and Coast?).

We may even consider the fabric. Although perhaps not as much as we should. “Wool” is often wool mix when you dig inside the item and look for the product label. I am frequently shocked by how many people think silk and wool are adjectives and not nouns. If you want to be sure what your garment is made of you may find yourself standing in the shop for several minutes as you search for the product label and then dig out your glasses so that you can read the microscopic print.

This jumper was sold online (for £344!) as a wool jumper. Dig down and you discover it is wool blend, but you have to go to the original website to discover what the wool is blended with and in what proportions. If you are curious it was at least cotton rather than acrylic or viscose and proportions were 56% wool and 44% cotton so not really a “wool” jumper at all.

Years later this jumper is looking grubby with a few unmovable stains and quite a few pulled threads. You send it to your local charity shop who take one look at its condition and put it in the rag box. From here it could go two ways. It could be bundled up with hundreds of tonnes of other unwanted garments and be sent to Africa or Eastern Europe for resale, and that is not a “good thing”. Have a look at this film to see what happens when your clothes are sold overseas. Textile Mountain

So what is the alternative? First, think before you buy. If it is made of a man made fibre it cannot be composted. Can you repurpose? At the very least can you cut it up for dusters and washcloths. I haven’t bought a washcloth in years and the last primary school sweatshirt (my youngest daughters are 25 years old) duster finally went into the compost bin only a year or so ago.

I’ll buy your grubby wool, cashmere and silk. I can mend holes and print over stubborn stains. I can give them a second chance.

Will the retailer take it back. I do (see here) I am not even a drop in the fashion industry ocean, but there are a few larger retailers that also do. But beware, most of the big boxes you see in High Street shops are just bypassing the charity shops and sending the clothes straight to African resale or incineration. You can find out more about the few who don’t in the Kearney Circular Fashion Industry Report 2023

We need to start thinking about the death of our clothes at the start of our purchasing journey, it’s too late to think about it at the end.

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