Written by Alex Sims
Do you wish you could make your favourite clothes last forever? Founder of alterations and repairs app SoJo, Josephine Philips, shares her advice on making your wardrobe sustainable and your most beloved items last for a lifetime.
When it comes to fashion’s environmental impact there are some shocking statistics out there. Every week 13 million items of clothing end up in UK landfill and the annual footprint of a household’s newly bought clothing has the equivalent carbon emissions of driving a car for 6,000 miles.
Fashion is more affordable and easy to buy than ever before, which means we’re more likely to buy new rather than make do and mend. In the UK it’s estimated the average lifespan for an item of clothing is only 2.2 years.
One woman on a mission to change how we care for our clothes is Josephine Philips. The 23-year-old founded SoJo in January this year, an alterations and repair app for convenience-focused Gen Z and millennials that works a bit like Deliveroo. Enter your postcode into the app, get matched with an expert local seamster and then place an order for your item of clothing to be picked up and dropped off to your door by bike.
“Before I founded SoJo I was part of fast fashion culture and heavy consumption clothes culture,” says Josephine. “I never repaired my clothes and felt like I needed to buy new all the time.”
Josephine’s journey into slow fashion began when she realised much of the industry didn’t align with her personal values. “The exploitation and the oppression of women of colour in the global South who are the majority of the garment workers creating all these clothes for women in the West didn’t align with my feminist values at all,” she says. “Plus, learning about the environmental impact is absolutely shocking.”
Do you want to start focusing on sustainable fashion, or just want to make your favourite jumper last for as long as possible? Here Josephine shares her advice on how we can rehaul our wardrobes, rethink our consumption habits and make our beloved items of clothing last us for a lifetime.
Josephine’s expert tips for taking care of your clothes and making them last longer
Wash your clothes carefully
Washing your clothes carefully is a really important step to making them last longer. “It’s easy and convenient to chuck everything all together in the washing machine and the tumble dryer,” says Josephine. “But it can be really damaging causing jumpers to shrink, velvet to come off and things to get destroyed and bobbly.”
Josephine advises reading care labels on clothes carefully before you wash them. “We all want things to be as convenient as possible, but if something says it needs to be hand-washed on the clothing care label, it will make it last for longer.”
Washing clothes less in general, or putting clothes on lighter washes will also help increase their longevity. “Many things, especially denim and jeans, might not need a whole wash and knowing about microplastics from washing it’s good to be less vigorous washing your clothes,” says Josephine. She suggests thinking about how much you really need to wash your clothes. It may just be a case of soaking the underarms by hand in the sink.
Buy less and shop for quality
“Rethinking consumption as a whole is very important,” says Josephine. “We should ask ourselves: ‘Do I need to buy as much as I’m buying?’ and ‘Is this something I’m going to love for a lifetime?’”
Slowing down our consumption of clothes is important for improving the fashion industry as a whole. If we buy less, it also means we can potentially spend a little bit more on investing in quality pieces. “It’s very difficult to love a £2 top for a lifetime. It’s going to be quite difficult to value that top for the next 60 years.”
“Last year my grandma gave me a dress she had worn when she was 20 years old, she’s 91 now,” says Josephine. “For that to happen we need to value our clothes and investing in quality is a good way for that to happen.”
“I’m not talking about buying ridiculously expensive stuff,” says Josephine. “Investing in clothes isn’t as easy for everyone. At the same time, if you buy less, it means you can add up all those individual items you would have bought and buy one piece that is better quality and will be more long-lasting.”
Rearrange your wardrobe
There’s a staggering £30 billion worth of unused clothes hiding away in UK wardrobes. Laying out your clothes in a more organised way and sorting through your wardrobe regularly is a simple but effective way to remind yourself of what you already own and hopefully make you think twice before buying something new.
“We’ve all had that feeling of looking at your wardrobe and thinking ‘I have nothing to wear,’” says Josephine. “Knowing what’s actually in your wardrobe is a really key part of making your clothes last for longer. You’re not going to buy something new when you already have something similar.”
Keeping your clothes as visible as possible also means you’re more in touch with your belongings. Josephine recommends hanging your clothes up if you can or using a wardrobe digitisation app like Whering, which lets you look through your clothes and plan outfits on your phone.
Make altering and repairing your first port of call
Making repairing and altering our clothes more culturally mainstream is essential to help change our consumption habits. “I started SoJo to make it really easy for people to repair things,” says Josephine. “I’ll be the first to put my hands up and say that until a couple of years ago I didn’t do that. I think it’s just a matter of learning we should be looking after our clothes even when they do become worn and torn.”
If you don’t feel confident with a needle and thread, Josephine’s app SoJo helps you find expert seamsters in your area, bikes your clothes to them to be repaired or altered and then deliver them back to your door.
“It really is such a key part of long-lasting clothing,” says Josephine. “Your favourite pair of trousers isn’t going to last for 70 years without you caring for it when problems happen.”
“When clothes fit you properly you feel so much better in yourself and you really appreciate them,” says Josephine, explaining tailoring your clothes is a key part of making them last for longer.
“When you’ve dedicated time and money to tailoring a piece for your unique body shape you have a different, stronger relationship with the item,” she says. “It means you won’t want to get rid of it because it feels like it’s been made especially for you.”
“Women have such unique body shapes, being able to create clothes around you and your changing shape is so important to long-lasting clothing. Everyone’s unique and that should be reflected in our clothing.”
Understand your personal style
It’s easy to get sucked into fleeting fashion trends that age rapidly. Josephine recommends doing your best to understand your own personal style so you pick clothes you truly love and will want to wear forever.
“We all buy things that look hot in the moment, not considering that in six months’ time, neon will no longer be back in,” says Josephine. “Knowing what types of clothing you like to wear consistently and can potentially wear in 20 years’ time will help you create a long-lasting wardrobe.”
Try hiding your clothes
“Orsola De Castro, who is the founder of Fashion Revolution, says to stop getting tired and bored of your clothes you should try hiding them,” Josephine tells us. “We will all naturally want new things at some point, so she advises putting clothes you’re thinking of getting rid of in a bag under your bed and not looking at them for a year. When you pull them out they will feel like new again.”
“It’s a beautiful way to help your clothes last longer and make you feel excited about your old things again. I always get so excited when I pull down my summer wardrobe bag because I’d forgotten about all the dresses I have and love.”
Store your clothes properly
Making sure your clothes are stored away properly is essential to stop them from deteriorating in your wardrobe where clothes can sometimes get damp, smelly or moth-eaten.
“Vacuum-sealed bags are a good way to protect your clothes,” says Josephine. “They suck out all the air around them which is a great way to keep moths away from your knitwear.”
She also suggests storing your clothes in bags or trays to protect them from getting crushed or crumpled in your wardrobe.
Entrust your clothes with professionals
“I feel very proud of people who have sewing machines and are able to repair their clothes themselves, but a lot of people just don’t have the time to learn these skills,” says Josephine. “If you repair your clothes yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing you might destroy the item and end up having to throw it away.”
The same goes for stained clothing. “When I watch my sister mix her bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice to get stains out, I’m like, ‘No! You’re going to really mess up that lovely silk dress you’ve got some red wine on,’” says Josephine. “There are people who are really specialised in stain removal and it’s definitely worth the money to entrust them with your clothes.”
Josephine recommends a company called Oxwash, which –in a similar way to SoJo –collects laundry from your doorstep washes and removes stains from it using sustainable technology and then delivers it back to your door.
Images: Westend61/Getty and Daphne Milner
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