Emily Tebbutt, Jewellery Commercial Manager at Ramsdens Jewellery, shows us how to minimise the environmental impact of our fashion choices by curating a jewellery capsule wardrobe.
If you’ve got an event or night out coming up, it’s often tempting to splash out on some cheap costume jewellery to complete your outfit. But, before you know it, the thrill of your new purchase has worn off, and your cheap costume jewellery is turning slightly green around the edges. Before long, your new buy ends up in a landfill, and you’re ready to repeat the cycle all over again.
Buying so-called fast fashion — that’s any kind of clothing or accessory which is made cheaply and quickly, and isn’t designed to last for longer than a few wears — might satisfy our cravings for the latest trend. But these cheap, throwaway outfits also take a huge toll on the environment. In fact, the fashion and textile industry produced 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2015 – that’s more than aviation and shipping combined (Common Objective).
So, how can you add some sparkle to your looks in a way which doesn’t contribute to the harm caused by fast fashion? In this article, I’ll talk about the fast fashion industry in a bit more detail, and explain how to select pieces for a jewellery capsule wardrobe that won’t cost the earth.
Fast Fashion: An Environmental Emergency
But first: why is fast fashion such a threat to the environment?
Fast fashion first took off in the early 2000s, when retailers began to produce more and more collections per season to satisfy customer demand for new trends. This meant that new styles were moving from the catwalk to the high street more rapidly than ever before, but in order to do so, retailers had to cut corners when manufacturing garments and accessories. Clothing also became cheaper, as customers began to expect affordable versions of the latest looks with a faster turnaround.
The result was a race to the bottom, which saw retailers use cheap synthetic fabrics, low cost labour, and increasingly toxic and polluting manufacturing methods in an attempt to keep up with customer demand. The synthetic fabrics used in fast fashion garments also release harmful microplastics into our water supply, which goes on to enter the ocean, where it is eaten by fish. An estimated 700,000 synthetic fibres are released during just one domestic wash (BBC).
To make matters worse, fast fashion garments and accessories will typically only last for a short time before they either become damaged or go out of style, meaning that the item soon ends up in a landfill or an incinerator. According to statistics published by the BBC, the British public sent a staggering 235 million items to landfill last year.
And it doesn’t just apply to our clothing, either. Cheap costume jewellery can be just as harmful, and often relies on low-cost exploitative labour and toxic production methods. And, when you consider that cheap jewellery will be quick to tarnish or break, it’s just as likely to end up in a landfill, too.
How Can a Capsule Wardrobe Limit Our Impact on the Environment?
So, what can you do to limit the impact that your wardrobe has on the environment? The answer is simple: stop buying fast fashion, and build a long-lasting jewellery capsule wardrobe, instead. That means buying sparingly, prioritising quality, and selecting timeless, versatile pieces.
Here, I’ll share a few tips and tricks to help you build the most eco-friendly jewellery capsule collection, without compromising on style.
1. Prioritise Quality and Don’t Buy Cheap Jewellery
By far the worst thing you can do is buy cheap, low quality jewellery, because it simply isn’t going to last for more than a few wears, and so will soon end up in a landfill. Fake precious metals will tarnish quickly, they are easily corroded by liquids, and once the finish has rubbed off, they can’t be restored. And, while they might seem cheaper at first, it’s ultimately a false economy, because you’ll need to keep restocking your collection every season.
Instead, look for pieces made from precious metals that will last a long time, like sterling silver and gold. They’re resistant to liquids and will last for years if properly cared for. Plus, they can often be repaired by a jeweller if they are damaged in some way.
2. Think Carefully about Your Signature Style and Outfits
When curating a capsule wardrobe, you’ll need to think about each item carefully, as it should be something you’re going to wear for years to come. If you prefer a particular type of precious metal, then let this be the focus of your collection. Try not to overbuy trendier metals, like rose gold, as these tend to go out of style more quickly. The most important thing is to select lasting, quality items which you know you will want to wear time and time again.
3. Buy Preowned
As with clothing, preowned jewellery is often more ethical and environmentally friendly than brand new fine jewellery, because you won’t be funding the demand for new gems and precious metals. This means you won’t be contributing to mining industries, many of which are very harmful to the environment. Plus, it tends to more affordable while still being high quality and long-lasting.
While low cost, fast fashion accessories might seem cheap and cheerful, they take a heavy toll on our planet. But, by following the tips I’ve shared here, you can create a jewellery capsule wardrobe that will keep you looking stylish for years to come, without damaging the environment.