A few months ago I stumbled across Jade’s Instagram account @notbuyingnew I was fascinated by Jade and her story. Here was someone who clearly enjoyed fashion and clothes and had made the big decision to just stop buying anything new. Over the time I’ve followed Jade, what I have loved about her stories and feed is that she does not come across preachy, or insincere. We all have a part to play and she encourages this in a way that feels achievable.
Whilst I’ve cut down my purchases and do a lot of what Jade talks about to protect my clothes I haven’t yet got to the stage where I could hand on heart not buy any new clothes. However what Jade’s journey shows us is that no matter how small the step, it still makes a difference. Jade’s Instagram feed is full of great tips of how to be more of a conscious consumer and sustainable. I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed and share a little bit more about herself.
1: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
My name is Jade and I’m originally from The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. It’s a beautiful part of the world. After University I trained as a teacher, moved to London and pretty quickly swapped careers and ended up working in the Music Industry for most of my 20s. I was fascinated by marketing, trends and of course, music and fashion are so closely linked. I shopped vintage and was confident in my sense of style. At 30 I had my first child and after maternity leave I went back to teaching. At this point I felt totally lost because all my markers of what made my identity had been replaced with new terms: mother, teacher, grown up.
In this new mode I struggled to dress myself. I bought a lot of new clothes from fast fashion brands and tried to dress the new me. I didn’t feel comfortable in any of it (believing that clothes could somehow project the person I was – except I didn’t really know who that was) and so I bought more and more and let the brands dictate to me what I ‘should’ be wearing in any given season. At some point I knew I had to stop. I tried for about 3 years before finally achieving it.
2: How long have you been ‘not buying new’ for?
I haven’t bought anything brand new for a year and 5 months and have no plans to change that.
3: What was the key reason behind this decision?
A hideous cocktail of reasons that seemed to all come together at the same time. I’d heard about the harm fast fashion was doing to people and the environment and felt I could no longer support this if I was going to be true to my values. I also realised that the anxiety at the centre of chasing trends and fashion was also doing me harm (mentally and financially). I didn’t have any answers about the right thing to do but I just wanted to shut down the consumption and use the time to figure out what was next.
4: Have you always loved clothes and fashion?
Always. I spent the 80s shopping with my Mum and Nan – both who dressed beautifully. It was always a treat. As a teenager I loved theatre and dressing up and when I discovered vintage I found I had the courage and confidence to wear unusual clothes and it was such a joy.
5: How do you get around not buying anything new? Borrow, Hire, Vintage Shops, Charity Shops?
All of the above plus finding small designers that repurpose old fabric or dead stock. Although mostly I’m now trying to focus on owning less and slowing down any kind of consumerism (even second-hand).
6: There are so many companies claiming that they are ethical and sustainable what should the consumer look for when deciding which brand to buy from?
You first need to identify what it is that matters to you most. Sadly, there’s no perfect brand and sometimes what looks like a perfect answer can have unintended consequences in another area. I know this is disappointing and somewhat off putting but as individuals we can only do so much. I tend to think that anything that is sold in huge quantities or have too many lines/seasons is totally unsustainable. This includes the big brands that have eco lines – it’s green washing. I don’t buy anything brand new so I look for brands that re-purpose old fabric and then I look to see where their clothes are made, do those people earn a living wage? If you don’t want to email a brand you can use the Good On You app that rates brands. Finally, think about what fabric you are happy to support with your hard earned cash. Some people are happy with PET, organic cotton etc. For me, if I was to ever buy new again, I might think about European linen, hemp or tencel – providing they were approved by certification. It’s honestly a bit of a minefield and that’s why for me, second-hand is the easiest change at the moment.
7: Which fabrics have the least impact on the environment?
Whilst learning about how our clothes are made and the impact this has on the people involved and the environment is crucial, it can also be quite a daunting task. I don’t want people to turn away from their causes and great efforts. The truth is every single fabric I’ve looked at has some form of negative impact. Every item of clothing has a footprint, however there are choices you can make to lessen that impact and that’s really worthwhile. Buy and own less, opt for second hand, used or repurposed. Care for each fabric appropriately, wear your clothes out and recycle them at the very end.
8: which fabrics in particular are ones to try and avoid?
Synthetic fabrics are the ones to watch. They are derived from petroleum and the oil manufacturing industry is the world’s largest pollutant. Synthetics make up to 60% of all clothing made and take up to 200 years to decompose. Every time we wash a synthetic item it releases micro plastic into our water system. If you do buy synthetic fabrics try buy recycled synthetic. Also wash your clothes less often. Wear layers underneath so you don’t directly sweat onto the fabric. If you have a steamer, steaming the fabric to refresh it can work well.
9: How do you choose your clothes?
I always check the fabric content first, I’m not trying to buy Polyester, although I do have old Polyester items in my wardrobe. I also tend to opt for plain separates that are interesting in colour, texture and shape. If I go for something more unusual I have to really love it. I also ask myself ‘can I immediately think of more than 3 ways I can wear this?’ Another thing I do is try on the items, I am so bad at this as I’m always rushing. I also try to stick the things I know I like. I follow lots of fashion accounts for inspiration, that aren’t buying second-hand but I can keep an eye out for something similar.
10: In an ideal world what would the fashion industry look like?
I wish I could answer this and save everyone else the problem of trying to figure it out! Haha! I know I’d like it to be slow and fair, but what that really looks like in reality is still to be figured out.
Thank you so much for reading this interview. I hope that you have enjoyed finding out more about Jade and her ‘Not Buying New’ journey. I, for one feel like I need to do more. I am hoping to bring you more posts that talk about my sustainable findings and journey over the next few moths. In the meantime go take a look at Jade’s Instagram feed @notbuyingnew where she shows you how she is going about her daily style.
As always any feedback and comments appreciated.
Love Chet x