11 joyful ways to make your clothes more sustainable

images of clothes and crafts

Thanks to the activism of industry movers and shakers such as Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney, and the tireless work of organisations like Extinction Rebellion, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and other fashion revolutionaries, ‘fast fashion’ could soon be a thing of the past. The world is finally waking up to the human and environmental price tag attached to an unsustainable clothing industry that puts profits before everything else.

While the fashion industry takes stock, we consumers can do our bit too. In the words of the brilliant Greta Thunberg, “No one is too small to make a difference.”

Here we’ve collected a few simple and fun ideas that enable us to all be part of the fashion revolution.

1. Stop washing your jeans 🌊

People wearing jeans

The advice from several makers of jeans is, instead of washing them, try putting your jeans in the freezer overnight to help get rid of bacteria. You could also leave them outside in the sun or use a neutraliser spray. Levi’s CEO says, “A good pair of denim doesn’t really need to be washed in the washing machine except for very infrequently or rarely." His argument being washing a good pair of Levi’s actually causes damage to the material and is a waste of water. Hiut Denim says, "Raw denim is best given a good six months before washing. The longer you can leave it, the better your jeans will look.” They even have a No Wash Club.

2. Cover stains with reMARKable 🎯

Humade gold iron-on patches on t-shirt

Do you have a garment with a stain that you just can’t remove? No worries, mark it! reMARKable (available in the Sugru shop) is the solution for stubborn fabric stains. Mark the moment with these golden iron-on patches and make your stain into something remarkable. Designed by Humade, reMARKable is part of a new mindset against waste. Each kit comes with a sheet of golden iron-on marks, a piece of felt, some baking foil and a step-by-step manual. Genius.

3. Celebrate denim repairs with boro

Patched jeans using boro method

Boro, which comes from the Japanese word boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired, is a patch-worked indigo textiles technique that was used by rural working communities in Japan’s northern prefectures. Before the 1900s, pieces of used cotton or hemp from existing textiles such as clothes and futon covers, were pieced together, and over generations, repaired, recycled and reused. Often known as the fabric of life or folk fabric, it’s believed the practice extends from a Japanese worldview called Wabi-Sabi, which centres on the acceptance of imperfection as accidental beauty.

4. Revive your shoes with Sugru 👞

shoes customised with Sugru

There’s a phenomenon in the Sugru community: fixing, hacking and decorating shoes with Sugru. A typical shoe repair seals those annoying gaps in walking shoes or wellies. Another popular one is to add educational patches to shoes that teach little ones to know their left from their right feet. The possibilities are limitless. To try it for yourself, check out our step-by-step guide on how to customise your shoes with Sugru.

5. Replace shoe soles at Vibram Sole Academy 👡 ➡️ 👠

Jane from Sugru holding a shoe with new customised Vibram sole

We’re big fans of buying shoes and boots to last. Old, well-worn, comfy and lived-in is the style for us. Vibram Sole Academy is a shoe repair service with a difference. Take in your old shoes to these life-long master cobblers, and they’ll help you reimagine and reinvent them. It’s a little pricey, but in the end, you get to keep your old favourites, fully revived, given a second life, along with the thrill of the new. Hooray.

6. Beat the moths with Woolfiller 🕸

woolfiller balls and patched cardigan

Created by Helen Klopper, Woolfiller (available in the Sugru shop) makes use of wool's natural, unique properties. When pricked with a needle, the minute scales within the material will open and automatically latch on to each other, creating bonded fibres where there once was a hole. We think it's the perfect combination of simple, sustainable, and satisfying.

7. Keep zips going with a Sugru zip hack 📎

zipper fixed with Sugru

This has gotta be one of the coolest winter clothing hacks ever. If the zipper on your favourite coat’s been knocked off, don’t consider letting it go for one second. Simply grab some Sugru and a humble old paperclip and re-attach it as shown in the pic. Check out the page: Fix any zip with Sugru to see just how easy it is.

8. Embrace radical knitting 🤘

a woman knitting

Radical knitting expresses the idea that repairs should not be hidden away like a dirty secret. Radical knitters use bold colours to highlight and celebrate their repairs. Check out textile artist Celia Pym’s radical knitting workshop to see her inspiring work in this realm.

9. Repair on the go with Singer Instant Hem Tape ✨

hem tape for clothes

This instant-fix, double-sided hem tape means you can repair dropping hems on the go and much faster than sewing. It joins fabric without sewing or ironing for a temporary bond, and you can cut to any size. Then sew the hem up later when you have more time. 

10. Give clothes an update with Create me / textile 🔁

gold iron-on shapes for clothes

Sometimes we buy new clothes because we’re bored of wearing the same old stuff. Consider updating your garments by embroidering, dyeing, even re-cutting, like making jeans shorter and turning long-sleeved tops into t-shirts. Or check out this cute iron-on kit from Humade, which includes more than 100 textile transfer iron-on shapes inspired by the game Tangram. It gives you the opportunity to repair (a hole or tear), camouflage (a stain) and/or personalise your fabrics. Suitable for clothes as well as interior textiles. 

11. Learn to sew, weave, macramé, embroider and knit 🧤

make town workshop 

Clothes-making skills are on the rise again. Shops and workshops are popping up all over the place helping us reconnect with the making process of clothes and other textiles.

The latest one we were thrilled to find this week is Make Town in Hackney that has a super schedule of workshops and events for all ages. Go for it.