Alterations and Made-to-measure as Sustainable Choice

Alterations and Made-to-measure as Sustainable Choice

The clothes that we wear say a lot about us as a person. Not only how we see style, but also how we perceive values. The trouble is, when it comes to buying clothes, we are often spoilt by variety in the offer. What is available online and in the high street offers quality and prices wall to wall. Sometimes this may work out well, but what if you feel that these stores are not quite meeting your own personal style, size, fit and other preferences. This at times makes us buy clothes that are not quite right and we end up with having to make do or purchase more to compensate. This contributes to overconsumption and items short lifecycles. It’s not very intelligent sustainable way to go about it.

Troublesome characteristics of current fashion market are short lifecycle, high volumes and unpredictable, high impulse buying. It all has negative impact on the world: using up and polluting natural resources, as well as materials ending up in landfills where some take much longer to degrade than human lifetime. The industry structure is linear (from production to bin) and more should be done to make it circular, involving more conscious choices,  recycling and up-cycling.

Sustainable thinking needs to catch up with current industry that evolves with rapid speed producing more and faster. It is important to ask where are the clothes made, material sourced, what does the fabric contain etc. The trouble is when it comes to conscious buying, information is often lacking or hard to track down. It is a global industry where clothing is often designed in one country, manufactured in another and sold in a third.

I’ve heard of some smart technology that helps you to track the origins down to factories and mills and in some cases even get the farm and sheep name from where your jumper came from. But this method is still vary rare. Often people go with the face value of the brands. More and more promote themselves as ethical. As much as it is a positive sign, certain scepticism needs to be applied too.  It could be a marketing trick. What is true and how much do we really know? Some of companies still make it to the news after they have had audits or even worse – disasters – for their unethical choices.

Therefore I suggest another sustainable way- investing in locally made, hand made products. After all, sustainability is not singularly about minimizing negative impact, but also maximising positive impact, allowing individuals, communities and economic systems to flourish. Having that closer connection to the process, you are aware of work that goes into it and it is easier ask the questions and access information.

The truth is that sustainability is not just a reporting requirement or public relations trend for large companies but an activity that is accessible to small businesses too. Sustainability is for any business. Big coperations might have deeper pockets to make more substantial change, but small businesses have a part to play as  well.  Especially on a local market and because there is many of us that eventually matters in a global scale. It is said that circular model will only happen if two things occur: first, collaboration is needed to achieve the systemic-scale change necessary; and second, every individual business needs to think imaginatively about its own place in the system.

So, here I am thinking and writing where do I fit in. Which way is my work serving the sustainable ethos. It is a complex term, especially in fashion industry. In core, to work sustainably is to find ways in the business that achieve ecological, social and cultural balance that is good for the future. It is about pay attention to the current needs but furthermore to keep in mind the needs of the following generations. I need to simplify it. For me it is about intelligent choices that have environmental, social and economic impact.

The environmental impact of altered clothing is much like main idea of recycling- giving things a longer life. Regards to bespoke services, if you have something made especially to you, it doesn’t only fit you great, it will carry you personal story and is so much dearer to you. If you are having clothes custom made or altered accordingly , you are keeping items longer, then they are not going to end up being thrown away and clogging up the landfill. Which we all know is a huge problem for our planet at the moment.

Choosing bespoke clothes in particular also has a huge social impact. By going to a local alteration service, you are making more conscious choices on what you buy and invest in and more aware of labour factors (hours, people, ski?ls, machinery, conditions) that go into it. It is important to know these inputs to appreciate the outcome and understand the value.
Of course, we all know that the major fashion retailers present so much more affordable fashion choices, but far too many of them have been in the news for making less than ethical manufacturing choices. Something that you won’t have to worry about when it comes to bespoke clothes. It invests in life around you and furthermore injects consciousness to your choices.

Finally, choosing bespoke clothing can have economical impact. Not only are you investing your money into something that is going to stand the test of time, as well as fit you perfectly, but you are often investing into a local business, someone who works for themselves. Not only does this help their dream and their business, but also allows them to work on their skills and develop them, all in order to provide an even better business in the future.
As you can see, aside from making you feel great and ensuring that you are in control of what you wear, bespoke fashion and of course altering existing clothing can have an impact on the world around you.

If you have a dream outfit in mind, or like the idea of being able to transform an existing item you have, get in touch with your dressmaker or local alterations service and see what they can do.

To illustrate this, I will show some re-styled, up-cycled items in my next post.


With fashion design background and various experience in dressmaking I offer made-to-measure and alterations services for women.

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