United Kingdom (Bristol)
How should I take care of my winter woollens? Who can finish knitting my cardigan? What’s the best way to patch my jeans?
The answers to these – and hundreds of other questions – are answered on The Good Wardrobe, an online home for people who want to buy, make and mend their clothes in a sustainable way. First and foremost a community hub, The Good Wardrobe connects likeminded people so they can share useful information about brands, materials, resources and techniques.
Zoe Robinson launched the website in 2012, prompted as much by her belief in the need for more affordable sustainable style and space for personal creativity, as more practical concerns. Her sewing machine broke, and she didn’t know where to get it fixed; the sole came off her shoe while walking the streets of London and she wanted to find the nearest recommended cobbler.
At the time, the idea of sustainable fashion hadn’t yet reached the mainstream. “There were designers doing exciting things with sustainable and upcycled materials,” Zoe says, “but there was still a common perception that ethical fashion was too expensive, not stylish, and inaccessible. I wanted to prove that that wasn’t the case, and there were other ways of doing it.”
Using the online forum, members can ask others for help or advice on anything related to sustainable style, from finding a sewing machine to sourcing organic fabric. And the directory is a treasure trove of recommendations for sustainable brands, tailors, cobblers, clothes rentals, sewing machine hire – even sustainable personal stylists. The London and Bristol directories offer a comprehensive list of products and services in these sustainable fashion conscious cities, while the ‘online’ section covers brands and resources available to people anywhere in the world.
These community recommendations are accompanied by a blog, written by Zoe. She covers topics like what to do with old undies, ‘how to’ guides, and ethical designers. And at The Good Wardrobe’s events, resourceful fashion lovers get together to ‘sew it forward’ – pledging their mending and making skills, learning from others, and passing on their new skills.
Every aspect of The Good Wardrobe exists to make dressing in a sustainable way easier and more accessible. “I wanted to remove barriers, to make it as easy as possible for people to dress consciously and stylishly, and ultimately feel good about what they’re wearing. People were saying ‘it’s too expensive’ or ‘I can’t find it’ – so I wanted to say ‘here it is, here’s another idea’.”
Empowering people with the knowledge they need to repair their own clothes and express themselves through visible mending “feels like a kind of activism”, Zoe says. “It’s similar to Earth Logic’s concept of fashion being more democractic, not coming from the brands down. We can reject the industry’s ‘disposable’ fast fashion model in favour of making our clothes last as long as possible.”
In 2021, The Good Wardrobe will be partnering with the Global Goals Centre alongside the likes of Fashion Revolution and Labour Behind the Label, to help create an immersive educational experience about the impacts of fast fashion. Members of the public will step – literally – inside a giant wardrobe, to hear the real stories of garment workers’ lives and learn about innovations that are already making change.
Zoe explains that these ideas – the urgent need to end fast fashion and the search for solutions – are relevant to everyone, not just the ‘fashion conscious’. “Some people hear ‘fashion’ and think that it’s superficial. But everyone wears clothes – we all need to buy, make or mend them. This is something that’s for everyone.
“There are some amazing people who can do the whole ‘street style’ thing,” Zoe adds, “who are really stylish – but many of us don’t have that skill or confidence. But we can darn some denim or make a kneepatch, which is a kind of badge of honour, a badge showing our skills. I want to inspire that in people.”
AtlasAction: Sign up to The Good Wardrobe’s occasional newsletter, and browse questions, tips and recommendations on the website.
Nature-geek, urban forager and all-round wordy sort. Freelance writer for organisations that care about the future. Often found reading while walking.
Zoe Robinson – Founder
This project has been selected as part of FashionFutures, a new content channel that maps the work of people transforming the fashion sector: the designers, craftspeople, social innovators, educators, community leaders and communicators. Atlas of the Future is excited to partner with Makerversity, with the support of The J J Charitable Trust and their network of fashion friends.
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