HOW TO SHOP MORE SUSTAINABLY ONLINE
With retail stores across the world still closed, shoppers are turning to online. Online sales are booming, expected to grow as much as 30% this year in Europe (State of Fashion 2021 Report, McKinsey & BoF). Online and social media has democratised the fashion industry, offering emerging brands a platform to reach new people, albeit increasingly cluttered and more difficult to reach an audience without spending loads of money. Online is also a brilliant resource for responsible consumerism, if used in the right way. Unfortunately, just looking for 'sustainable fashion' can lead to pretty unreliable results, as it's a buzzword that's been well and truly hijacked by greenwashing-profit-chasers. However a wealth of data is available online that can help us be savvier about what we’re buying and sure it aligns with our values.
We launched PARO STORE a year ago, to help progressive shoppers like you find brands with a great aesthetic and responsible practices - or as we like to call it, good design that’s good for the world. As we were creating PARO we thought a lot about how online can be used to shop more sustainably and responsibly, and we think these three shopping habits can make a big difference.
1. Support small brands
By choosing smaller, responsible brands, you’re supporting a real human trying to make a positive impact on the world, instead of a corporate CEO or fast fashion billionaire, so if you want to shop sustainably and ethically this is a good place to start. But small brands can be hard to find online, with limited marketing budgets and resources - it’s often just one designer doing everything from design to customer service and marketing. We set up PARO STORE to provide a platform for these designers to come together, forming a collective that helps them stand out online against the big players.
What can you do?
- Instagram is a great place to discover small responsible brands, we follow hashtags like #shopsmall #madeineurope #sustainablefashion #handmadejewellery etc
- Follow people, publishers and retail sites that do the work for you by finding and curating emerging independent brands…like PARO STORE ;)
- Check how much stuff a brand produces or retailer stocks to see how big they are. How many items are on the site? How often do they drop new products?
2. Do your research
There has been an influx of 'sustainable' brands and collections appearing over the last few years. But are they really sustainable? If you want to know how to shop sustainable fashion, the answer is most definitely not to believe any brand that simply tell's you they're sustainable. There is a lot of greenwashing out there, so claims should be backed up by information that tells you how something is sustainable/conscious/ethical, if they are to be believed. As a simple rule, only buy something if you know and support how it has been made; because as soon as you pay for it, you are supporting it after all.
PARO STORE is equal parts web-store and design resource. On PARO STORE we break down how each brand is creating with nine design codes that show you how the brand treats people, materials and process more responsibly in their production:
- Empower People
- Manage Resources
We do this because we think the best way to show you how to shop more sustainably by making all the information you need to make your own choice; different people have different values and priorities, and so do fashion designers.
What can you do?
- Look for specific information on the brand/retail site telling you where & how they produce. If you don’t see it, email/DM or comment on their social channels asking.
- Check instagram handles like @cleanclothescampaign to see if the brand has been called out for exploiting garment workers and suppliers. Sign the petition while you are there!
- See what materials the item is made from, and since you're probably not an expert, google the material to find out more about it and how good/bad it's impact on the planet is. Look for facts and certifications to back up claims like organic or eco-friendly.
3. Be sure before you buy
Buying online is as easy as clicking a button from the comfort of your sofa, made all the more tempting when you get an email about the latest drop, trend report or sale. But rash decisions to buy items often means things that sit unworn in your wardrobe, and online returns create environmental impacts from shipping emissions, with some retailers also known to send returns to landfill rather than processing them for resale (SMH). Online there are no queues and no sales assistants telling how stunning you look in whatever-it-is-you're-trying-on, so without this pressure you can take your time and make decision that are better for your wallet, and more environmentally friendly.
We do everything we can to promote responsible consumption, and more sustainable online shopping on PARO; this affects things like how often we email you, how we approach sales/discounts, abandoned checkouts and retargeting, and how we designed the product pages.
What can you do?
- Plan ahead for the season or event you want to shop for, so you have time to choose the slowest shipping method, and consider made to order, and pre-order pieces.
- Measure yourself and save a note of your key measurements so you can thoroughly check a size chart. Always email the brand/retailer if you are unsure on sizing and fit.
- Make a wishlist. Most online stores have one (including us), or you can make your own. Come back to an item a week later, and see if you still want it. When a sale is on, only look at your wishlist items for discounts to avoid impulse buying based on a tempting mark down price tag.
Sounds like a lot of effort? That’s kind of the point. We’ve become used to seeing, wanting, buying and discarding clothes in the blink of an eye. But the process of discovery to find the perfect piece, the excitement of learning about the craft, and even the should-I-shouldnt-I decision making process is all part of the joy of fashion, and has never been so important.
Want to share your advice on how to shop for clothes sustainably? Or do you have any questions or feedback about something you've seen on PARO? Send us an email - firstname.lastname@example.org - we love to hear from you.