Free fashion advice, sustainable fashion results

Courtney Duncan
Thursday 20 October 2022

As St Andrews Environmental Network’s exhibition on fast fashion versus sustainable fashion draws to a close, we thought it prudent to ask our students about their thoughts on this topic. The Environment Team interviewed Naomi Smith who runs St Andrews Ball Dress Swap and Sustainable Style.


1)   Where did your interest in sustainable fashion first come from?

“I first started shopping secondhand in 2019 when I read up lots on fast fashion and how unsustainable our current clothing habits are. I really tried to avoid buying new items and even tried reducing my secondhand shopping habits to give my current items a better and longer life. I think it really blew me away when I realised how easy it was to buy second hand and what a privilege it was to have the space and time to wander through charity shops searching for items.”


2)    How do you approach sustainable fashion in your own life?

“Generally, if I need an item of clothing, I try to find it in my closet first. Then, I will attempt to ask my friends or people I know, and then I will resort to charity shops and clothing swaps/sales. If I really haven’t found the item yet, only then will I try searching the most sustainable “new” option. I would say about 85% of my closet is currently secondhand, which I tell people with pride and joy.”


3)    What 3 tips would you give to people who are starting to think more sustainably about their clothes?

“I would definitely recommend checking out some of the incredible organisations out there that provide people with sustainable options; think more broadly about what your clothing style is to avoid limiting options; and have fun with it. For example, if you are an online shopper, I would recommend Depop, Vinted, and ThredUp because there are thousands of people with clothes that they don’t wear anymore, and all of them are trying to make some cash on the side. If you feel like you absolutely need to buy new (which I understand for some people is necessary), then research some sustainable options or even clothing made close to your home that requires little travel. If you feel like you need to be the most sustainable stylist possible, there is an array of secondhand shop options as well as workshops for mending and restyling clothing that you should check out!”


4)    Where is your favourite place to source your clothing?

“I’m originally from Park City, Utah and about half an hour away in Salt Lake City there is an excellent secondhand store called Uptown Cheapskate. That is my personal favorite, but in St Andrews my favorite activity is going to clothing swaps/sales run by Sustainable Style and checking out all the donations that students personally donated because I feel like some of the charity shops in town can be limited to elderly clothing.”


5)    In 3 words, describe how fast fashion makes you feel, and why?

“Guilty, because the danger of fast fashion has allowed me to feel insecure when buying new items and I know exactly how it’s harming people and the environment. Informed, because I now know the consequences of my actions regarding fashion, and I can help inform others about their individual actions. Powerful, (I know very strange feeling for such a grim topic) because I have the power and knowledge to change my lifestyle decisions and educate my friends and family about why I’m doing what I’m doing.”


6)    How do you think the coming and going of trends influences fashion waste?

“I personally see trends as a business model for fast fashion companies. Trends are constantly changing, and I honestly feel terrible for the people who try to keep up with them, because it must be tiring. I think we have become a rapid society of individuals who constantly need to reinvent themselves and so trends have accumulated and been programmed to change with the individual. They are also a business model to allow the individual to spend more on clothing than they would have previously, which obviously benefits the company, not the laborers.”


7)    Do you think there is space in the fashion market for slow fashion?

“I think the best possible solution would be to stop seeing fashion as a market and a business proposal. Instead, we should see it as a hobby and personal opportunity for improvement. We have become so brainwashed that clothing is a way to deceive others based on your wealth and how individuals with trendy/brand clothing are more superior to others, when really, clothing is art and a way of expressing oneself without judgement from others. I don’t believe that we can ever have a ’sustainable’ fashion market unless we take a look in the mirror and decide that clothing will be for personal expression only and no ’trends’ for unity will be made out of it.”


Naomi has shared some really interesting thoughts which we can use to reflect on our own clothing choices. I hope this has been insightful, and please check out the links below to view our local sustainable fashion initiatives:

St AndReuse:

Sustainable Style:

St Andrews Ball Dress Swap:

St Andrews Environmental Network:

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