June 5th is World Environment Day, a day when people are encouraged to do something positive for the environment. So we asked the brilliantly creative minds behind our Refashion East Festival to give us 5 top tips to make clothes last longer.

You can find out more about our work in fashion here.

1) Get creative

When designer Sarah Campbell gets fed up with an old garment, out come the fabric paints and inks to give it a new life.  It's helpful if the fabric is a cotton or linen in the first place – then a hot iron on the reverse will set the paints so that it's washable in its new guise.  Sarah uses any sort of fabric/silk paint/ink that can be set by ironing on the reverse when dry, and usually buys online from George Weil who despatch immediately and have a good set of choices.  She uses brushes or foam brushes to paint with.  An auto-fade pen can be useful to plot out a pattern first if you’re not sure about things - all easily available!

2) Clever Care

Care for your shoes

Beatrice Behlen from the Museum of London suggests investing in good shoe care products. Waterproof your suede shoes with non-aerosol spray (they are quite a few eco-friendly shoe care products around now). Invest in a good shoe crème and replace heels before they are completely worn down. It is a cost in the short term, but will make your shoes last much longer.  She even washes her Converse from time to time, but you might not want to go that far…

Wash cooler and avoid a tumble

Sophie Slater the Co-Founder of Birdsong’s top tip is to simply follow the care instructions on your clothing. Washing them on a cooler setting is good for the environment and your clothes, and making sure you don't put your clothes through tumble dryer, or ironing horrors that they can't withstand, makes them last a lot longer. Penelope Sacorafau, co-founder of Fox and Squirrel goes a step further and recommends not overusing your washing machine - sometimes airing a garment is all it needs. Hand washing is also much better for maintaining the quality of your clothes.

Zip up and seperate colours

Gillian from Araminta Clothing has a whole host of further guidance: separate your colours, whites and delicates, zip up any zippers to avoid them causing snags on other fabrics.  If you are washing bras or other items with fish eye hooks, put them in netted wash bags to protect them from catching on anything and snagging the rest of the wash. Finally, turn jeans inside out as well as any screen printed items to avoid the prints fading prematurely. 

Guard from moths

Penelope Sacorafou also has a number of ideas for storing clothes.  She recommends lavender bags in wardrobes - they are the most effective way to guard your clothes from moths. Angela Flaunders does the good lavender bags.  She also suggests storing woollen cardigans in cardboard boxes not plastic. Why? Because plastic turns wool yellow. 

Suits you

Jack Wright, Visual Merchandiser for Jaeger Mens says most guys will dry-clean their suits week after week. Suits are hard to clean any other way but really don't need all that aggressive attention. Over-dry-cleaning your suit will wear away the natural fibres and take years off their lifespan. A well-tailored suit make from good (British...sustainably farmed!) wool should last a long time. 

Dry cleaning uses hazardous and unpleasant chemicals so look after your suit by:

  • Hanging it up in a closet: somewhere dark and dust-free
  • Use a clothes-brush on it every day over the shoulders and lapels to remove dust and fine fibres. This really works...it's maintenance!
  • Spot-clean any stains or marks with a wool shampoo
  • Dry-clean it once a month max.

Jack also recommends folding all your knitwear flat. Don't hang it! Hanging your jumpers wrecks the knit and makes it stretch. It'll last loads longer folded and lain flat.

For festival goers

Meanwhile, festival goers will apprecate this hatrick of tips from Chloë Haywood, Hatastic, on straw hat care:

  • Try not to let your straw hat become overly wet as it will tend to shrink. If it does get wet, if you can stand it, it’s best to wear it while it dries so it will retain its shape and not shrink.
  • If your straw hat becomes out of shape, crushed, or dented, try holding it over steam (i.e. from a pot of boiling water) and reshaping it. Wear oven mitts and exercise caution while doing this as steam can cause serious burns!
  • DO NOT put your straw hat into the washing machine. If you do, be prepared to buy a new one.

3) Repair

Sophie Slater advocates fixing zips and broken hems. Don't chuck your clothes away, but instead load up a Youtube tutorial and buy a 50p new zip, or take them along to organisations like the Heba Women’s Project on Brick Lane if you don't trust your own sewing skills.

Jonathan from Brothers We Stand also strongly supports the repair route, and suggests finding a good tailor to mend or adjust favourite items that need some love. It costs less than you may think…

Knit wear designer Katie Jones’ top tip for a long garment lifespan is, if a hole is too big to darn or fix, make it the feature! Patch it! You can create amazing patches and make a flaw a feature. 

4) Close the loop

The guidance from the team at SWAP is before throwing away items and replacing them with new ones, remember that there is an alternative and sustainable way to keep reinventing your style, simply refresh your wardrobe by showing off new items that had been doomed to landfill by someone else. All for free. Bonus! 

Sophie Esther of I Miss Sophie suggests checking out new company Rentez-vous where you can simply rent out designer clothing rather than owning it.

5) Buy well

The motto from Ali Cook at Wool and the Gang is 'If you take good care of your clothes they'll take care of you!' The key is to invest in something you love and don't be a slave to fashion. You don't need to wash your woollens as often to you might think, but always wash before putting in storage to reduce the likelihood of them being nibbled by moths'. 

Stacey Cotter Manière from the Revision Society agrees and encourages you to invest in items you know will last. Ask yourself will this be my own vintage in years to come?