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4 Sustainable Fashion Hacks We Can All Learn from Baby Boomers


Britons buy five times the amount of clothing they bought in the 1980s*, so environmental charity Hubbub and natural knitwear experts WoolOvers have come together to look at the generational differences in attitudes towards fashion among British women; To explore how attitudes differ by age and what knowledge can be shared.

The survey of 2,000 women by Censuswide, alongside a series of focus groups found that younger women can learn a lot from their mothers’ and grandmothers’ about what makes a good quality product, and how to extend its lifetime through care and repair.

Women aged 54 and above take a much more mindful approach to fashion, spending £49 each on average per month but spreading the cost and only buying a new item of clothing every 3-5 months. And almost two thirds (62%) expect their clothes to last for several years.

Whilst British women aged 16-37 (Generation Z and Millennials) spend on average £81 each per month, with 26% of Generation Z buying new clothing between 2-3 times per month. But not even half of these young women (47%) expect their clothes to last many years, with the quality of the design being prioritised much lower than price and fit.

So what is influencing this difference in attitudes towards buying and caring for clothes between the generations?

One of the biggest impacts is likely the shopping experience itself. A third of Baby Boomers (54-72 year-olds) and the Silent Generation (73 year-olds +), shop seasonally, only 18% of Generation Z do the same, as more regular fashion drops allows them to shop 52 ‘micro seasons’ a year.

With the introduction of online shopping in the late 1990s, young women have gone from being influenced by their mothers and grandmothers on where to shop to having multiple avenues of influence via their phone from apps and social media. Generation Z’s spending is impulsive, with social media and the media playing a big part in influencing them on what to buy. They admit to feeling guilty about the money they have spent and are left stressed that they have spent more than they can afford.

Cheap fashion items, which are produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends, are then consequently falling apart, and when clothing become damaged only 30% of Gen Z will repair it themselves, with a quarter asking a friend of relative to fix it for them. Whereas more than half (51%) of Baby Boomers repair their own clothes. This was explored further in the focus groups, which resulted in women admitting that fashion had become so cheap that even sewing a button back on seemed like a useless skill. The main reason for not knowing how to repair clothing being down to whether or not they were taught how to by a family member or at school.

“In a world where sustainable living is so high on the agenda, the fashion industry is somehow still getting away with a ‘business as usual’ approach. While some retailers have introduced ethical lines, people still do not feel educated on the environmental impact of the industry and so are prioritising price and convenience over sustainability. Our research shows that the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation seem to hold the secret to how to buy good quality items and if needed, repair them to extend their lifetime. We need to get women across the UK talking and sharing these invaluable skills and insights, in a bid to tackle the damaging effects of fast fashion.” – Heather Poore, Creative Director at Hubbub.

To help pass the knowledge on, Hubbub and WoolOvers have collated some of the Baby Boomers’ fashion advice in a series of tips – see below. They are also encouraging people to speak to their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties for advice on quality, care and repair.

Baby Boomer Sustainable Fashion Hacks…

1 – Buy Less

Unfortunately, we can’t buy our way into sustainability. The best thing to reduce fashion’s impact on the environment is to buy less in the first place! It’ll save you money and you might just fall in love with something you already have. Put time aside to have a root around your wardrobe, knowing what you already have will also allow you to shop more mindfully when you do need something new.

2 – Choose Better Quality Clothes

If you need to buy something new, try to invest in good quality clothes that are made to last. Here are some top tips on what to look out for:

3 – Make Your Clothes Last

4 – Pass It On

For more information and tips on sustainable fashion, visit tiny.cc/HubbubFashion and https://www.woolovers.com/microplastics

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