Dress for the environment


by Camilla Ridley

Following the United Nations' Cop26 global climate conference, the leading fashion press are unanimous that things needs to change. Here are some easy steps we can all take to help reduce our sartorial footprints and safeguard our collective future. 


To reduce our emissions we're going to have to embrace a truly green approach to fashion. At Ridley London everything in our new collection is tailored to flatter, locally crafted to last from sustainably sourced natural materials , waste free and totally unique. 

I wonder if there is anyone left who wasn’t aware of Cop26, The United Nations' global climate conference in Glasgow recently? From the doom laden news and high profile protestors, to the wrangling and pledges of international leaders, every minute produced a headline that could define our futures. Even the Queen has been unusually vocal pleading for united action and the politicians to look beyond politics. Given the colossal coverage, I think we can all agree that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to plead ignorance or inconvenience to the challenges that lie ahead. And while it’s easy to defer action and blame the big global polluters (no points for guessing who), it remains easier for them to continue on their current paths if we don’t all do our bit. As many experts have highlighted, halving our carbon emissions over the next 8 years is going to require lots of small collective efforts as well as sweeping innovation and reform.

Google it and you’ll find pages of information and articles highlighting how we can all cut our carbon with changes to our diets, travel, homes and consumption. What’s also been really interesting is the unanimous support the fashion press have given this issue over the last few weeks. The UN’s extraordinary 2019 report on the fashion industry expertly highlights the damage being caused by our addiction to clothing consumption. Fashion is now the worlds second biggest polluter and unless we radically change, the industry will be responsible for a quarter of global carbon emissions by 2050. But to change, we really need to acknowledge how we got to this point. As Anna Murphy, Fashion Supremo for The Times eloquently summarises 

"Fast fashion made clothes deceptively affordable, and we are still waking up to the true cost. Plus fast everything else, fuelled by the whirligig of social media, made us think that new is best, that more is more.

It's true, the last few years has seen the emergence of the Slow Fashion Movement, the appearance of more sustainable and ethical labels and awareness of an alternative, more conscious form of consumption. But in reality this is a fractionally small compared to our continued affair with faster forms of fashion. Not to mention an ever expanding mirage of greenwashing to justify them. So what steps can we all take to improve this and deliver the necessary change? 

1. Buy less and wear it more

Many environmentalists have flagged up the 30-wears rule. Dina Van Tulleken, fashion editor of the Mail thinks it should be 50. Essentially unless you can be certain of wearing a piece at least 30 times from the moment you see it, you must walk or scroll on by. This seems like a very tough target. Can you really be sure you will definitely wear something that much? 

2. Shop Individual

Instead of slavishly following the latest trends,  consider buying an item of clothing that really works hard for you. Let's call it the dream dress. It flatteringly enhances every curve, the colours and prints bring you to life, it’s unbelievably comfortable and easy to wear, amazingly versatile and every time you put it on you turn heads and feel like a million dollars. In my opinion, this is something you’ll get a lot of wear out of. Perhaps more than thirty wears. Maybe even more than 50. This is not an impossible fantasy or an haute couture extortion. It’s simply about great quality materials and workmanship, styles that enhance your individual physique, well chosen colours and a some clever tailoring. This is how all of our Ridley dresses, skirts, tops, knitwear and jackets are made. 

3. Look for items that are made locally or made to order

One of the biggest costs of globalisation has not just been the loss of local skills, but the carbon footprint associated with shipping cheap garments half way around the world only for many of them to end up unsold and incinerated. However gradually, some manufacturing is re-localising. shop brands that manufacture in the UK or close to home, particularly those that reduce waste by making to order. Every Ridley garment is made to order here in London by our talented team of seamstresses.

4. Keep it longer

It’s also been well documented that if you Extend the lifespan of each piece of clothing by nine months, you reduce its environmental footprint by 20-30 per cent (including carbon emissions). Again I would argue that if something becomes a go to piece that you absolutely love and wear time and time again, this will happen anyway. Especially if it’s well made. And if items do get damaged, consider using a repair service.

5. Don't waste time trying to work out which mainstream brand is ethical

Eco Guru Lucy Siegel points out that "Transparency league tables are well meaning but muddled. Fast fashion is a system, and if a brand is in this system, its sustainability is questionable.” Instead steer towards clothing that’s really sustainable, right for you and made to last. By doing this, you'll also be encouraging damaging mainstream labels to change.

6. Don't be a returns abuser

This is not just about the carbon emissions involved in endless delivery and returns. Lucy Siegle points out  "Ordering multiple pieces and returning all but your favourite one is not cool. More than 80 per cent of returned garments are sent to landfill or incinerated and as brands produce more than the real demand to keep pace, this all adds to chronic overproduction.” Ridley's made to order, made to measure model actually means we get very few returns and lots of happy customers. It encourages a more considered level of purchase that’s ultimately far more emotionally rewarding than any amount of clicks and returns.

7. Wash your clothes less

The average laundry cycle releases hundreds of thousands of tiny fragments of plastic from synthetic fibres into waterways, the terrible effects of which are well documented. When you have washing, place all synthetics into a Gupyfriend washing bag, which helps to reduce fibre loss. In the meantime, the industry is developing new filters for washing machines. Wherever possible, I would also encourage you to move away from synthetic fibres. Research has shown that fleeces for example are particularly bad at shedding plastic fibres. At Ridley all of our garments are made from sustainably sourced natural fabrics, which will naturally breakdown quicker without releasing damaging toxins.

8. Green dry clean

Lucy Siegel points out that conventional dry cleaning “is a toxic time bomb affecting soil, air and water.” Instead try a green alternative like Johnson Cleaners’ Green Earth system or a dedicated eco cleaner like Blanc.

9. Weed out your wardrobe

How many of us have crammed so many garments into our wardrobes that it’s impossible to see anything? By having less and being more organised, it’s far easier to see the items you really want to wear and to be more creative with your styling options.


The challenges and changes that lie ahead for all of us over the coming years are by no means straight forward or easy, but we all need to step up and do our bit. As Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week "this is no longer a rehearsal, we have to act now." And in fashion terms the pay off's could be surprisingly rewarding. As Anna Murphy points out " New isn’t best. It really isn’t. A great purchase is a kind of relationship. Clothes can transmogrify into an extension — an augmentation — of who you are, if you choose right in the first place, then keep them close. And how does that make you feel? Good. So good."


Ridley London's sustainable new collection of dresses, skirts, tops and coats for winter is available to purchase on-line and in Ridley's Barnes store. Celebrate your individuality with a unique piece that's individually crafted to flatter from your choice of any of our stunning new printed floral silks or cottons. Or call us to arrange a virtual fitting: 

Ridley London, 82 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 0DQ T: 01730 823097

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