How to Be Stylish and Sustainable

Discover the apps that help make clothes shopping more Earth-friendly.

As a culture, we throw away a lot of clothes. It’s estimated that a truckload of abandoned textiles is dumped in landfills or incinerated every second, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a United Nations Environment Programme partner.

Apps have made it easier than ever for people to shop for clothes, and they’re also now at the heart of a movement to buy less, extend the life of what we already own, and reduce waste.

Here, fashion-app innovators share how everyone can lighten their environmental impact.

According to Amy Bannerman, eBay’s pre-loved style director and a former fashion director for Cosmopolitan, if you want to lighten your fashion footprint, the first step is simply to know your style.

“Whoever I’m dressing, I always start by asking, ‘Whose style do you really admire?’ It’s shorthand for ‘How do you want to look?’”

As pre-loved style director at eBay, Amy Bannerman uses the app to source hard-to-find clothing from all over the world.

Before searching the eBay app for the perfect piece, Bannerman turns to Pinterest. “Mood-boarding using Pinterest is always really good—just save images of people’s style that you like,” she says.

Know what you own

“Life is frantic. If I have an event and I’m short on time, I’ll panic and think I’ve got nothing to wear!” In Bannerman’s experience, an unexpected party is often a trigger for an unnecessary purchase.

Her solution: “Shopping your own wardrobe is the cheapest and the most environmentally friendly.”

Wardrobe management apps such as Whering can help you plan better and reduce excess.

With apps such as Save Your Wardrobe, Whering, and Storey Wardrobe, you can create a digital inventory of your clothes: Photograph an item or take a screenshot from a website to add a piece to your virtual closet.

By cataloging your clothes, you can see exactly what you own and avoid repeat buys (hands up, who owns five navy sweaters?). Use the apps to mix and match pieces, then save outfits to your favorites.

Be an eBay expert

Bannerman knows that eBay is a great source of fashion finds—it has more than 1.6 billion items up for auction on any given day.

Her team found one seller who had an incredible collection of ’90s vintage Galliano and Dior. “We’ve set a notification so when she adds something new, we know about it,” Bannerman says.

To save a seller in the eBay app, go to an item and tap Save Seller.

Tap the heart icon on eBay’s results page to save your searches for vintage pieces.

Bannerman recommends saving your searches. “I’ve got a mental list of things I’m always looking for—like this really rare vintage sheepskin coat that I still haven’t found,” she says. “Every time a listing with ‘shearling’ or ‘sheepskin’ comes on eBay, I get an alert.”

To get notifications on searches in the eBay app, select “Save this search” under the search bar.

Choose timeless style

Circular fashion is gaining momentum within the fashion industry. It’s a movement that aims to take a more considered and responsible approach to the manufacture, use, and repurposing of clothes in order to maximize longevity and reduce waste. Many shoppers are favoring versatility and timelessness over fleeting trends.

Justine Porterie, director of sustainability at Depop—a marketplace for vintage, pre-loved, and gently used fashion—has seen this play out firsthand. Since the start of 2023, searches for minimalist clothing surged more than 50 percent, with buyers clamoring for neutral, modular pieces that can be easily mixed and matched and that defy fads.

Ana Aquino has a made-to-order product line available in Depop.

Ana Aquino had no idea her minimalist clothing designs would resonate when she posted her first product on social media in 2018.

“As you grow up, you change your style pretty often, so I asked, ‘Which styles can customers keep in their closet the longest?’” Her pieces, which feature simple silhouettes in basic colors and fabrics, soon went viral.

Depop enabled her to quickly create a shop for her made-to-order product line and tap into a thriving community of sustainably minded fashionistas. She’s since built a sizable following for her clothing, which is all crafted using high-quality materials salvaged from unsold pieces, known in the industry as deadstock.

“Our customers love that the fabrics are deadstock, so you don’t show up at a place and someone else is wearing your clothes,” Aquino says.

Sell your styles on Depop
Ready to let your creations find an audience? Depop star Ana Aquino has a few tips.

‣ Create the right vibe. The design of a storefront in Depop is different than other sites, Aquino says. “Think of the app’s social-media-style grid layout as a mood board” and curate your collection accordingly. “It helps the users look at your store like social media instead of feeling like they’re on a website trying to get sold something.”

‣ Skip the photo studio. Depop doesn’t have an overly sleek visual style, so don’t feel like you need to have products professionally shot. “Our customers really like that our pictures are not edited; they can see exactly the product they’re getting. The honesty or the transparency is really a highlight for the people who are purchasing.”

‣ Be descriptive. Not sure what to say about your piece? Explore all the prompts suggested by the app. Go to the “Enhance your listing” section, then add style details to help buyers find you.

Josephine Philips, founder of London-based tailoring and clothing repairs app SOJO, explains how to save money and carbon emissions by mending and lending.

Philips thinks a widespread lack of awareness about tailoring is part of the consumption and waste problem. “So often younger generations haven’t been taught how to sew,” she says. “People don’t really know what can get done, and because of that they throw things in the bin.”

Philips says longevity is the first thing she considers before making a purchase.

Even if you’re not based in London where SOJO and its team of in-house tailors are available, there are plenty of ways to get your clothes altered. Search the Yelp app or Apple Maps for tailors near you.

Buy secondhand or rent

Clothing-rental apps, where you can borrow pieces from fellow app users, are an excellent alternative to buying new. “The rise of rental is showing us different ways of engaging with fashion,” Philips says.

And there are more sources for gently used clothes than ever. “Vestiaire Collective is fantastic in the luxury-fashion space,” Philips says. After you purchase an item from a seller, the app verifies the quality before shipping it to you.

Over on eBay, it’s Gen Z shoppers who have been driving the push for pre-loved fashion on the platform, says eBay’s pre-loved style director Amy Bannerman. According to a 2022 research report by the company, shoppers ages 18 to 34 have the highest average percentage of secondhand clothes in their wardrobe (22 percent), nearly double that of shoppers over 55 (12 percent).

“With Gen Z, there’s way more willingness to express individuality,” Bannerman says. “They’re less precious and more creative in how they style things.”