Georgie Young

Guest Contributor



How to Recycle Your Old Clothes

Extend the lifecycle of each piece in your wardrobe by giving it as many uses as possible. To guide you on this journey, KM has put together this guide to recycling and repurposing your old clothes.

Streamline your wardrobe

The first rule of shopping more sustainably is to buy less – but buy well. It’s been found that you can create 25,176 outfits using just 33 items, and the capsule wardrobe trend – with a recommended twenty pieces per season – is thriving.

The base of any capsule wardrobe should be what you already own. A good way to get to know your clothing is to turn all hangers to face the same way at the start of a set period. Whenever a piece is worn, rotate the hanger so it faces the opposite way. When the time is up, consider retiring the pieces still facing in the original direction. Take note of whether it was the style, colour, material or shape that cause you not to wear them and use these findings to make more considered your future purchases.

Choose investment pieces

New styles should be viewed as forever investments. On average, it takes 30 wears to neutralise the carbon emissions used to create that piece of clothing. If you are unable to envision yourself wearing a new item at least 30 times, consider whether you really need it. When you do make a purchase, look for quality, timeless styles made from long-lasting materials. For example, our Forever Pieces have been designed to look just as elegant in ten years as they do right now.

Forever Pieces

Donating your clothes

If you have clothes that no longer have a place in your wardrobe, consider donating them. The golden rule of donating is to ask yourself ‘would I be happy to gift this to a friend or family member?’. If the answer is no, another solution needs to be found.

Another thing to consider is whether that piece will go to someone who genuinely has a use for it. For example, women’s shelters and homeless centres often welcome donations – but always call ahead to ask what they need and where to drop it off. It’s also worth contacting local animal shelters, as they often accept old clothing, too.

Organise a fashion swap

Fashion swaps – or swishes – are becoming increasingly popular as a way to rejuvenate your wardrobe without buying anything new. Consider organising one with friends or colleagues; simply arrange a time for everyone to bring in high-quality pieces they no longer want, and then swap with each other. There are also countless online communities offering the same idea; look through social media groups for some inspiration.

Resell quality pieces

The resale market is booming. Research suggests that 33 million consumers bought second-hand apparel for the first time in 2020, whilst buying used clothing – or thrifting, as it’s often known – reduces the carbon footprint of an item by 82%. To resell clothing, many people now use one of the many resale apps. The key to securing sales is creating a quality listing. To do this, photograph items on a plain, well-lit background, and keep the lighting consistent between shots to invite an air of professionalism. Provide a concise description – 120 words will do – that includes the brand, material, size and its condition.

Mend damaged styles


Instead of throwing away damaged styles, consider if you can mend them from home. There are many books and online resources that can teach you simple stitches and fixes – a worthy way to spend a couple of hours if you ever find yourself at a loose end. However, if you’re short on time – or for bigger fixes – consider looking for a tailor. In fact, there are now many apps that can connect you directly to local seamstresses.

Upcycle old pieces

Upcycling works best for items that are unsuitable for reselling or donating, such as stained blouses or jeans with an (unfashionable) rip in the knee. Instead of throwing them out, pick up your sewing kit, instead. More advanced upcyclers could probably refashion an out-of-style item into an entirely new silhouette, but for beginners, it’s best to start small. For example, an old pyjama top could be cut into patches that could then be sewn over rips or holes – or you could embroider a pattern over stains that won’t budge. To get started, take a look at one of the many websites and social media pages dedicated to upcycling.

Repurpose your clothes

If your item is unusable in its current purpose, consider giving it a new use entirely. A cotton t-shirt could become reusable make up rounds, for example, or a pair of old trousers could be cut up into cleaning rags. Further, you can always use your new-found sewing skills to make your creations look more appealing.

Recycle it

Finally, if you’ve followed all the above steps and your old piece has reached the end of its life, dispose of it responsibly. If it’s made from 100% natural fibres (like cotton, linen or bamboo), it can be placed directly into the compost. Recycling mixed fibre clothing is more complicated, as it requires a lot of energy and water – plus, many pieces are made from blends of different fibres or are treated with chemical additives. Ask your local council about textile collections in your area, or alternatively, look for high street retailers or apps who will recycle your clothes for you.

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