Nadine Banks: on building sustainable wardrobes, Re-Archive, and the future of the fashion industry.

We sat down with Nadine Banks, founder of Re-Archive and ethical style blogger to discuss her top tips for creating a more sustainable wardrobe, the key environmental issues concerning her the most and the future of the fashion industry.

Where are you writing this?

I am writing this from my living room in East London. It’s 33 degrees today so the big window overlooking the street is open and I have an oat milk iced coffee by my side. 

Tell us a little bit about Re-Archive and what inspired you to start it?

Re-Archive is an online platform which discusses issues and solutions surrounding the fashion industry and the environment. Our aim is to normalise sustainability and ethical practices in the fashion industry by conducting personable interviews, creating inclusive and celebrated editorials as well as discussing and finding solutions with like minded individuals.

I had been running my own personal fashion blog I Am Archive for 5 years and in 2017 I decided to watch the documentary The True Cost. This truly opened my eyes to what was happening behind closed doors, I knew our clothes were made in unethical ways but never to this extent. As I was watching this and did my own research afterwards I decided I could no longer continue supporting such a harmful industry. After a year of practising, researching and living a more sustainable lifestyle I decided to launch Re-Archive.

With sustainability being a big point of discussion within the fashion industry, could you tell us what sustainability means to you?

Sustainability to me means “taking care of.” This could be in relation to possessions you own, how you treat yourself and other people and how you take care of the environment. If we learn to simply take better care of everything in life, sustainability will follow.

You're originally from New Zealand, do you feel there are differences in approach to sustainability compared with the UK?

Definitely. I feel New Zealand has a much slower approach to living which can translate to a more sustainable way of living. People tend to buy local and big fashion brands such as H&M only arrived in NZ a few years ago. However looking at New Zealand as a whole I think there are plenty of room for improvement. Much of their economy relies on the natural environment supporting the agriculture, food and forestry industries. Rural land use has a major impact on the sustainability of New Zealand's soil and water and its biodiversity.

"The most sustainable items are the ones you already own." 

Have you always been sustainably minded in the way you live your life or is this something that has evolved for you?

As I grew up in the middle of a forest in New Zealand, I have always been surrounded by nature. Therefore I feel my love for the natural world has always been embedded in me. However my journey into true sustainable fashion, living and diet only started two years ago. As I began to be more conscious with my clothing choices the rest followed - buying less, becoming a vegetarian and now on a journey to become 100% vegan.

Why are sustainability and ethics an important part of Re-Archive?

These two things are what inspired Re-Archive in the first place, without sustainability and ethics it would not exist. I believe the fashion industry must change and that’s what we strive to promote. We must demand good practices until they become the norm, within the entire supply chain - from the factories to the shop floors and after that it’s up to us with what happens to our clothing. We must reinvent production lines, reduce how much we use and buy, repair our clothing and re-archive what already exists in our own wardrobes and the supply chain to create a more sustainable fashion future!

What are the environmental issues that concern you the most and how do you personally go about tackling them?

Ocean pollution, climate change, disposal of waste and endangered species. I personally try to live as sustainable as possible in my everyday life - eat sustainably, shop at my local fresh food store (they have near to no plastic), keep my technology as long as possible (I’ve had my MacBook for over 10 years), buy second hand and don’t purchase anything unnecessary such as single waste products. I also try to sign as many environmental petitions as I can, as well as donate to causes every so often.

What are your tips for someone who is just starting to create a more sustainable wardrobe?

Firstly do not throw or give away anything to start off with! You may feel that Zara top in your wardrobe isn’t sustainable, but it is! The most sustainable items are the ones you already own. Secondly, when looking for “new” clothes, aim to shop second hand only. Learn to love the hunt of going into thrift stores, shopping on Depop and eBay and enjoy the process because it can sometimes take a long time to find great second hand pieces. But trust me when you find that first pair of thrifted winter boots worth £700 for £10 (yes, £10 - it’s happened to me) fast fashion will become boring and a thing of the past. I always offer to help people find hidden second hand gems online, so if you are after anything feel free to message me on Instagram and I'll do my best to help!

How would you describe your day to day style?

I am trying to refine my style to be more minimal, comfortable and flattering. So at the moment my everyday style consists of mostly neutral colours, quality basics and well cut pieces.   

How do you think the fashion industry will look in the next few years?

I think people are finally starting to realise fast fashion is toxic - not just the industry but on a more personal level too. A lot of individuals are focusing more on what they like instead of following trends and I think this will have a great impact on how brands start to rethink their business models. As more people push against fast fashion and demand more ethical practices the brands who don’t comply will fall short. So I am hoping there will be a big sustainable shift in the fashion industry in the next few years.

Finally, how have your plans for Re-Archive changed this year and what is next for you?

We were supposed to host a few IRL events - panel talks and clothes swaps, due to Covid these had to be postponed. However we have always been an online platform so there were no big changes this year. With more time spent inside we have been able to take the time to reach out to more people and businesses and educate ourselves more on broader issues, which is great!