Fast fashion is fast.
It is also disposable and cheap – a toxic combination that exploits our environment along with workers and we, the consumers. The undeniable weight it burdens our planet with, is astronomical and unsustainable. As we become more aware of the disastrous effects fast fashion has on our planet, there’s an urgency to adopt more earth-friendly habits. This includes the brands we support and the clothes we buy.
Creating a sustainable wardrobe doesn’t have to be a daunting task, neither does it have to be expensive. And you don’t need to clear out your entire wardrobe because you just learned about sustainable style! A few sessions with Marie Kondo on Netflix and you suddenly feel inspired to live with less? Don’t give in to the urge to chuck everything out. Because in fact, it’s not the most sustainable choice.
The most sustainable wardrobe is a versatile and enduring wardrobe. Because retailers are desperate to cut costs in an attempt to make as much as possible for as low a cost as possible, it becomes all about supply and demand. So if you start throwing everything away and replacing it with more ethical options, you are still increasing the demand for more, which is what drives the fashion industry to begin with. If you transfer your fast fashion consumption habits over to second hand stores, only to get rid of those pieces after a few wears, that’s still sustaining a culture of overconsumption and disposability. This does nothing to help, but compounds the problem.
That’s not to say never go shopping again, but our climate disaster and human rights violations aren’t going away if we keep demanding more. Constant consumption and disposal is a vicious cycle in itself, especially considering most of our donated clothes won’t be bought by someone else, rather, they’ll just become another piece of waste in the landfills.
This is the first of a series of posts, Sponsored by Clean Taos, on how to create a stress free, sustainable wardrobe, helping you make considered choices so that you begin to shop differently. Clean Taos, coincidentally owned by my daughter Genevieve (also co-owner of Shree Yoga with Suki Dalury), is part of the new Fashion Revolution.
“I really want to see people dress nicely again,” says Genevieve, who bemoans the rise of athleisure. She grew up in a family of sartorialists; Style matters. How one presents oneself to the world, matters. Rules are relaxed; it’s more about being appropriate for the occasion than anything else, and having the clothes for all those occasions, already in your possession. And those clothes need care and maintenance in order to last, a service she decided to provide. Both my daughters love to do the laundry, and quite rightly; it should not be a tedious job.
In following posts I’ll talk more about shopping with intention, storing clothes seasonally, creating wardrobe capsules for the various aspects of your life, how to hone in on your personal style, enabling you to save big bucks, and much more. Over my adult life, beginning during my years in NYC, where clothes storage was at a minimum, I learned to curate a carefully considered wardrobe; one that takes me everywhere with very little shopping involved. And even then, usually only to replace something too worn, or if I can see myself wearing it a hundred times.
I’m not a label snob; frankly I don’t care where my clothes come from; if the material is good, the seams are straight and the hems aren’t wonky, and it makes me feel good (comfortable), it’s mine. And as I already noted, if it’s in your closet, give it some love. Don’t throw it away just yet. Play dress up, reimagine it, wear it in an unexpected way. That tulle skirt you bought on a whim, wore once and now it languishes, forgotten in a pile somewhere in the depths of the closet? Try it perhaps, with a cardigan worn backwards as a top, Instead of stilettos, choose ballet slippers. Easier on your back and always chic. You get the idea.
First things first; empty your drawers and closets. Clean and vacuum. Go through your garments and try them on. Do they still fit? Are they too worn to wear? Do you hate it? Make piles. One for keepers, two for not sure yet, three to sell, four to donate, five to Clean. Put them all aside except for the keepers and dirty clothes. Put the clean garments back in the wardrobe. Store away the maybes, dispose of the rest carefully. Old tshirts can be recycled into rags. Your closet should already be smiling, not taunting you with so many clothes but nothing to wear.
1) Shop your closet.
An ethical wardrobe is one that is loved, cared for and worn. So basically it’s about loving what you’ve already got and taking care of it. It doesn’t matter if it comes from H&M or Gucci. You already own it and bought it for a reason, Most of us only wear 20% of our wardrobe on a regular basis, so instead of shopping for new clothes, shop your closet. Use what you have and wear what you own.
Mix and match old faves with newer, out of favour pieces, to create interesting ensembles. A challenge like Project 333 or the 10×10 wardrobe can help refresh your style and make you feel excited about your existing wardrobe again. They help you to create seasonal capsule wardrobes using what you already own, to refine your personal style with a wardrobe you’ll wear year after year.
Make it a habit to go through your wardrobe regularly, particularly when considering making a new purchase, to try out new outfit combinations with that piece in mind. It helps to see old pieces in a new light and will help you avoid impulse purchases.
2) Shop Less
And mindfully. Considering we don’t wear most of what’s in our wardrobes, it’s safe to say we don’t need more clothes. Some recent studies tell us that we discard around 90% of our purchases within six months. That’s mind boggling. Changing our shopping habits is the number one priority when creating a sustainable wardrobe.
When clothes are cheap, it’s easy to buy a lot of them without thinking about the long term costs.
Fast fashion has seduced us into an endless buying cycle. Clothing is produced in high volumes, quickly and cheaply, using methods that threaten natural resources, not to mention the damage to the social and ecological environment. Clothes are poorly made and trend-driven, rendering them easily disposable, creating more and more trash; fast fashion is clearly unsustainable; we buy too much and discard too quickly. For our wardrobes to be truly sustainable we need to make fewer purchases of higher quality, shop second-hand and avoid fast fashion brands if possible.
When we break the fast fashion habit by shopping less and investing in higher quality clothing we not only find ourselves with a more satisfying wardrobe, but also, a timeless one. And you can accomplish this on any budget.
3) Shop with intention
Making considered choices based on your lifestyle and budget is key. Figure out your priorities. So whether you’re a minimalist taking the capsule approach to your style or an environmentalist and vegan, who has the planet and the creatures in mind, or you are just trying to reduce your waste with low impact habits – whatever your values are – use them to guide your purchases.
If you’re struggling to change old shopping habits, begin by unsubscribing from fast fashion mailing lists, keep a wishlist and give yourself at least 24 hours before making a purchase, and learn where to shop for sustainable and eco-friendly clothing.
Creating a sustainable wardrobe long term requires us to permanently change our approach to fashion. Learning to buy with intention, and avoid fast fashion is about creating new habits. If you’re someone who shops regularly and buys a lot of clothes, it might help to try a shopping ban to break the habit. If you own a lot of clothes already, a style challenge as I mentioned earlier, can help you to appreciate what’s already in your wardrobe.
Consider setting a tighter budget and begin by looking for items you need second-hand before buying new. By thrifting for clothing you can also focus on buying eco-friendly natural fibers and better made garments and labels you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. There are so many different ways we can adjust our shopping habits to enable us to maintain a sustainable wardrobe without sacrificing style or our bank accounts.
And finally, keep your clothes clean. Some things require less cleaning than others. Denim for example, but we know for sure that moths don’t feast on cashmere and fine wool. They gorge themselves on the salt crystals left behind by your perspiration. And if you are thrifting, it’s definitely a good idea to make sure you remove any moth larvae or other insects and pests before wearing.
Clean Taos offers a few laundering options to suit your specific needs For more information, please visit their site linked below.
Join the Fashion Revolution. Get involved, see how you can help by checking out their site.
Photo of Genevieve in her Boiler Room (“his” name is Verne), taken on my iphone.
Other images, Stock Files