Not one astrologer told us that the world would collectively experience its Eat Pray Love phase in 2020, yet here we are. Of course, our soul-searching is limited to within the walls of our home, but there’s still plenty to discover.
That’s especially true if you look into your wardrobe, whose contents now hardly see the light of day (literally). When you get ready for yet another time-blurring session of Working From Home, do you reach for that limited-edition, logo-emblazoned top you bought just to flex, or something a lot more anonymous, comfortable and frankly, basic?
Probably the latter, and we don’t blame you. The beauty of our turbulent times is that we are beginning to see what really matters to us. You may feel less inclined to spend money on designer handbags (unless you’re in China) and more so on well-made clothing that will never go out of style.
How timely, then, that Vestiaire Collective has launched its Wardrobe Reality Check Challenge, urging the fashion-minded to “break old habits, free themselves from pieces they no longer need, and learn how to build an eco-conscious wardrobe for the future.” The challenge already counts some high-profile participants, including environmental activists Lily Cole and Arizone Muse, Singaporean creative consultant Mae Tan, and climate activist Steph Shep.
The Wardrobe Reality Check Challenge marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but its philosophy of sustainability should continue to inform our shopping decisions well past 22 April. That’s why we’ve listed some tips from Vestiaire Collective and thrown in some of our own to help you rethink and rediscover your style.
Whether you’re a fan or not, Marie Kondo had a point. You don’t need all the stuff you have, especially the ones sitting in your wardrobe. In fact, Vestiaire Collective states that over half of people’s wardrobes have not been worn in the last year. Sift out the suspects from your closet and you’ll start to see what mindless consumers capitalism has made of us.
But don’t get rid of them as carelessly as you had purchased them. Instead, consider donating them to charities like the Salvation Army, or send them for recycling to an environmental non-profit organization like The Green Square.
According to Vestiaire Collective, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 44% if we simply doubled the number of times we wear the clothes that we have. Along with the clothes you no longer wear, it’s time to be rid of the mentality that repeating an outfit is some kind of crime against fashion. After all, don’t designers themselves take a bow in their distinctive uniforms at the end of every fashion show?
So take another look at the clothes you have and assess them as you would a potential partner — you’d want to keep both for life. Pay attention to the silhouettes, the cuts and the fabrics that you frequently choose to wear, and you’ll start to discern what your personal style really is. The next time you shop, you’ll do so with focus and frugality.
Clothing rental services have become very popular in the last couple of years, but what they really sell you is no different from what fast fashion does: the idea of affordable, disposable fashion.
Again, if we truly want to start a sustainable lifestyle, we need to learn to love our clothes in the long run and not treat them like one night stands. Shopping for clothes to wear just for a single day is an empty pursuit, one that will inevitably lead us back into our guilty habit of overconsumption.
Do as Vivienne Westwood says: “Buy less, choose well, make it last.” Thankfully, it’s easy to find eco-conscious fashion brands to shop from today. You’ll be doing the world just as much of a favour by purchasing a pair of cruelty-free, vegan leather pants as from supporting a brand that champions upcycling.
You should also expect to fork up a little more cash for these clothes. After all, sustainable business practises tend to be costlier, and you’ll want to keep your favourite brands in business. Another plus? High prices will help break the habit of spending frivolously.
If you can embrace the idea of wearing a stranger’s old clothes, the world of vintage and pre-loved fashion is open for you to explore on platforms like Vestiaire Collective and TheRealReal. Westwood’s “choose well” mantra applies here, too. Don’t splurge on past-season designer products just because they’ll make for a good throwback OOTD moment on Instagram. Instead, invest in products that will age well, including timeless styles like a Birkin or a Saddle bag.
We now understand the true importance of good hygiene and cleanliness, but that doesn’t mean you have to go overboard. Unless they’re soaked in sweat, you can get away with washing your clothes after two or three wears. Even Stella McCartney thinks so. “If you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it,” said the designer. “I don’t just chuck stuff into a washing machine because it’s been worn.”
You won’t be doing them your clothes any favours by washing them too often, either. Some fabrics are best maintained simply by air drying or steaming. Those methods are great for the ocean too, because they don’t cause microplastic pollution.