Sustainable Fashion and Me

The problem? It’s pretty serious.

An 8-story textile factory in Bangladesh collapsed on the 24th of April 2013. The incident left over a thousand workers killed whilst injuring 2500 others (mostly women). Called the Rana Plaza disaster, it is now known as the deadliest garment factory accident to date. Major western clothing brands such as Mango and Zara were called into question for allowing workers to work in unsafe conditions at an unfair wage rate. It really questions the ethical and sustainable practices within the industry.

Sitting in class and listening to my propaganda lecturer explain the occurrence of modern day slavery, stirred up a certain feeling within my heart. It gets you thinking when sitting in the comforts of our UNMC classes when you hear the stories of the dark side of consumerism. Overall, it gnaws my mind to think of these real world issues. Especially, realising that ME and YOU are chipping into exploitation every single time we make a fast fashion purchase.

The fact is, fast fashion retailers are engaging in extremely high levels of production. This is followed by exceedingly cheap sales to the extent that their products increase in disposability. Thus, ending up in landfills in countries like Kenya. The society is not only destroying people, but consecutively deteriorating our environment. And to think of it? The act of constantly drowning ourselves in material goods? It suffices for a “high” that lasts for only so long. Soon, causing us to grow emptier day by day. Therefore, we’re also essentially destroying ourselves. But — we could do better, and work beyond this!

The solution? Capsule Wardrobe.

For a start, it may not seem as much. However, I recently came across this concept called the capsule wardrobe. It is essentially a small collection of useful clothing that you love. These clothes are good quality pieces that last long, will make you look good, will not go out of style and can be worn interchangeably with other pieces in your collection. Basically, they are pieces that exude in both quality and versatility.

Taking the first step…

Rome wasn’t built in a day! Thus, it is all about taking that first step and building up from there. This semester (Autumn 2019), I did a tiny experiment for myself to try it out. I was tired of being broke and having a wardrobe full of clothes that I can’t wear. An instant challenge for me was, that I didn’t have enough clothes that matched one another. I  had a lot of these outrageous colours, crazy prints and odd cuttings. I even found clothes at the back of my wardrobe that I have never seen before or vaguely remembered buying. It was really BAD.

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But, THANKFULLY! I only had three days of classes this semester. So I carefully selected a few pieces that I loved and looked good in and brought them with me to campus. They were three hijabs, two blouses, two turtlenecks, one long black inner, a long beige vest and two pairs of jeans – one black and one blue. I decided that these were the only things I’d wear for the entire semester. Eeek!

I had a few concerns. Firstly, since I have a few pieces of clothing, I would naturally need to wash my clothes more often. Did I have the time? Second, was I going to get bored wearing the same clothes? Third, WERE MY FRIENDS GOING TO NOTICE? Are they going to judge me or think I’m weird or worse, lazy? That last one made my heart flip a little but I was more excited at the idea that I was taking my first step towards a more sustainable practice and styling with an ethical element to it.

What I Learned from the Capsule Wardrobe Experiment

From the 23rd of September up till the 13th of December, I wore roughly about 6 different outfits for class. 81 days of trying the capsule wardrobe later, this is what I learnt :

Am I like the female Steve Jobs now?

Getting dressed in the morning became less painful and so much easier. I’m talking about taking a total of 5 seconds when picking out an outfit. I even had more time to focus on other things, like skincare. My skin is the best right now than it has even been. It used to take me about 1 hour to get ready. But now? 30- 40 minutes in (including a shower, ironing, skincare and makeup!), and I’m out the door to get my breakfast.

Will my friends think I’m lazy?

It also baffles me a little, how none of my friends have said anything. But of course, I asked them directly about a week ago in order to write this article and *drum rolls* some of them said they DID notice. Others didn’t. I guess it was because I experimented with too few sets of outfits to begin with. They said they didn’t notice the repeated blouses I wear but they just noted that I had the same “style”. Well, that wasn’t as bad as expected! The thing I feared most kindaaa happened and I’m still alive. It’s funny how we’re so self-conscious. How society has decided that we can’t be seen wearing the same clothes twice. 

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Won’t I be spending so much time doing laundry?

Since I didn’t have many clothes to wash using the washing machine at any one time, I decided to adopt a new laundry routine. I would spend 15 minutes every two days or so washing 3-4 pieces of clothing. This will sound odd but washing my clothes by hand helped me love my clothes more. I would notice every inch of it, the labels (the no machine wash labels that I IGNORED all this while), the stitching on the collar, the feel of the clothes.

Before this, I simply threw my clothes into the washing machine and just HOPED they’ll survive. Piece of cake! BUT — hand-washing is way more delicate, and to think of it? It might just be another way to ensure my wardrobe lasts longer, saving the need to make more purchases. It also gave me the peace of mind, knowing my clothes won’t shrink, expand or magically turn into a new colour. In a way, I also saved so much money not going to the laundromat, saved two hours going there every week and as mentioned now I am in love with all my clothes. Truly an amazing feeling.

Won’t I get bored?

To be completely honest? I did get bored…… Because I only had three hijabs, I found myself experimenting with different ways to style it. I found a new style that better fits my face shape and it doesn’t require me to consistently flip something over my shoulder every 5 minutes. It’s funny how simple things can help improve how something looks. Maybe it’s tucking in the t-shirt, rolling up the sleeves, adding a belt etc. It’s not that we need new outfits, we just need to creatively try new ways to style it.

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The next step is…?

Now that I know I can live on a modest amount of clothes, I think the next step in my sustainable fashion journey is to change my shopping habits. I’ve done a bit of thrift shopping before, but I think I should actively seek out more thrift shops to do the bulk of my shopping. Also, I know I should steer clear of impulse “but that looks so fun” Zara purchases because the colour is wrong and I know it will be out of style in about 2.4 nanoseconds. It totally takes time and diligence, and does require a bit of investment to get pieces that will last, but I know the end result would be worth it and amazing! Both on my skin, and for the care and benefit of a cause beyond myself.

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Extras: An example of a capsule wardrobe. It can be as neutral or as colourful as you want. <3

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All in all?

We really only want three things in life when it comes to fashion. 1. To look pretty good most of the time. 2. To still have brain space for other things and 3. Have fun with fashion and style without destroying our planet. I think having a capsule wardrobe is a really fabulous idea to achieve all these goals and I urge everyone to try it. You would be surprised how little you need, how much you save and how fulfilling you feel inside. 

We hope you’ve taken some inspiration to keep styling with a little more than just looking good in mind!

For more stylish inspo, check out more of our write ups, by clicking here!

Written by Anyss Athira, Style Section Writer.

Fashion failures happen, but with failure comes success.

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