Sustainable stylist Stephanie King from Painted Bird. Image supplied.
So, what constitutes Sustainable Fashion? In this day and age, and certainly at this point in the climate crisis, we are absolutely bombarded with terminology and reference. So many ‘views’, so many ‘clicks’. Kudos to Evelyn Ebrey at FashioNZ, for supporting brands that bring variety to the ethical fashion playground. Kudos to former Fashion Quarterly editor Zoe Walker, who recently dedicated almost an entire issue to bringing awareness to the terms in the fashion marketplace and hopefully, educating those who may not yet be on board. Kudos to editor Carolyn Enting from Good Magazine, for bringing to the fore the changemakers and positive movers and shakers to an end goal of – a better space for us all.
From my perspective, having also been swamped as a personal stylist with brands and stores touting ‘good’ fashion, I believe there really is only one type of ‘good’ fashion – that which has already been created.
When you look at the piles and piles of clothing distributed to charity stores and then later dumped for a variety of reasons. When you look at the towering mounds all over the world of unsold fast fashion brands and stock going up in smoke. When you hear large and small countries asking us to STOP sending all the things you don’t want because they are filling up their countries too. When you look at the dyes running in waterways, poisoning people and animals in their wake. When you find out there are massive, mile long warehouses filled to the gunnels with fabrics that have already done their polluting when being manufactured, that are not being used.
These are just a few reasons that cement my thoughts. We do not need to continue to manufacture new – we need to use what we have.
For this stopping of manufacturing, COVID-19 – I thank you. Production has stopped. Some of those poor people in jobs creating the contributions to the aforementioned issues have been reassigned for ‘good’ works; making personal safety pieces and helping to save the world instead. These people need jobs and I applaud and bow down to them for doing the antithesis of their previous role. Needs must.
Please don’t get me wrong. Shop in that local Vintage and retro store. Shop in that recycle and charity store. Shop designer, where they create exclusive short runs and unique pieces they are proud to call their own. Support these people changing the face of shopping as we know it. We are working hard at it! There are plenty of ‘new’ things to be found! Both new to you, and new as in never been worn, with the tag still on. While this article is certainly not meant to be a slight to the human race, it is a mere fact that we have just been consuming too much. It is old news. The same as other addictions, shopping has been instrumentally negative to both personal lives and to our environmental impact on the earth’s life (crisis time!).
Painted Bird Vintage in Milford, Auckland.
With all these thoughts above, if you have been clearing out your wardrobe during this lockdown period, I would urge you to look at opening up the ‘pile qualifications’ a little wider than you normally would. Take a more sustainably-minded approach. It is a change of behaviour and thinking and, we are all going through change.
Sorting piles to donate is the same as putting fruit, veges and meat into the different compartments of the fridge freezer. When I go to assist a client with a wardrobe edit, from a Sustainable Stylist perspective, I recommend we start this way:
Firstly, anything that does not fit, does not make you feel good or just doesn’t ‘spin your dials’ any more needs to go to the main sorting space.
From there we approach like this:
Pile 1: To a Vintage Store for sale or donation – many offer both options. Don’t forget that donations don’t only have to go to charity stores. Particularly in this current climate. Any article of clothing that is 30+ years old is potentially classified as ‘Vintage’ or retro and therefore of value to other people. Check out Ruby Lane, 1st Dibs, Etsy and Ebay for pricing outside of New Zealand, where this type of fashion is held in the same regard as designer pieces. Add to these criteria any designer labeled clothing. Anything that is a designer label needs to either go to the Pile 1 if it is older than 30 years or Pile 2 if it is newer.
Pile 2: To recycle stores for sale or donate. This is for designer and high street brands. These stores take a variety of brands but are not really equipped to sell Vintage or retro. They prefer not to sell the mainstream online and mall fast fashion brands such as BooHoo, ASOS, Wish etc. Take good quality clothing and be sure to pick it up if you want to try again to sell it elsewhere.
Pile 3: To the charity store of your choice for donation only. Mainstream online brands and ‘rejects’ from the recycle stores, as well as the items from above Pile 2 post cull. This does not include things that are stained, ripped, broken or in any way not usable. It is unfair to drop off unsaleable goods and further the dumping costs that the charity has to pay. They are there to make a buck so don’t make them pay to dump instead!
Pile 4: Blue bins, drop off bins located around the city. These bins provide a 4% donation distributed amongst the number of charities listed. Unless the bin specifically says all donations go to a particular charity – they end up at the Textile Recycling Centre (Savemart) for sale or to produce rags for trades etc. Read more information on this here. Those things that are stained and ruined can be used for rags and can go into these bins.
Shoes are a bit of a sad case. Unless they can be worn without re-heeling or other repair, they often can’t be saved.
It may seem like a bit more work, but this is circularity at its finest!
A very real part of this process is looking at what you have bought and why exactly you have decided to move it on.
If you are buying for the sake of buying, you will see a lot of unworn garments or tags still on. These lonely pieces can be loved by someone else! Send them OUT with your blessing to be coveted by someone else.
If you have changed shape you will see a lot of things that don’t fit. There is nothing wrong with this – it is the reality of life. If you struggle with this issue – purging your wardrobe repeatedly is not going to help the underlying reasoning and you will probably keep buying things that don’t make you happy. That is not a sustainable shopping habit. Get happy however you need to – but get to the root of the issue and work outwards.
A rack of beautiful vintage clothes at Painted Bird.
You will probably see things you are/have been emotionally tied to. Sometimes they are just a comfort and as long as the whole wardrobe isn’t filled with them, there is no harm if it makes you happy. Get rid of things that make you sad or angry. There is no reason to open your wardrobe and create those feelings unnecessarily.
It is good to declutter and purge, it clears the mind ready for other things; to fill the space or create clarity in your style direction. If you regularly declutter, are you refilling with more of the same? If yes, maybe there is a need to get a professional to help you out to plan future purchasing decisions.
Take a sustainable approach. For example, put that money you receive from selling your clothes towards investing in a personal stylist to help you out. Make sure you talk to them and look at what brands they are attached to via social media and websites. If they are supporting brands that don’t resonate – look at another stylist. There are HEAPS of us out there, all with our own raison d’être. Mine is to help you make more sustainable shopping choices. Not buying new is certainly one of those ways. It is only a habit and the way forward is to change that.
Let’s clear the way for better shopping choices. Think of it like this – Style is not a fast undertaking. Don’t follow trends, follow your own lead and ‘Be your own Bird’.