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(Feminist) Strategies for sustainable wardrobe

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Last week we celebrated International Women Day. I decided to use the occasion to call my Instagram fam to think about all women in the fashion industry suffering our unconscious shopping decisions. Women, who don’t really have a voice and can’t speak up. Women who work in horrible conditions, who earn unfair wages and who don’t have a way out from their situations. If you want to learn more about it, watch "The True Cost".

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If you consider yourself a feminist and want to celebrate ALL women on the International Women Day, quit fast fashion. There is no feminism in fast fashion, it’s that simple. You just can’t have both! If you want all women to be treated equally and with respect, start from yourself and respect work of all women (and children) in the fashion industry.

I got so many lovely responses to my post and will share some of them here.

@jacqui_makes Couldn’t agree more re: all brand new capsule wardrobes or a feverish switch to all hand-makes. We gotta USE what we have instead of looking at new shiny things, even if the shiny things are ethically made 💪🏼🧠💥

Marketing often makes us think, that we can buy our way to more sustainable lifestyle. I call BS. I’ve seen so many capsule wardrobe coaches and shops, it drives me crazy. They try to make you believe that if you buy next 30 ethical pieces, you’ll be doing something good. No, you won’t be. Believe me now: you just don’t need more clothes. You have all you need in your own wardrobe, and it’s most probably really cool already. If there’s something missing, there are so many things you could do instead of buying it. Buying is always the last option for me, so I decided to write down some strategies for sustainable wardrobe.

Strategies for sustainable wardrobe

@abeeinthebonnet I love your point about how buying new clothing we don't need isn't a solution, no matter how it's made. I saw an article recently that said, essentially, you can't consume your way to sustainability. It's so true. The best way to honor and care for our world and each other is to buy only what we need, when we need it, and pay fair process for the material and labor that went into it. It's hard sometimes, but worth it.

Reduce - We have hundreds of items in our wardrobes. So many of them were worn on just a few occasions or not worn at all. When I realized I want to change my shopping habits, I got rid of 75% of my clothes. I am not missing any. I always have something to wear and I don’t feel bad dressed. I decided to keep only the pieces I wear regularly and not buy anything else to see how it works. And it did work perfectly. I’m not going to list all the benefits of having fewer clothes and shopping less because there are so many it would take a whole new post. I would say just try it.

Reuse - What to do when your clothes get stained, a hole pops up or they don’t fit anymore? Definitely don’t get rid of them! It’s not an excuse to buy something new, it’s a chance to work on your DIY skills. There are so many options to reuse your clothes. Try mending holes, there are more than enough beautiful mending techniques covered online. You can try to redesign or alter your old pieces, it’s much fun and leaves you with one-of-a-kind, unique style. Dye your clothes to cover stains, either by overdyeing, bundle dyeing or making shibori patterns.

Recycle - You don’t have to buy brand new clothes to get new clothes. Try following ideas to get clothes that are new to you. The first thing you should consider when on the lookout for something you need is borrowing it. A party dress for your friend’s wedding is most probably something you wouldn’t be wearing much, so just try to borrow one from your sister/bestie/mum you name it. Works like a charm. Another great idea is to organize a clothes swap party with your friends and exchange pieces you don’t wear anymore. Another common thing in Berlin is people leaving their old clothes on the street for others to collect them. I scored really cool shorts this way right before hot summer came - one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? The last and obvious option is thrifting. Here in Berlin, thrifting is almost a sport. There are so many unique and beautiful pieces you can find.

@mosskeramik Beautiful post! I buy nearly no clothes either. I find a lot of great clothes abandoned on the street in my neighborhood. When I do need something specific, I always thrift.

Shop consciously If all of above fail, that’s the last option - get a brand new piece. You can either make it yourself or purchase from another shop. In both cases remember to look for natural and certified fabrics. I wrote another post about certified cotton, what GOTS means and why it’s all so important, you can find it here. Make conscious shopping decisions. Consider what it’s made of, how it’s made and who made it. Try to answer these questions and see if you’re comfortable with the answers. Hand your money to people you trust.

@untitledthoughts Yes thank you for using your voice for the voiceless! I totally understand where you are coming from and that is why I am participating in the 6 week 6 items challenge of only wearing 6 articles of clothing for 6 whole week’s. It’s been an amazing experience and I think more people should look at how they can bring their current wardrobe new life instead of consuming more just because it is “ethical” or “sustainable.” Only consume when you really have to ❤️

If you’re asking yourself if I buy clothes, the honest answer is yes. In the last 2,5 years, I bought 1 top, 1 T-shirt and two dresses from fellow makers, I also thrifted a coat. I did not need these clothes (apart from the coat), but I loved what the makers stood for. I bought them as an act of appreciation and to support people I admire. I bought them as pieces of art, and each time I took a year to decide if I’m not impulse shopping (hate impulse shopping). In the same time, I donated around 70 old pieces, which I felt I don't really need and I still have some more clothes I want to give away soon. I feel lighter and more organized. I don’t know if I’m stylish but hey, I really don’t care, I have a business to run! I know I was photographed by street style bloggers during Berlin Fashion Week last month, though :-) so I think I’m fine. And most importantly, so is Mama Earth and garment workers.

To end this post: I also received one comment which might make some makers feel uncomfortable. How does it feel to be a maker and add to the pool by using up resources? Anybody else facing this dilemma? I have an opinion on that, which I will share in the next post. I would also love to hear your thoughts and how you feel about it. The original comment by @pickled_alien that made me go back to my "why" below:

pickled_alien I’m glad that you share this opinion! I very much want to be supportive of small businesses, but it is hard for me to justify it on a philosophical level because there are so many and they only add to the pool of scarce resources being used up unnecessarily. I even feel weird donating as I know that thrift stores get so much that a large amount ends up in landfills anyway. I think even if every non-food business stopped producing for ten years or so we’d likely still have more than enough goods for everyone. But at this point I don’t know how it would ever stop. It feels like a runaway train.

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Ania GrzeszekComment