“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” ~Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin was a French lawyer better known as an epicure and gastronome.
Can we translate this famous quote into Tell me what you wear and I will tell you who you are?
Let`s have a quick glimpse at our past – Eastern Bloc, a few decades ago. People are standing in queues for bread, butter, or meat. Also for shoes and clothes. Families got a ticket that entitled them to 2,5 kg meat /month. Lining up from 5am for an orange or a banana for the kids on the 6th of December (“Santa Claus Day”) and it could have easily happened that after 3 hours of waiting, they closed the doors right in front of your nose, hanging out the sign “sold out".
Butter was available only in every 5th town, winter shoes only in every 2nd bigger city. You could choose from 3 models – if you were lucky. There was no surprise that when the Iron Curtain fell, and exciting goods from the West started to flow into these countries, people wanted to hoard everything they could.
Things became available, life standards lifted and people started to pile up stuff. Not because they needed it, but because they could! Let's get one more package of cookies and another pair of boots! The industry is more than happy to supply this unreasonable demand, not only to supply it but to boost it!
Of course, this is a very simplified overview, but I think you get my point... Generally true, Eastern Bloc or Western Bloc, is that the consumption pushing business approach is present in every market. Everything is speeded up, doubled, tripled, multiplied – buy one, get the second for 50% off, get the third one for free! The fact that I actually don't need 3 pairs of sandals doesn`t really matter.
Take it, use it, did you break it? Whatever, it is cheap, get a new one! Get a different color, a new design, a slightly different material, a little shorter sleeves, a little higher waist! The more you buy, the more colorful your life will be!
The more you buy, the more you are!
And the more you buy, the less energy/time you have to deal with things that actually really matter in life...
The most sustainable piece of cloth is the one that is not manufactured. But we need clothes...so what do we do? How can I fight on my individual level against this “purchase-push”? How can I resist the temptation of all the beautiful advertisements and the “it's a mistake to miss” offers? How can I slow down my consumption?
The answer is slow fashion!
Slow fashion can be identified as quality-based rather than time-based. Well-made, long-lasting clothes from sustainable and ethical sources.
Here are a few questions to ask from yourself before hitting the POS terminal with your contactless card at the cashier:
How many times am I going to wear this piece? If the answer is less than let's say 20, you might put it back.
Do I have anything at home to wear this piece with? If not, then we are back to the first question – how many times am I going to wear it? Ahhh, never....ooor I buy 5 more new pieces to have something that matches the new item! Is this really a smart idea?
I learned a tip from a good friend of mine: choose 5 colors that you really like and stick to them. Of course, there will be different shades of blue, pink, or gray in your wardrobe, but you can be sure that these items will match. (Btw if you are into or getting into sustainability, I highly recommend visiting her Instagram page and feel free to send her any questions on this topic)
How many tanktops do I have already in my wardrobe? Is this going to be my 10th pair of jeans? 11?? Why do I need 11 pairs of jeans?! Back to the first question..how many times do I wear each and every tanktop/hoodie/leggings/jeans that I own....?
What is this fabric? How is it going to look like after the second wash? And then (I guess you know what I am going to say) – back to the first question....how many times can I actually wear this piece?
Which shop am I in? What is the brand I am buying? Who made this piece? Did it travel across the world? And it is still only 4 euros?! Isn't it suspicious that something is not OK with this production?
The golden tagline: quality vs. quantity.
Sounds good, costs a lot. What is a lot? Compared to what? If you decide to invest in a piece, that comes from 100% ethical sources, local production, uses recycled, quality materials, the cut perfectly fits you, you are literally shining in it, and you know very well that you had to work hard to get the money for it – won`t you appreciate that epic piece more than any other item in your drawers?
When you know that this one is going to last longer in perfect condition than 3 of the other cheap alternatives, then you might re-evaluate. What does "expensive" really mean? And if you are wearing it for years and years, you aced the test, the critical first question - how many times am I going to wear it? ;)
If you're wondering where to find these local, ethical companies, let me recommend to you the brand Circlle (www.circlle.cz). Their story is completely transparent, their leggings are super comfy, and you can listen to an interview with the founder, Natalia on our podcast here. ;)
Oki, all these are great, I can fully stand behind it, but what if I simply don`t have the money? I promise I would spend it in a good way, but I just don`t have it! Here are a few more tips on how to turn your wardrobe into the temple of slow fashion on a low budget!
Second-hand! If your memories from childhood are like mine, thrift shops are dirty, smelly, and pretty much gross places in your head. The current situation – Thank God! - looks very different. Clothes (and other stuff) are sorted, organized and clean. You can find online second-hand shops, or, what I like even more is, buying second-hand from an individual.
Trash for one, a treasure for the others! Do you have the Vinted app already downloaded on your phone? ;) Second-hand pieces always have their own story, and this story is ready to be continued with you!
Or swap! Where? Join Swap groups on Facebook, start the treasure-hunt there. Ooor, swap with your friends! Exchange your wardrobe for a month and enjoy his/her pieces as new ones. It will help you to refresh your daily outfit but it also helps to re-appreciate your old pieces once you get them back :)
How about learning how to sew? Well...that`s not my thing....but! I learned how to fix holes and sew patches. I know it sounds very minimal but honestly, I am so proud of myself when I wear my jacket, put my hands into my pocket, and tada, there is no more hole there!! :)
Another thing I find entertaining and (sometimes) rewarding is to experiment with my old pieces. Cutting sleeves to make new tanktops from boring T-shirts, new shorts from forgotten jeans. Grab your scissors and I dare to cut ;)
If this doesn`t sound like your thing, there are people out there who've mastered this process – have you heard about upcycling? Take an old item, give it to this talented person and you will get back a totally unique, design piece that you will never come across on the street!
How to sum this up? Choose your brand, know their policies, and stick to them. Buy a piece or two from a higher price range and a few others from second-hand. Don`t buy useless gifts, and ask your family to not get useless gifts for you either. Swap, exchange, upgrade, re-purpose, donate, and forget about throwing your old items into the trash.
Fall in love with your pieces and when the love fades away, give a chance for somebody else to love them again :)