How would you define ‘sustainable fashion‘? Do you think it is an oxymoron?
While I’m not particularly interested in shopping for clothes and accessories, I am conscious about what I buy. After all, I want to look good and steer away from mindless consumption.
TIP: Buy less, choose more deliberately, make it last
I appreciate well-made clothes, especially leather shoes – my favourite brands are trippen and Heschung. I also prefer to buy from shops such as Simonne & Lisa b. in Paris that carry creations by up-and-coming designers and are run by people who are passionate about their business.
These may not be as affordable as what you might get from fast fashion brands such as H&M and Topshop. But I rather spend a little more for something that has been carefully produced on a smaller scale than a mass-produced article that was churned out by the minute in a factory where the workers are paid peanuts.
Side note: If you have the time, please view this sobering documentary on The Guardian about the Rana Plaza disaster and the Bangladeshi garment industry.
I also prefer classic or unique designs over whatever short-lived trends that appear in fashion magazines. I don’t want to wear the same dress as another woman at a party nor do I want to have to go shopping every other month to update my wardrobe!
It wasn’t always like this though, as AB would like to remind me from time to time.
Back in 2009, I had questioned his suggestion to buy a winter coat from an independent designer: “Are you sure they would have anything that I would like or of a good quality? Why don’t we go to Zara instead?”
He had to convince me to check out l’espace des createurs (which used to be on the top floor of Les Halles shopping mall) instead of looking at a mass-market brand.
It didn’t take us long to find a grey coat with a gorgeous pink and orange lining. I was converted.
Five years later, the coat has seen some wear and tear, particularly the inner lining which needs to be replaced, but the woollen exterior remains in excellent condition. Plus, I’ve not met anyone else wearing a similar coat.
I suppose the nature of the fashion business, in order to be profitable, makes it difficult for it to be sustainable. This is especially so for fast fashion brands which push out new collections every six weeks or so (instead of once every season) and spend enormous amounts of money on marketing to encourage people to buy.
But wouldn’t it be better if they cut down on advertising and spend more instead on making better-quality clothes and paying their employees and suppliers more?
TIP: If you really like something, go for it. Don’t settle for something less.
I recently came across a women’s magazine, The Gentlewoman, and there was an interview with Vivienne Westwood. I was not familiar with the magazine nor with the designer. After flipping through The Gentlewoman, I was impressed by its editorial content as well as by Westwood’s point of view on the fashion industry.
Here are two Westwood quotes that I liked:
“What I’m trying to do with my company – I think it needs it – is just to sell my really, really best things more and cut down on the quantity. That’s what I would like to do. And I feel that it is more environmentally friendly as well, to have an operation that’s really neat and not wasteful and not expanding out of control.”
“I think if you really like something, then you should try to buy it. And if you can’t afford it, don’t get something that is half the price but that you don’t really like. Don’t do that.”
When I was at Linva Tailors in Hong Kong to look for a cheongsam, I found one that I liked and fitted me to a ‘T’.
When I saw the price tag, I whispered to AB, “Wah, this costs more than five hundred Singapore dollars (around 350€)! That’s very expensive, no?”
His reply: “Not really considering the workmanship…”
I bought it.
TIP: Eat healthy and move more often
AB used to think that I was joking when I told him that I’m mindful of what I eat so that I don’t gain weight and don’t have to buy new clothes. He now sees the wisdom of my words: I fit comfortably into my clothes from a decade ago and still wear many of them today (excluding those in bright fuchsia pink and overly short tops) 😉
I don’t follow an exercise regime nor diet. I eat sensibly and in moderation – for instance, I enjoy a square of dark chocolate almost every day.
I don’t run and dislike going to the gym but I make it a point to walk instead of driving and I take the stairs whenever I can.
This way, I stay healthy and in shape, and don’t have to buy new clothes because the old ones don’t fit. Which means more money for something else such as a book, holiday or bottle of single-malt whisky!
Many of my comments above would apply for other industries and products too – be it cameras or kitchen appliances. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear people lament about how the quality of certain household products that used to last for decades has deteriorated.
P.S. I have not touched on the ecological/environmental impact of the fashion industry and how this is handled within ‘sustainable fashion’ as I am not an expert on this subject.