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FASHION & ACCESSORIES
litres of water go into the making of one outfit (jeans, T-shirt)
Where would we be without clothes, right? Or bags or shoes? Nowhere. Many people ask me: so, how do you do it? Isn't sustainable fashion a lot more expensive/more difficult to find/uglier than regular clothes? Not per se, sometimes and no. In this chapter I'll show you why. I actually like buying clothes now a lot more than I used to. Because I no longer do it indifferently. Where's the joy in being indifferent? Indifference towards your food is no fun, nor towards living or learning. It's much more interesting and satisfying to buy (or eat or learn) something you really want. The same goes for clothes – I enjoy my purchases much more, because I don't just buy the first thing that looks okay and is cheap. Compare it with the (mindless) eating of an entire bag of crisps, in contrast to an exquisite piece of cake. You'll probably feel guilty, nauseous and big after finishing the crisps, and while the cake might be a bit more expensive, you'll have enjoyed it more. And once you've finished it, you still do. That's what I mean.
billion kilos of clothes and textiles end up in American landfills every year
So overall, I buy a little less, but spend a little more. Yes, you've guessed it: quality over quantity. I've had to learn this, I sometimes find spending money quite difficult. And my partner too. We were pleased to realise that we've started spending more money recently. On life in general, but certainly also on clothes, shoes and bags. Because if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's this: cheap doesn't mean that it doesn't cost much, but that someone else is paying the price. Sustainable products are not expensive, regular ones are too cheap.
billion: the amount of clothes we produce annually worldwide (11 pairs of jeans, jackets or dresses per person, 4 times more than in 2000)
Fortunately, sustainable, good-quality products generally last longer, making the 'price per use' lower, so that we're actually better off in the long-term. Because the cliché is true: you get what you pay for. If you choose something that doesn't cost a lot and you subsequently can only wear a few times because there are holes in it, or looks like a piece of rag after three washes, you need to keep buying, ultimately spending more. Not smart, but definitely how we've become programmed. We should really shake off that short-term way of thinking. Buy better quality items that cost more, use them for years and you'll spend less. More may seem better, but a growing number of people are questioning this.
Including me, so I try to only buy what I need. If I have to replace something, or because it would be good to have so that I can combine and actually wear more of my clothes. I don't just randomly grab something that I 'like'. It's easier now than it used to be, because I better understand my own body and style. Bad buys are not only a waste in terms of money, but also in terms of the environment and the effort of the people that have made that skirt. So, I know my own taste, and that actually, I never wear skirts. Many people have said clever things about this. Pioneering fashion designer Vivienne Westwood says it best: 'Buy less, choose well and make it last. In fact, don't buy this collection at all.'
million trees on average are cut down each year to make fabric (30% of which are from primary forests and threatened areas)
At nearly every workshop or lecture I give, it turns out that everyone wears about 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. We need to bring this more into balance. Being sustainable with your clothes, bags, shoes and jewellery is also about much more than buying new things. It's about second-hand, swapping and sharing, repairing, washing and recycling. People sometimes think that most doors close if you want to be sustainable, that you aren't allowed anything anymore. But actually, all kinds of doors open: you discover new stores and brands, as well as possibilities. You have a lot more freedom, you no longer have to buy and wear everything the regular fashion chains want. Great! But what can you wear? And how do you find it? That's what this chapter is about.
the percentage of the total CO2 emissions caused by the fashion industry (in comparison: the aviation industry is responsible for 2.5%)
euros is the minimum wage in the garment industry in Bangladesh, what they need to live from is around 294 euros – so this is 20%
The average British woman buys about 3,100 items of clothing in her life, including 270 pairs of shoes, 185 dresses and 145 bags. In total, she spends approximately 105,000 euros on clothes. At the same time, 60% say often not to know what to wear.
Know your Wardrobe
One of the first stops for sustainable fashion, is your own wardrobe. The longer you make do with what's in it, the better. It may sound corny, but it's not. Because the contents can often be quite surprising. We don't always know exactly what we have. But that knowledge is quite useful, as it tells you all kinds of things: what you like to buy, what you like to wear (which isn't always the same thing), what you have lots of, and what's missing from your collection that you could combine some of your other items with. Having a thorough rummage through your wardrobe is one of the best ways to make it more sustainable (and it clears up nicely!).
> Your clothes are made of all kinds of different materials, from cotton to polyester and from lycra to modal. But what is what? Have a look when you're going through your wardrobe, also at what you prefer. This will help make your next purchase something you will actually wear and suits you.
> You have the whole world in your wardrobe: it's quite amazing how many countries your clothes come from, and from how far away. Read the labels, it gives you an idea of how global the fashion industry is – and maybe, a wish list of places your clothes have been, but you haven't (yet!).
Clearing Out is Great (or It Can Be)
I actually don't do this often enough, even though I know it works. Clearing out your wardrobe really helps: with less clothes, you better know what to wear and what you still need. In short, go for it! Like this, for example:
01. Make three piles: 1) Definite keepers, 2) To go, and 3) Unsure.
02. Looking at the 'Unsure' pile, consider this:
> Does it still look good? Is it still in one piece? No? Get rid of it. Has it lost its shape, are the colours faded or is the wool bobbling? Out with it.
> Does it still fit? If not, it can go (it's not going to fit any better).
> Have I worn it in recent years? No? Ditch it. Unless you easily can come up with something else in your wardrobe to combine it with.
03. Divide the pile that can stay into two: basic items (jeans, black trousers, white shirt, blazer, jumper, cardigan, sneakers, flats, those kinds of things) and items that allow you to vary and combine (the more colourful, unique items). The ideal ratio is said to be 70/30, but don't hold me to that and see what suits you.
04. Take a good look at the piles. What items are you missing, to combine so that you can wear as much of your wardrobe as possible? Go in search of them.
05. Of course, don't throw away the clothes and accessories you're getting rid of. Sell, swap, donate or give as a gift. More about this later (see p. 059).
06. Be strict with yourself. Difficult now, great later.
Well, that's better. This is your basic collection.
And Now Stick with It:
* One in, one out. So, if you buy a new dress or coat, another one goes. If you're given a new bag, another one goes. You get the gist. This will keep your wardrobe nice and tidy and you'll really be able to use everything.
* Invest in your signature item (or items, of course). The thing you always turn to if you want to feel fantastic, powerful, beautiful. For me it's a jumpsuit, yours maybe a jacket or good shirt. Something you wear your entire life, your go-to item (guys, this sounds familiar too, doesn't it?).
* Always choose quality over quantity. Always. So often, that I'll talk about this a lot more later.
* Go for timeless. Again, as often as you can. Trends pass, and everyone looks the same. And suddenly that print is a real no-go in a few months' time (which in itself is bizarre, so never mind that if this trend happens to be your perfect style). Your clothes will go together much better and be easier to combine if you choose classic items – and you'll be able to wear them a lot longer.
* Is there an item you don't have that would make it easier to get dressed every morning? Buy it (not something else).
Style is Everything
You can buy, swap, sew, borrow and steal clothes, but not style (okay, you can steal that). Style is how we put our look together, our personal fashion language, our je-ne-sais-quoi. It's not about expensive things, big names or following the crowd. Often quite the opposite. The choices you make about your top, jeans, coat and bag, and how you combine them, say a lot about you. About how you want to be seen, your taste and what's important to you. Knowing your style matters, because it can prevent bad buys. You of course look better if you know what suits you and what makes you feel invincible. Invest in getting to know your style, then you won't get carried away by hypes and you'll buy the right things.
> What colours work best for you? Depending on your eyes, hair and skin tone, you probably fit into a colour type. This can help you find your style and enhance your appearance.
> What's your body shape? What clothes, styles and prints suit this well? Good to know – and be honest with yourself. It'll ultimately be for the best. Also if you think you're perfect and can wear absolutely anything. That's your prerogative.
> Tastes differ, but in general, these things won't benefit your style:
* Try not to buy counterfeits. Fake is for wannabes, it plays into the hands of dubious industries, unregulated in terms of working conditions or the environment. The quality also often leaves a lot to be desired too.
* Sandblasted jeans (it gives workers lung disease and cancer) or sequins (fiddly work, so more often done by children).
* Fabrics that make you sweat, in a colour that shows it. Believe me, you won't wear it again once it's happened to you.
Clothes are Cool
We don't always realise how important clothes are for us. But they actually matter quite a bit, and have all kinds of functions. They protect us against cold, rain or sun. They give us attitude for an interview, class at a wedding and the right look for an evening on the sofa. Clothes hugely determine how you feel – sharp, chic or relaxed – but also how people see you. Ideal if you're a fireman or chef: the uniform immediately clarifies your goal. Your outfit communicates (I'm tough), inspires (I love that bag!) and implies (I like to stand in the foreground). Your clothes say who you are. But clothes also make your entire life possible. We can't actually function in this society without them. The chance that you're reading this guide completely naked is pretty small. Clothes are of vital importance – so why then do we take them for granted? We barely stop to notice how unique it is that we wear clothes (the only ones on this planet), or where they've come from. We attach little value to the manual labour they have taken, buy them by the dozen and throw them away just as easily. My grandmother was surprised at how this has changed so rapidly in the last fifty, sixty years. She only bought clothes if she needed them, chose quality and often made them herself. She'd dress up, for an evening out, for example. Special outfit, hair curled, husband in a suit. Clothes can mean a lot, and sustainable ones even more. You definitely feel better about yourself putting on something that's exploited nothing or nobody. What we wear doesn't only determine our style – it's also a statement. When you wear sustainable fashion, you can give a good answer to the question where you got that amazing coat, not only to other people, but yourself too.
Livia Firth (1969) is creative director of Eco-Age, a brand consultancy specialised in sustainability. She likes to question things constantly, and describes herself as curious and an 'agitator'. If something doesn't add up, she wants to act on it. Livia is the wife of actor Colin Firth, and even cooler than he is.
Why do you do what you're doing?
'Because we're on a train heading for a big crash, and we need to make sure we divert the tracks towards a future which is possible. Businesses, governments and citizens all have huge responsibilities and today, I think the most powerful change can come from businesses – which are driven by citizens and often dictate to governments.'
What is your '30 wears challenge'?
'Ethical-living expert Lucy Siegle and I were talking about how to convince people to move away from "Which brand is good and which is bad?", as this creates confusion and impasse. How do you take a step back and actually look at the big question of "Should I buy it?" as most purchases today are made impulsively. So, we came up with the idea that when we want to buy a garment, we ask ourselves, "I like it, but would I wear it a minimum of 30 times?". Probably most people would answer "Not really, no" – and that's the solution. Put it back and walk away, as you're about to contribute to disposable fashion.'
Why did you start the Green Carpet Challenge?
'It was born on the red carpets and is a way to showcase, on the most powerful communication platforms ever, the stories behind what we wear. So not purely saying, "This is what I am wearing", but more, "This is who I am wearing, and these are the stories behind it". Today we do all sorts of events and collections, it's become our communication arm of Eco-Age.'
Where would you like you and your work to be in 10 years?
'At home in pyjamas – smiling at the revolution that we all managed to achieve and how fast fashion has been destroyed for ever.'
Do you have a life motto?
'Stop bitching and start a revolution. It was on a sticker that someone gave to me in Venice Beach years ago.'
Who is your hero?
'Any person who says, "Let's change this".
Here We Go
How do I buy ethical fashion, what should I pay attention to and where can I find it? These are the questions people have asked me most frequently. I don't have one comprehensive answer for you, but I do have all kinds of possibilities (and the request to not strive for perfection).
This is How You Buy Sustainable Fashion
01. Choose ethical brands
This one's rather obvious of course, but hey, who said it was going to be difficult? Buy from brands that make beautiful products and treat people, animals and our surroundings as well as they can. The number's growing, in all types and price ranges – from basic to high-end and from affordable to expensive. Just as in regular fashion. By buying these brands you support them, show there's a need and a business case for ethical fashion. At the end of this chapter you'll find brands and stores to help you on your way.
02. Buy smart
This is one of the best tips I can give you. It saves money. It's better for the environment and better for your morning ritual (and your relationship). Before you go shopping or decide to purchase something, ask yourself these questions:
* Do I really need this? Or is it more of the same?
* Will this enable me to wear other clothes I have more often?
* Does it fit well?
* Does it look amazing? Do I feel a million dollars in it?
* Am I really going to wear it? Or do I enjoy buying it more than wearing it?
* Can I easily combine it? Can I think of at least a few outfits that I can wear it with?
* Will it last?
* Can I see myself wearing this in a few years?
* Is this investment worth the money? Is this bargain worth my money?
* Does it suit my style? Or is it something I'd have bought a few years ago?
* And: does it have to be dry cleaned or can I wash it? Does it crease easily? Will that annoy me?
* Does the idea of wearing it make me really happy?
03. Take quality over quantity
Invest in good items, and make sure that you don't end up with a pile of 'not-quites' as I used to. It may feel expensive, but this is generally not true. You can wear it so much more often that it's actually cheaper than continually buying new tops that may cost less, but you only wear three times. Save for something special, you're worth it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "This Is A Good Guide"
Copyright © 2018 Marieke Eyskoot.
Excerpted by permission of BIS Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
01. FASHION & ACCESSORIES,
MAKE-UP AND HAIR,
EATING AND BUYING,
FOOD IS PERSONAL,
04. HOME & WORK,
TRAVELLING AND HOLIDAYS,