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Photo by Veja and Marie Claire

Until recently, if you wanted to buy ethical or sustainable fashion you would find yourself trying on something akin to a hessian sack in a shop adorned with dream-catchers and smelling like incense, with a man called Nigel giving you an in-depth monologue about the women’s cooperative that had hand-weaved this garment from the surplus straw of their thatched roofs . After feeling morally obligated to pay a small fortune for the liberty of looking like a large sack of King Edwards, the garment would sit sulkily at the bottom of your wardrobe for the next few years.

Fortunately,  there are now a lot more choices for the “woke” spender . New companies are creating pieces that are both sustainable, ethical and aesthetically pleasing. It feels like even the big dogs, the larger corporations that have traditionally been the biggest offenders are wanting a slice of the sustainable pie.

These brands that have caught my eye in recent months have questioned the unethical and the unsustainable parts of the fashion value chain and are trying to change behaviours around consumption.

Everlane 

Transparency is at the core of Everlane’s business philosophy, so much so that they break down the costs and wages of each stage of the fashion value chain, right down to the transport or duty costs. They even have a “choose your cost” on their sale items. They reject trends and instead opt for longlasting timeless pieces that are well made. For an industry that has a reputation of being quite ambiguous with its sourcing, Everlane is a refreshingly honest success story. Whilst I would not say it is a budget option, Everlane clearly shows the true cost of making good quality garments.

Hurr Collective 

Rental is becoming a fantastic answer to those who want to buy less, own less but still want some variety within their wardrobe. I am not yet a member of Hurr Collective ( I am on a very long waitlist) but from what I can see from this recently launched UK rental service, the idea is akin to ebay but instead of buying you can rent. This is a great way of making a bit of cash on the side out of things you don’t wear very often, and reducing consumption. I am very interested to see how this takes off!

Native Shoes

I had a meeting with someone recently who spoke passionately about the sustainable mission of these shoes. It made me really happy that this is a story that influences the buying habits of different people. These shoes are vegan and made with materials that are easy to break down and recycle. They have launched a huge recycling campaign with the target to be 100% circular by 2023. With the materials from these recycled shoes,  they are hoping to provide matting for a new playground in the Vancouver area. A lot of their shoes are made with minimal or no waste in production and are definitely a shoe worth checking out.

Veja

On the subject of sneakers, the brand Veja make (really cool) sneakers from 100% recycled plastic bottles, and use another biodegradable material called C.W.L. C.W.L is a vegan and bio-sourced material made from corn waste from the food industry. They  also use recycled cotton and recycled polyester in some of their sneaker styles. One of their styles even uses fish-hides, a byproduct of the food industry. They use every surplus material they can to make their sneaker have as little environmental impact as possible.

Patagonia 

One that I am sure you have all heard of, but I had to include it in this list. Patagonia is a certified B Corp, meaning that they adhere to the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Essentially they use their business as a force for good. They are pretty well covered on everything from releasing the first Fairtrade wetsuits to minimizing their carbon footprint through constant research for the best and most sustainable ways to produce their products. The most remarkable story of Patagonia is probably that the former CEO Kristine Tompkins bought 10,000 acres of land in Patagonia and gave it to the Chilean government as a conservation site, creating 5 new national parklands in Chile. In my mind, they are the pioneers of juxtaposing environmentalism within the fashion value chain.

Nudie Jeans

Organic cotton has so many benefits. Firstly, the pesticides used in non-organic cotton are very harmful for farmers as well as eventually for the consumer. Eliminating the use of these toxic pesticides makes a much healthier environment for the land, trees, and prevents water contamination. Nudie jeans uses 100% organic cotton, offers free repairs, and takes back old jeans to reuse and recycle. Needless to say, they are making waves in the world of water intensive denim.

 

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Spring feels like it is just around the corner, and dare I say it, it’s almost time to put the hefty knitwear away for the next few months and throw away the key.

Hiding seasonal clothes is  something I have found really helps me to buy less clothing. I feel like I am getting a whole new wardrobe when I dig out my summer stuff, and I find myself falling back in-love with pieces I had forgotten I had.  I also have a very small amount of wardrobe space, so it gives me a little bit more room to find the clothes I can wear that season. I put most of out of season pieces in suitcases or under the bed to keep it out of the way.  However, there is nothing worse then digging out your knitwear to find a glutton of a moth has dined his whole family out on your cashmere all summer.

Some people swear by storing their jumpers in the freezer, some people use vacuum packs. This is my method of packing my woolen pieces away:

Throughout the whole winter I will never wash my knitwear unless I really need to. I find my wool just does not need/ like a wash. I give it an air if it gets smokey, and a wipe away anything I spill on it but I will rarely give it a proper wash.  Once it is ready to be put away for the next few months, I will give it a hand wash. My mum, who is happy to hold a snake like a baby but is terrified of moths would always drill into us to never put anything back into storage that isn’t clean for fear that they would fester.  I diligently do this every winter by hand in my sink, but most washing machines have a setting for this, I just get nervous with wool and a machine. I use a cap full of Persil Silk and Wool detergent that my mum gave me years ago and once I have rung it out I wrap it in a towel and then hang to dry. Make sure that if your wool is dripping you put it over a bath/ towel or hang on a tiled floor.

Once it is bone dry, and be very careful about this or it can really get musky/ go mouldy if it is at all damp, I put it into a giant plastic sandwich bag. The plastic packaging that online orders come in? These are perfect!  Make sure they are sealed as tightly as possible, I sometimes put a few sprigs of dried lavender in as a moth deterrent and hey presto your knitwear is clean, pack-able and protected for the next year!

 

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ACS_0038.JPGJeans have come a long way. Traditionally created in the 1870s (!) by Levi Strauss as a pair of sturdy workwear trousers, they have gone through numerous adaptions and reinventions in the past 140 years. For example, blue jeans were a sign of rebellion in the 50’s. The 60’s saw many more women wearing jeans, preferring flares and adorned with embellishments to reflect the hippy era.  Despite the changes, one thing has remained the same throughout the decades, the jean is a sartorial staple.

The down side of denim is that they are pretty water intensive, the average pair takes roughly 3400 litres of water to make. It is also pretty difficult to find a good dependable pair. For these reason, I am very particular with my jeans. I personally have not been fortunate with secondhand jeans (they are always a strange fit on me) but as a long-lasting staple piece  that I will probably wear for about 70% of the year, I feel a little more justified in buying a new pair.

At the moment, I am really loving the straight-leg jeans. I have one pair, which I found a couple of years ago at Tommy Hilfiger. They are slightly cropped (so I try to remember shave my legs one in a while) and look great with trainers, boots and smart shoes. I try not to wash them often at all (to both protect the denim and prevent microplastics) really only if I have spilled something on them which will not wipe off and even then on a very cool wash (30 degrees max). I look for a really good quality denim. I try to look for 100% organic cotton, and make sure they feel long-lasting, none of that stretchy material.  I am sure you do not need me to tell you how to get the most out of your denim but here are a few tips have found really help I will try to post them on my Instagram too:

  1. Wear with trainers and embrace the sock; we are no longer living in the days of trainer socks (eughh) so take pride in your socks! I love a novelty sock (avocado, cats, nipples- throw em my way!) or a good old school sports sock.
  2.  The French tuck. This is a look I cannot get enough off at the moment (and Anna told me was called the French tuck because she’s sophisticated and up-to-date). For those who don’t know, tuck in the front of your t-shirt and leave the back untucked, and voila ( I know groundbreaking but give it a go).
  3. The bottom-hider. I have rather a large rump, something I am very proud of but something that does not always look fab in my big old “mom jeans”. To combat this, i wear a shirt or t-shirt tucked in with a cardigan creating quite a nice layered effect. This helps me avoid the long-bottom look I sometimes get in high-waited jeans.
  4. Balance the outfit. If your jeans are stonewashed and generally look a bit more casual and you want to wear them to something a bit more formal, balance them out with a nice top or jumper or a fancy pair of mules. I love wearing my jeans with a cropped high neck jumper to work.
  5. Buckle up. Wearing a belt can break up your outfit and give your jeans a much more styled look, give it a go!

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Every time we wash our clothes micro-plastics are released.

Micro-plastics are tiny pieces of plastic (usually the size of a human hair), and because of their size they do not get filtered through any of our wastewater treatment. Instead they enter into the sea and ocean, and are engulfed inexorably by fish and sea creatures.

Micro-plastics are a huge problem because of their almost invisible appearance. It is very hard to see them with the naked eye, and yet thousands of pieces have been found inside fish and animals, causing huge internal problems. Apparently, even when the waters look clear, there are most probably still thousands of pieces of tiny plastic floating around. These micro-plastics then enter into our food chain, through fish and through water. According to Orb Media  83 percent of drinking water contains micro-plastic fibres. This figure reaches 93 percent for bottled water. Micro-plastics can cause all kinds of diseases including cancer and fertility problems, and I am sure many more will become apparent in the future.

The worst culprits are synthetic fibers, and in particular fleece material. According to Rachel Lincon Sarnoff washing one fleece release 250,000 micro-fibres, Older materials release more synthetics than new ones. Using a powder laundry detergent is worse than liquid (due to the friction it creates). There are currently lots of studies being conducted on different methods to create a preventative tool. The research at the moment is being funded and created by independent parties and not the washing machine or clothing companies themselves (other than Patagonia), both parties shifting the blame and allowing the consumer to pick up the bill.

So what we can we do to try to prevent this?

  1. Invest in a GuppyFriend bag. This is a huge wash bag that you put your laundry inside and then put into your washing machine. It collects the microfibers into the bag, and you can empty them into the bin. It also apparently causes less micro-plastics to be released. There is a HUGE amount of information on their website.
  2. Check the label before you buy- avoid the synthetic materials these are usually made from natural gas and oil and you don’t want that anywhere near your skin. These also release more micro-plastics
  3. Wash on a cooler wash (around 30-40 degrees if you can)
  4. Make a bigger load and wash as much as you can at once
  5. Wash your clothes less. Using stain remover if you can or air your clothes to avoid just chucking it into the laundry basket
  6. Use liquid instead of powder laundry detergent, this creates less friction and therefore less shredding

 

photo by @Amandajanejones

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If you follow any other fashion blogs you will probably have seen this phrase thrown around somewhere. The capsule wardrobe. Just the words to me sound minimalistic and chic.

The capsule wardrobe was (according to Wikepedia) a term coined in the 1970’s by a lady called Susie Faux and used to describe the essential pieces of your wardrobe. These integral pieces of your wardrobe can survive the constantly changing trends and create different interchangeable outfits.

How do you find your capsule wardrobe?

One way to find out  to do is try the 10 x 10 challenge. This challenge, invented and popularized by Style Bee is as follows:

  1. PICK ANY 10 ITEMS FROM YOUR CURRENT CLOSET
  2. STYLE THOSE ITEMS INTO 10 DIFFERENT LOOKS
  3. USE 10 DAYS TO DO IT
  4. HAVE FUN AND DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY!

It is worth noting that accessories do not count and you can be flexible. This is a fun way to try and make the most and work out what your true die-hard wardrobe pieces are.

Why do you want a capsule wardrobe? Because if you are anything like me, you’re tiny wardrobe space is bursting at the seams and it makes it pretty hard to find anything or stay on top of what you have got. I live in a teeny one-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam. My kitchen looks temporary and like it is not sure if it wants to stay or travel around festivals for the rest of the year (the hob we have can be picked up and most microwaves are bigger than my oven) . So, a capsule wardrobe is right up my street. Having less additional items you don’t need is weirdly therapeutic. And trust me, I never thought I would say that.

Another way to reach your sartorial bare necessities, is to have a serious clear-out of anything you have not worn in the last two years and a look at your go-to pieces. Narrow these down; a couple of pairs of trousers, some tops and a couple of pairs of shoes. This is your capsule wardrobe. How inventive can you be to reduce and create new outfits from these pieces? I like to wear white long sleeve t-shirts under dresses, and I opt for items that can be worn in multiple seasons with the addition of a pair of tights. If you are bored of your clothes, see if one of your friends will do a swap. Rent your fancy clothes from rental shops.

What is your best method of reaching a minimalist wardrobe?

 

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