Two years ago, I decided to stop buying clothes, as an experiment and as a personal challenge. I had realized that I really didn’t need more clothes. I spent six months without going shopping or clicking on the “add to cart” of the e-shops. A year later, I performed the experiment again, and also lasted six months or so.
The truth is that it was easy. Very easy. I do not remember why I put an end to the experiment, but I do know that it was not because I felt the impetuous need to buy. After this, I buy less, when I do it is because I need a particular garment and whims are practically minimal. I think that after following so many fashion blogs, reading more fashion magazines than my kiosk vendor knows about, and writing about fashion in several magazines and a newspaper, the consumer impulse has disappeared.
I have been asked many times why I became interested in fashion, but I think that I haven’t actually explained it on the blog. Photography made me fall in love with fashion. Specifically, this photography:
I saw the picture on a literature website, and I can’t explain why, but that scene fascinated me. Shortly after I found out that it was a photograph by Arthur Elgort with model Lily Cole published in Vogue UK. I researched the photographer’s work, which led me to meet other great talents like Steven Meisel, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, Paolo Roversi and Mario Testino, all of them contributors to the magazine. I decided to buy an issue, because it seemed that publication had great artists in their team. From that day on, I haven’t missed a single issue of Vogue. The editorials encouraged me to learn about the collections, designers, and about fashion as an industry, and I opened a blog to share this passion. You know the rest of the story.
Fashion for me has always been a form of creative self-expression, not just having a closet full of clothes that I do not even remember buying. I like to see the latest collections and marvel at the genius of Miuccia Prada, and I find it really interesting to observe the phenomenon of trends and their short but cyclical life-span, or analyze the changes in the marketing strategies of brands.
Every time I forget why I became interested in fashion, I re-watch this video of the Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 1999 fashion show:
I see this and I remember everything. In fact, I just re-watched it now and I am speechless. Someone said that fashion can not be considered art because it has an intrinsic commercial purpose, but I don’t think it is a convincing reason, especially after seeing this video. Under this premise, we could end the debate over whether the work of Jeff Koons is art or not.
- But let’s go back to what I wanted to tell you.
A few months ago I met Lula Rodriguez-Alarcón, communications director of Oxfam. It was a very cold day and I was wearing a black coat from a couple of seasons ago. “I like your coat!”, she said. I told her where I had purchased (at a lowcost label), and she said quickly: “Oh, it is very nice, but very unsustainable!”. She then proceeded to tell me that she hasn’t bought anything that isn’t fair trade, made in Spain or under labor law standards in the last four years.
“Many may think I might look like a mess, but I actually dress very nicely. After years of practice and the last four years in intensive, I have a huge wardrobe of wonderful clothes, with exceptional quality. So, yes you can be fashion victim and be an activist for labor rights around the world”, Lula explains in a post in 3500 Millions, the blog dedicated to poverty that she writes with Gonzalo Fanjul and other great contributors (if you do not know it I highly recommend it).
A week later she invited me to the store of Oxfam (c/ Alberto Aguilera 15) where they have fair trade products, from organic gardens kits to notebooks, including all kinds of food, in addition to their clothing brand Veraluna, a fashion company that to be fair trade is quite affordable. Maybe the problem with the sustainability of lowcost marks is not due to their low prices, but because of their business model…
You are probably thinking (me too, I admit) that most sustainable clothing is expensive, not pretty, not trendy, not easily accessible, and that, ultimately, it is hard to give up that pretty dress from that certain brand with questionable labor practices. But there are alternatives. Here you can see nine eco-friendly brands with good design (Ecoalf and Reformation are my favorite ones).
It is not a matter of becoming 100% eco overnight, but slowly adopt more sustainable practices. Simple things like not discarding something just because it’s from last season. It might seem logical, but not in the fashion industry. Once I went to an awards gala celebrated by a magazine wearing a dress that I had bought the previous year, and an editor friend of mine could not avoid pointing it out to me with disdain. Maybe I should have kept it in the closet and waited 20 years until it was deemed vintage and I could wear it again.
I encourage you to try the six months challenge. It is a good start.
10 steps to be more sustainable in fashion:
1. Commit to fair trade.
2. Support young and locally produced brands.
3. Shop less.
4. Recycle the clothes you no longer wear, donate, gift.
5. Beware of shirts worth €4. And those worth €60 as well. Look at the label.
6. Buy vintage or used clothing.
7. Quit the fast-fashion model.
8. Make your own clothes. Or go to a dressmaker.
9. Modify and alter garments to give them another chance.
10. Spread the message.
What do you think about this matter? How do you support sustainability in your closet? What proposals would you make to fashion brands?