Now here is a tale of two cities. In Singapore, if you are keen to be in the know regarding the latest colour trends in menswear, you can do a quick search on your smartphone and you are sorted. For anybody who is living downstream of a textile factory in India, they get that information from the colour of the rivers that is tainted by the chemical run-offs.
The fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, partly due to the rise of the fast fashion sector and its massive output of clothes on the cheap. But it’s not all bleak in the world of fashion as industry leaders are doing their part to turn things around.
British designer Stella McCartney has always been ahead of the curve at making sure her label is sustainable, while Tom Ford, who has been implementing ethical production practices, was awarded the Green Carpet Fashion Award for Best International Designer Supporting ‘Made in Italy’ in 2017. Even Virgil Abloh is taking a stand, taking on a role at Evian as creative adviser for sustainable designer. Last but not least, Dame Vivienne Westwood, whose famous quote of “buy less, choose well, make it last” has always championed sustainable practices. Case in point, her recent collaboration with Burberry partners with Cool Earth, a non-profit organisation that aims to stop deforestation.
With that in mind, you need not go full tree-hugger, or only purchase from sustainable labels to do your part for the environment. Here is a guide for some practices to help you buy less and buy better.
Declutter and re-organise
Take a good hard look at the pieces in your wardrobe and start filtering out clothes that you haven’t worn in months. You might be surprised at the percentage of clothes that you actually wear. We’ve all heard of the story of how Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have broken down dressing in the morning into a routine, preferring to stick to a uniform. While wearing the same look every single day is a tad extreme (for those who defer, send me an email about how happy you were during your National Service and being in your army uniform for five days a week. I will wait), the ethos of reducing decision fatigue is one that we should emulate.
Break down your wardrobe into sections and decide on a uniform code. Put any garment that doesn’t make the cut into the recycling pile. And if you’re telling yourself that you are keeping that leopard print vest for occasions when you feel a tad dressier, but haven’t worn it in a year, then put that into the recycling pile too.
Invest in quality basics
A good wardrobe is built on a solid foundation of quality basics. Invest in pieces that are easy to wear, flatter your form and are well made. You don’t need to break the bank to acquire these quality basics. A favourite of mine is Uniqlo’s white oxford shirt that I purchased in 2014. It survived four years of the annual wardrobe purge, for the simple fact that it has never turned yellow and still fits me great. Find a brand that works for you and stick to it.
Consider the cost per wear
Sustainability and style don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The idea is to have clothes that fit your lifestyle and maximise the cost per wear of each purchase. For example, that beautiful leather trench from Berluti might cost a pretty penny, but it’s a worthy investment for the globetrotter who is going to use it on a consistent basis.
Give new life to old clothes
Here is a cue that we can take from the Japanese. As any fashion-savvy traveller will know, Japan has a vibrant secondhand market, where it is not uncommon to find holy grail pieces from your favourite designers at a fraction of the price. The market is powered by a desire to keep ahead of trends while keeping within the spirit of sustainability. It’s almost like a rental system, where fashion aficionados will purchase key pieces of the season, wear them for six months, then resell those that don’t make it into the archive to the secondhand stores. The money they get back is then used to fund the next seasonal purchase.
It’s the practice that helps gives a second life to garments, decluttering the wardrobe and giving you more style for your buck. While there aren’t such stores like that in Singapore, you can consider resale sites like Vestiaire Collective and Grailed.