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Veganism, sustainability & what the heck should we wear!?

My creation, the Alice in Wonderland coat that my friend Sara tried on. Photograph by Richard Carey of Rundown Studios

I'm not going to be able to answer the question in a short blog as to what dressing sustainably consists of... I don't think you can answer that question in a book as thick as War and Peace!

But it's something I think about often and I want to start bringing it up occasionally in my weekly musings.

I have a friend and client who I have great respect for. She's a holistic vet, a bird watcher, a yogi and an all around decent human being. After a brief episode of working as the state Veterinarian for an unnamed state on the East coast, she was appalled and traumatized by many of the things she witnessed with regards to our food production and treatment of livestock. She has been a dedicated Vegan ever since.

A few months ago, she was in my studio trying things on and she fell in love with one of my sample coats that I named the Alice in Wonderland. It fit her perfectly, she was glowing and then a shadow passed her face and she asked “What is this made of!?” I sighed and said “wool!” as I started to help her out of the coat. Due to her principles as a vegan, she will not wear anything made from animal products.

After she left, it got me thinking. So many of us now are very aware of the climate and our world's limited resources. We might carry reusable bags, water bottles and recycle what we can, but how often do we consider our clothing purchases and what we wear as to how it effects our environment and the world around us?

After retiring my line of bamboo clothing, it became clear that bamboo was not the miracle, sustainable fiber that we were first led to believe since the chemicals used to break down the fibers were often not recycled and just dumped into the water supply.

My origami tunic and handkerchief skirt from my old bamboo line.

Even organic cotton takes it's toll. It takes 2,700 liters (713 gallons: what the average American drinks in 2 years) of water to grow enough cotton for just one T-shirt, and that doesn’t even go into the water needed for production.

We are also beginning to learn that every time we wash our man-made fibers in our washing machines that micro fibers go into our oceans where it's gets eaten by marine life and eventfully gathers together to form a sludge... almost like a plastic soup. UGGGH!

So briefly, is their a general rule? Is there something we can do when we purchase and care for our clothing to decrease our impact? As far as clothing care, since we no longer work in the fields, don't use harsh soaps. Doing so decreases the amount of micro fibers that go into our water supply. Use Eco-friendly laundry detergents or consider investing in a magnetic laundry system. (The science isn't fully in on how effective they are, but you can find many customer reviews of people who swear by them. I'll post a video below done by a friend of mine) There's a relatively new product that you put into the washing machine to snag free floating micro fibers before they go into our water system. It only collects about 26%, but imagine if we all used it.

Don't wash your clothes as much. After I wear something, I inspect it (I actually give it a good, hard sniff) and if it's still clean and fresh smelling, I hang it back up in my closet for another wear... or two or three. Granted, this may be seasonal and you'll probably wash your gym clothes more frequently, but it's something to consider.

Another obvious solution: DON'T BUY AS MUCH! (and this is coming from someone who creates and sells clothing. It's also why I didn't last long in direct sales when I had a brief stint representing another designer’s line. I had a hard time convincing myself to convince people to buy new clothing every season when I knew they already had a closet bursting with things they hardly wore) In this world of fast fashion, your average woman wears a typical item of clothing only 7 times!!!!! In countries like ours where cheap, fast fashion is readily available, we consumers buy 60% more clothing than we did 20 years ago.

See your clothes as an investment. Be more discerning when you shop. Concentrate on your personal style and don't worry about what is trendy. Build a wardrobe. Have your basics in colors that flatter you and add what I like to call “signature pieces” to them. Those of you that know me in person, know that brown is my black (but I will admit that most of my workout clothing is black... it's easier and more readily available). Much of my wardrobe consists of browns, earth tones and colors that compliment or contrast with each other. I do a lot of layering and mix & matching of the same “old things” over and over again, giving them a new look and life.

You don't need a new outfit for every occasion! I always say that people don't necessarily remember what you wore, they just remember that you look good every time they see you. Focus on your overall presentation when you get dressed and don't worry “did I wear that last time?”

And like the obvious suggestion of washing your clothing less, consider vintage and second hand stores. I have a group of friends who regularly have clothing exchange parties. This “old thing” to you is a fresh, fun new item to someone else.

And not to toot my own horn, but, if walking into your closet or going shopping stresses you out, you may want to consider my style coaching services.

As I said, this is a much more complicated and nuanced topic. I'm sure I'll pick it up again at a later date, but there are simple, practical things we can all do to lessen our environmental impact... while expressing our own unique style!

Ta ta for now and see you next Fashion Friday, and as always, please feel free to comment below and share with friends. denise

Here's the video review from my friend Jessica, The Clean Product Junkie. If you want to read more about how magnets work to clean your laundry,

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