This article was originally written for LYVON and you can read the original article here. They gave me full permission to modify and post it here.
I don’t know how come 2022 is almost here. The last couple of years feel like a strange blur, like one long month where somehow everything changed. But this is not a post about the pandemic. It’s not even a post where we reflect on things that have happened.
This is a post to welcome 2022 and make a firm decision to make it all about slow fashion.
Since I started to write about fashion, I covered everything from microplastics and water, to garment worker’s rights, recycling, natural dyes, cultural appropriation, and greenwashing.
The conclusion is always the same: we need to collectively slow down the industry. We need businesses to embrace the slow philosophy, policymakers to make some strong decisions, and, yes, individuals to change too. If it sounds like a lot, it’s because it is.
Changing our own fashion habits and ways can be overwhelming at first. But the very fact that you’re reading these words means that you’re already doing some steps towards it. You want to be informed. Never underestimate these small steps!
So, to help you out, I thought of listing out my best tips. Some of them you have probably heard of before (perhaps read on our blog). Some might be new to you. In any case, all of these tips have helped me and many people I know on our slow fashion journeys. Some are basic, some are more advanced and not all will apply to everyone’s situation. Yet, I hope that you’ll find some inspiration and encouragement here!
Let’s get to it!
1. Buy less
Yes, we are kicking off with this one! I don’t know how many times I said or wrote it. But essentially, it all comes to this: buy less (but better). Overproduction and overconsumption are at the core of fashion’s devastating impact on our planet and life on it. No matter where we shop for clothes or what type of clothes we’re looking for, we need to reduce how much we buy.
Besides, it will save you money, and that’s always a plus!
2. Slow fashion is your own style
Or put differently: remember that slow (or sustainable for that matter) fashion isn’t a single style. While things are certainly changing since I first entered the slow fashion world, I still see a dominance of certain colors, silhouettes, and styles. You’ll probably recognize what I mean: minimalism, focus on the basics, nude and neutral colors, wide dresses…
Of course, and I need to emphasize this, there’s nothing wrong with these. Many people like wearing nudes or boxy dresses and they look fantastic wearing them. If you’re one of them then, by all means, enjoy your style!
But if you’re like me and you feel that you don’t fit within this slow fashion aesthetics, I want you to read this aloud: slow fashion isn’t an aesthetic. No matter what your Instagram feed is showing you. Slow fashion can and should look different on everyone. It can be as colorful, bold, dark, floral, fitted, cropped, feminine, futuristic, or retro as you want it to be. Rather than the looks, the core of slow fashion is changing how we make and consume fashion.
3. Your style is your own business
Slow fashion is largely about focusing on finding your own style, rather than following what’s trendy. And I agree with this! However, in the sea of trends, stylists, and “how-to-wear-it” social media posts, things can be tricky. Even when there’s a focus on rewearing the same thing, which is in line with slow fashion, we can feel a bit lost.
Nothing necessarily wrong with all these styling tips on their own. They can be more than helpful! But what I’m trying to say here is that, at the end of the day, what and how you wear is your own business. In other words, don’t feel like you need to wear a piece of garment a certain way. And please, forget about all those “dos and don’ts” for your supposed body shape. Wear what and how feels good for you.
4. Dare to experiment
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that slow fashion offers much more creativity than fast fashion. It’s because fast fashion serves us short-lived looks, that are ready and available right here, right now. As the opposite, slow fashion is all about making the most out of what we already have.
Embracing slow fashion means that you will find ways to rewear your clothes without getting bored of them. You will likely discover new combinations or you will pair two items that you never thought about pairing before. You’ll learn to enjoy the process and your clothes much more!
5. Make your style board
No, we are not done talking about style!
This is something I talked about before and you can read it here. Essentially, my tip is to create a board or a folder with the clothes you like and find on the internet. I use Pinterest for this but you can use whatever you want, as long as it's easily accessible to you. This is a creative exercise that will help you visualize things you actually like. Every time you want to add something to your wardrobe or every time you’re looking for inspiration, you can visit your board!
It will be your own personal style guide!
6. Take proper care of your clothes
The better you care for your clothes, the longer they will last. Most of the caring tips also save energy, water, and money. All more reasons to do it!
The basic thing to know is that you don’t need to wash the clothes as often as you think, except for things like underwear. Wash them less and when you do, wash them at lower temperatures. Both will keep the shapes and colors of the clothes for longer, making them look new and well. When possible, avoid the drying machine and opt to air-dry your clothes. If you want to take it a step further, skip the fabric softeners (they do more harm than good) and opt for more natural detergent options.
7. Learn the basics of mending
Wearing your clothes more means that they will eventually get damaged. In many cases, it will be simple damage, like a loose button or a small hole. If you don’t already know how to, learn to fix these things. Trust me, they are easier than they might sound.
Of course, if you have the skills and time, you can go beyond this, maybe even learn to upcycle some of your clothes. I personally don’t do that, but I do regularly mend my clothes and look for any signs of damage before it becomes bigger or more complicated. Remember, the earlier you mend that hole the easier it will be! And for more complex things, like replacing a broken zipper, I go to a professional. It doesn’t happen often and it’s a good investment!
Speaking of investments…
8. Find a good tailor
I understand that not everyone can do this and that is ok. But if you have the possibility, rather than buying more clothes, invest in a good tailor. It will pay off and it may save you money in the long run.
A tailor can alter the clothes that don’t fit you anymore, which means that you can continue wearing them for longer. A tailor can also adjust the clothes that you bought but don’t fit perfectly. I do this with clothes I buy second-hand. Sure, tailoring service might cost more than the actual item I bought but it’s not about the immediate cost. It’s about that feeling of wearing a perfectly fitted dress (or anything else) for years to come!
9. Keep fast fashion out of sight
What I mean by this is to make a decision not to go into fast fashion shops or browse their websites. This alone has helped me enormously when I was quitting fast fashion. The less you are surrounded by new clothes and their tempting sales, the less you’ll want them. It’s almost like sugar: when you reduce it, you crave it less!
Another side of this is to unsubscribe from their newsletters, delete their apps, and unfollow them from social media. Simply, clear them out of your life. After a while, you’ll realize that it’s easier to resist and that’s a big step.
Here’s what you can do instead…
10. Curate your online space
Choose who has the access to your time and attention. Rather than giving your online space to fast fashion, you can follow businesses, creators, and platforms that encourage you to slow down or will teach you something. It is a much better use of your energy.
Nowadays, there are plenty of slow fashion enthusiasts who will share anything from their tips, sustainable outfit ideas, to the brands they like. I’m sure that you can find at least one that resonates with your style and lifestyle!
And if you want to stay on top of slow fashion and deepen your knowledge about it, I made a list of fashion activists to follow.
11. Don’t get rid of your old clothes…
I know the temptation of wanting to throw away all your fast fashion clothes when you learn the reality of the fashion industry. And I know that it’s not easy to wear the clothes that you know are likely to be made in unsafe and poorly paid working conditions. But throwing them away will not help anyone and is anything but sustainable.
Instead, continue wearing them. They are already in your closet and if you still like them, then wearing them is the best thing you can do. All clothes deserve to be worn, no matter where they come from. And as we already concluded, wearing the clothes you own is the most sustainable thing you can do.
12. …Or do it responsibly
Of course, sometimes we will want to get some clothes out of our closets. The easiest way is to trash them but, as you probably know, that should be the last resort.
If the clothes are in a good state, give them to somebody directly. Or try selling them. Both are a good way of knowing that your clothes have a chance to continue their life with somebody else. A donation is also an option but in many cases, the donated clothes end up in the landfills rather than with new owners. So be careful about this and make sure that the things you are donating are in a good condition.
13. Give second-hand a chance
You might notice that this is the first tip related to shopping! It’s because slow fashion is about much more than what we buy. Of course, it doesn’t mean that you can never shop again!
Second-hand, pre-loved, thrifted, charity shop-bought… Call it however you want, it's a great way to have a more sustainable wardrobe! And sure, it’s a different experience than what you might be used to, especially if you usually shop fast fashion. It might take some time to get used to it and yes, it will take a lot of patience. But it’s worth it and it is truly for everyone. It is a much slower way of shopping, which is why it’s an important part of slow fashion.
In case you want to shop more second-hand and become better at it, here are my 7 thrifting tips.
14. Buy better
No, not everything in your closet from now on has to be second-hand. Even though I personally love thrifting and the majority of my wardrobe is either second-hand (some vintage) or things I had for years, I still occasionally buy new.
And when I do, I choose to buy better. Sure, this isn’t available or accessible to everyone. I understand that, though I’ll get to the financial aspect in a little bit. And that is ok. Buying from sustainable brands, again, is only one way of being more sustainable and slowing down fashion.
Yet, it is important. Buying something from a sustainable brand means encouraging their practices. It means investing in a business that is trying to change the industry. Besides, your item probably pays the workers better and is more gentle to the environment. When you can, choose to do this instead of giving your money to a company that is only about the profit for its stakeholders. Remember, billionaires don’t need our money!
15. Change the way you think about affordability
Ok, this is a controversial one but hear me out!
I will never shame anyone who shops fast fashion because nothing else is affordable or available to them (note that these are not the same things). This is not the problem here.
Fast fashion doesn’t profit from that. Fast fashion profits from people who spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in one go. People who buy new things every week. That’s the difference. And that is where we need to rethink our shopping habits.
As I argued before, sustainable fashion isn’t expensive. You read that right. But it calls for us to rethink what expensive and what affordable means. To cut it short, there are good reasons why a sustainably made t-shirt costs €35 or even €50. But buying one and keeping it for years, rather than buying every year a new €10 t-shirt will actually pay off. Slow fashion is about thinking and investing long-term.
16. Company is more important than a certificate
Certificates in fashion can be useful things. What I mean by this are the certificates like fair trade, B Corp, GOTS, organic, and so on. You probably saw some of them. They are a good first step because they are essentially a third-party confirmation that something you’re buying is really what it says it is.
However, you need to understand what the certifications mean. In many cases, they will guarantee that the fabric is, for example, organic or made with no toxic chemicals. Great, but what about the labor conditions in which that garment was made? Or, what about the rest of the collection that the company is selling? If only a small part of the brand’s offer is made sustainably or even ethically, the business is still not sustainable. In case you want to dive deeper into this topic, I wrote a guide here.
The point is that the company’s practices and business are more important than the certifications its products carry.
17. Buy from small businesses
Even when they are not perfect, small businesses make the economy better for everyone. In fashion, small businesses are those that are pioneering sustainability and ethics. Usually, they will care much more about how and where their products are made, and they will likely make high-quality things too. Buying directly from them is helping them continue their work.
Trust me, you will also get a premium service from a small brand! They can help you decide what to buy, select the right size for you, and sometimes even customize your order. Whenever you can, choose to support small!
If you'll be looking for some wonderful, small businesses to shop from in 2022, check out my Brand Directory.
18. Call it your signature outfit
Repeating outfits should be the norm. By this, I don’t just mean wearing the same outfit or pieces or individual pieces daily. Isn’t that what most of us are doing anyway?
What I mean is repeating an outfit for a more special occasion. Say, an important meeting, a party, or a holiday gathering. I know that it can be easier said than done but in most cases, nobody will even notice. Nobody will comment. The day will go on.
But a tip that helped me is not to necessarily think of it as an outfit repeating. Rather, think of it as your signature outfit. And the outfit that you’re known for, makes you feel good and you just know makes you shine. I mean, why wouldn’t people notice that!
Still, I know that there are some situations when repeating the outfit or wearing the same clothes is not possible. In that case…
19. Try renting a fancy outfit
Again, this is something not available to everyone thought renting clothes is becoming more and more common.
While today, it is possible to rent pretty much any type of outfit, renting the one for special occasions perhaps makes the most sense. This way, you don’t need to stuff your closet with new dresses that you’ll wear only once, twice if lucky. You can save that space for things that are much more useful for you. Besides, sharing and rewearing clothes is far more sustainable than buying a new thing for every bigger event.
20. Try the “Would I wear this in 5 years” method
We often hear to invest in timeless things and avoid trends if we want to have a more sustainable wardrobe. Ok, good, but what timeless means is totally up to you. Same for trends, it is all a matter of perception. When you think about it, such tips are too vague and not quite useful. So here’s my take on this: Ask yourself if you would wear this in 5 years.
After all, timeless means something that won’t go out of fashion or style for you. Something that you will like, no matter how fashion changes.
For example, I was looking at some square toe boots that were trending recenty. I love the look a lot but I’m not convinced that I would wear them in a few years, so I decided to pass on them. But, earlier this year, I was looking at some cut-out dresses that also made a comeback. And I realized that I always liked strange cuts and, though they probably won’t be on trend anymore soon, I bought a cut-out top. I’m pretty sure I’ll be wearing that top for as long as I can!
21. Lack of information = bad sign
Generally, if a company is hiding some information on their products, workers, or business practices, it’s not a good sign. In fact, it’s the first sign to avoid them. The reason why they don’t provide information is either that they’re trying to hide something or because they themselves don’t know. Always look for transparent companies first!
The other side of this is that there’s a lot of greenwashing. The companies that will talk about their products or workers but it will all stay on empty worlds. Recognizing greenwashing is getting harder and harder and if you fall for it, don’t blame yourself. As mentioned at the beginning, I wrote an article that might help you become better at recognizing greenwashing. Just remember that these things take time to learn!
22. Say no to clothing-related gifts
Unless, of course, someone wants to buy you the exact thing you want or need.
But do your best to communicate to your friends and family that you don’t want clothes as gifts. This was honestly one of the hardest things for me since it’s quite common in my family to give clothes or accessories as gifts. I still get them sometimes from more distant relatives. I’m saying this because there’s a high chance that you will get something from fast fashion and something that you wouldn’t buy for yourself. And now you’re stuck with it, trying to figure out how to get rid of the item responsibly.
There’s no recipe on how to approach this subject and communicate your wishes when it comes to gifting. What helped me is talking to people about my style and being picky about what I wear. I find that focusing on my personal taste rather than the ethical and environmental concerns behind fashion works better. Most people can understand this easier.
Another thing that helped me is saying that I have enough clothes and that getting more at this point is more of a burden than a favour. And of course, with some people, I could be open about wanting to be more sustainable.
If you also want to avoid unwanted fashion gifts, I suggest that you think about how you communicate about this. Find something you know people will care about and use that as your argument.
That’s all from me for this year. Here’s to making 2022 the year of slow fashion!
Have any more tips? Let me know!