If you’re a regular Chalkboard reader, you know that every good detox is followed by a post-cleanse program. All summer long, Ashlee Piper of eco-lifestyle site The Little Foxes has been leading us through a closet detox – which is no exception to that rule.
In Part One, she helped up realize why we needed to overhaul our wardrobe. In Part Two, she showed us how to get things done – closet-clearing playlist included. Now we’re ready for the fun part: the post-cleanse program. Here’s how and where to spend your money for a minimal, mindful closet…
By now, some of you have – wait for it – actually cleaned your closets and completed Part 2 of the #TCMClosetDetox. How do I know? Because I saw the photographic evidence! For the rest of you there is good news: Part 3 can be used at any time. While it’s best when paired with Closet Detox Part 1 and Part 2, I’m about to arm you with knowledge you can rock anytime you go to acquire clothes or accessories. Sound good? Good.
Let’s talk about minimalism for a moment. Sure, minimalism is generally about having less. But it’s also about that “less” being of a certain quality – and quality is subjective. For some folks, the fine hand of a precious $300 cashmere sweater screams quality, while for others, a wristlet, hand-beaded by an artisan empowered by her craft thousands of miles away is the most quality item they own. Without prescribing a particular definition for you, I’m going to break down a few measurements of true quality, and how to find items in line with those values. Because, after the Great Cull of Part 2, you’re likely in a position to acquire a few key pieces to round out your capsule wardrobe.
Remember in Part 1 when we talked about how you’re shopping once, and never again for the rest of the season? (Check your pulse – it’s just 3 months.) Let’s make those acquisitions count, shall we?
measure 1: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
When looking to incorporate something new into your pristinely pared-down wardrobe, your first port of call should be the three R’s. Do you already own an item that could be mended to perfection? Can you hold or attend a clothing swap with friends? (Part 2 already prepared you with a bag of goodies, so you won’t show up empty handed. Now all you need is rosé.) Can you find the item in question at a consignment, resale or thrift store?
Why It’s Damn Important: According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the United States generates 25 billion pounds of textiles per year (that’s 82 pounds per person – carry that around, suckers!), 85% of which ends up in landfills (if you’re keeping track, that’s 21 billion pounds we discard each year). And that’s just clothes. The U.S. Department of Interior estimates that Americans throw away 300 million pairs of shoes each year.
Bottom Line: We have enough stuff on the planet. See if you can find what you need to round out your capsule with some of said existing stuff. You’ll be surprised how chic gently-used items are. And nothing beats a killer, one-of-a-kind vintage statement necklace as a party conversation starter.
measure 2: People-First Purchasing
The garment industry, especially overseas in countries like Bangladesh, China, India and Indonesia, is a bit like the wild West (remember TCM’s review of The True Cost?), except not in a fun saloon-girl kind of way. Sweatshops are very real. Torture, trafficking, slavery, abhorrent working conditions and child labor are very, very real. Most of what we can buy off the rack is infamously dubbed “fast fashion,” and for good reason. It’s pretty much impossible to produce $15 jeans without some collateral damage (usually in the form of women and children who work 18 hour days without a freaking bathroom break). If you must buy new, think of the path that garment or accessory had to travel to get to you.
Why It’s Damn Important: Remember the tragic factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 people in 2013? Those people died while making clothes for western retailers we’re all very familiar with. And while “ethical” practices make up only 1% of the one-trillion-dollar per-year global fashion trade, the more we purchase with attention to people, the more companies will take notice.
Bottom Line: Terms around fair labor are largely unregulated, so due diligence is required to see which companies are using the nimble fingers of children and which are on the up-and-up. That said, look for terms like fair trade, ethically-produced, made in the U.S.A. (and made in the U.S.A. certified), worker-owned, and even lingo around training and microloan programs that train and/or fairly compensate at-risk or subjugated populations to practice a craft.
Some Good Guys: Eileen Fisher; Project Gravitas; Baggu; Emerson Fry; Wild Fox; Everlane.
measure 3: (Sustainably) Shop ‘Til You Drop
While we’re thinking of people, let’s think of the planet, shall we? We’ve established that we live on a spinning ecosystem that’s literally suffocating under the weight of stuff. So, why not buy products that are made beautifully by recycling and repurposing some of that stuff? Yeah! For instance, the innovations in high-tech materials made from recycling plastic bottles (think faux suede and durable, downy insulation) will blow your mind.
Why It’s Damn Important: Global warming. Landfills the size of Manhattan. Trash clogging up the ocean to the point where hot guys can’t even surf without water bottles floating by their man buns. Need I say more?
Bottom Line: Look for buzzwords like zero-waste (a process whereby little waste is created from pattern-making and sewing), recycled, refashioned, repurposed, eco-friendly, reclaimed, upcycled, percent of post-consumer waste, organic (because pesticides can be taxing on the planet too). Also look for items made from renewable, fast-growing materials like hemp, jute and bamboo, or via low- or zero-impact processes, like wind or solar power.
Some Good Guys: Reformation; Daniel Silverstein; Synergy Organic Clothing; Indigenous.
measure 4: Consider Vegan
While you might not be ready to give up bacon, you can still make a big impact on the planet and our animal pals, by curating your closet cruelty-free. I’m going to tell you something you already know, but don’t want to hear: Animals don’t willingly give us their furs, skins, feathers and other body parts because they want us to look “on-trend.” Some traditional animal materials are slaughterhouse byproducts (ew), while others, like fur, come directly from seriously barbaric breed-for-slaughter operations. Even wool isn’t as cuddly and sweet as we are led to think (sheep bear wool in suffocating heat for about two years and then are shipped to other countries to be slaughtered). And what about leather? Isn’t it really, like, eco-friendly? Well, the Environmental Protection Agency cited conventional leather tanning and processing as the biggest polluter of waterways, and the chemical-laden tanning process (which keeps leather from, ya know, decomposing as we wear it) is not only often done by children in India, but is replete with carcinogens that are documented to sicken workers and people in the surrounding communities.
Why It’s Damn Important: A 2014 undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States found that Chinese-produced, major-label garments sold at U.S. retailers claiming to have “faux” fur trim were actually found to be made with dog fur, a common regulatory dupe, especially in countries like China, where human- and animal-rights standards are poor. Yeah, dog fur. We’re all in this together, so let’s protect animals, yeah? Cool.
Bottom Line: “Vegan” has become a legitimate denotation in the fashion industry, so look for “PETA-approved” and vegan symbols, as well as lingo. Companies like Nasty Gal, Toms, Asos, and Urban Outfitters have online sections dedicated to vegan wares. And if you’re worried that faux leather boots or bags are going to make you look like a fashion reject, I have two words for you: Stella McCartney.
Some Good Guys: Freedom of Animals; Jill Milan; Viva Creatures; Sydney Brown; Matt & Nat; Vaute Couture; Beyond Skin.
You’ll always get three cheers from us for purchasing local, handmade or charitable products that give back.
Bottom Line: Acquiring clothing or accessories that will stand the test of time is a little like dating. Find something that makes your eyes go all emoji-with-heart-eyes, but makes you feel all warm inside when you think of all of the wonderful values the item possesses. That’s an admiration that will last long after the trends blow over.
Some Good Guys: Toms; Angela and Roi; Mata Traders; Fetch Eyewear.
We want to cheer on your progress: Take a selfie with your clean closet and cleaner acquisitions and share it with @thechalkboardmag and @ashleepiper, using #TCMClosetDetox, so we can give you mad props.