By Sica Schmitz
Founder of Bead & Reel, frequent speaker, writer, and sustainable stylist.
As the owner of an ethical boutique which relies on you to buy things in order to exist and grow, the last thing in the world I should be telling you to do is to buy less or nothing at all. But, then again, as the owner of an ethical boutique, I also believe in being first and foremost ethical, and secondly a boutique, and so I really do want to help you build your most beloved, most mindful closet – even if that means you won’t buy anything at all. In fact, that’s my first tip.
STEP 1: DON’T BUY ANYTHING
Americans now buy five times as much clothing as they did in 1980, and throw away 13 million tons of textiles annually – that’s about 85 percent of our clothes. So basically the most sustainable thing you can possibly do is simply to not buy anything else ever, because chance are you already have more than enough. So, before you even wonder what you should be adding to create a mindful closet, start with what you already have:
- Alterations: take in, take out, bring up, bring down. Make what you already own work for you.
- Repair: resole your shoes, replace that button, and patch that hole. Don’t give up on something just because it needs a little TLC.
- Reuse: pull out everything you haven’t worn in the past 6 months, and see if you can find a way to work them into your current rotation. You bought it for a reason, right?
STEP 2: DON’T BUY ANYTHING NEW
As your body and seasons and career and sense of self change and evolve over time, it’s totally reasonable that you’ll want to add something new to your closet, but that doesn’t mean it has to be brand new. There is enough unwanted clothing for everyone in America to only wear second hand, so instead of creating more, start with what already exists:
- Swap: host a clothing swap with your friends, or find one to attend in your city
- Second Hand: support your local vintage or consignment shop, or find your favorite online destination. We even have our own Rescued Collection!
- Rent: clothing rental websites are the rise, offering everything from special occasion items to everyday options
STEP 3: DON’T BUY FAST FASHION
Maybe it really is time for you to buy something new, and if so, my number one piece of advice is to skip the fast fashion, big box stores, and major retailers. These low quality items disproportionately exploit female workers, drain scarce natural resources (like water), and contribute significantly to the fashion waste problem (see Steps 1 and 2 above). Instead, invest your money into slow fashion:
- Shop Locally:support your locally owned shops, artisan markets, and pop up boutiques
- Shop Small: find independent designers (hey, we carry dozens of them!) who produce small batches and less stuff
- Shop Quality: buy a few high quality pieces instead of lots of cheap disposable things
STEP 4: DON’T BE OVERWHELMED
It can feel like there are a lot of things you have to think about when you do start shopping mindfully, but don’t get overwhelmed. Instead, choose one or few things that matter to you, and start there. Here are some things I aim for (but seriously, even starting with one is hugely impactful!):
- Vegan: using animal fibers is not only harmful to animals, but it’s harmful for our environment too. Choosing vegan options is a simple way to be kinder to both.
- Organic: cotton covers 2.5% of cultivated land and uses 16% of the world’s pesticides. Choosing organic options is a simple way to keep chemicals out of our soil, waterways, and bodies.
- Recycled: fashion is extremely resource intensive, using huge quantities of water, energy, and land, so one of the best ways to eliminate the need for new resources is to choose recycle resources which already exist.
- Woman-Owned: in 2017, there is only 1 female CEO of a fortune 500 apparel company. Choosing to support women-owned businesses is a simple way to put more money and power into the hands of women (fist bump).
- Fair Trade: the majority of global garment workers are making less than $3 per day. Choosing fair trade is a simple way to ensure that fair wages are paid to artisans and farmers.
STEP 5: DON’T STRESS
Let me be the first to assure you: there is no such thing as a “perfect” closet, since there is no such thing as “perfect” fashion (sorry to burst that bubble!). But, there definitely is such thing as good options and better options and even great options, and so when it comes to building your mindful closet, let your goal be to make good, better, and great choices, not perfect ones.