By Sica Schmitz
Founder of Bead & Reel, frequent speaker, writer, and sustainable stylist.
One of the challenges in creating a more mindful fashion industry is that a lot of common terms, ideas, and words don’t always have a clear or unified definition from person to person and brand to brand. This ends up being confusing for everyone involved from companies to consumers so I decided to bring together voices and styles from members in the Bead & Reel Network to take a deeper look into some of the more complex issues in fashion.
I invited Network content creators and brands to participate, and this week we’ve joined together with tonlé, a brand which uses a unique blend of zero waste manufacturing both in their patterns (amounting to 23% waste, as opposed to fashion’s traditional 40% waste) and fabrics (using leftover remnant fabrics and scraps from other brands).
From start (manufacturing) to finish (often landfills), fashion is an incredibly wasteful industry so I asked: How do you reduce fashion waste in your own closet?
I learned to sew! Basically being able to mend is the main way I’ve learned to extend the life of my favorite pieces. I also just don’t really get rid of much. I’ll try and turn something into rags for the kitchen if it’s truly unmendable.
Reducing fashion waste is something everyone can do! It’s easy and free. A great way to kick start a conscious consumer journey too! Along with supporting Zero Waste clothing brands like Tonlé, I choose to value what I have. Wear, rewear, mend, and fix clothing! I do not get rid of my clothes easily. Each item in my closet means something to me and by having a sentimental value, I value the clothing I have which encourages me to buy less. And when I do feel the need to part with an article of clothing I like to participate in clothing swaps! Clothing swaps are a fun way to get your friends together, keep clothes out of landfills, and find your clothes a new loving home where they can be appreciated.
Okay so personally, I like to do this thing I call “Closet Cleanouts” every season where I go through my entire wardrobe and seperate items that I no longer love, wear, or need to sell them to shops like Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads or my local consighment stores. After I try selling the stuff I no longer want I tend to hold onto it before I take it to a thrift store to donate. I usually ask friends to do clothing swaps or have them take things from the pile I no longer want so they can love the items then if theres any left over I donate. By doing this I keep my closet lean and only have things I actually wear and love on a daily baisis. I dont’t get too attached to clothes so letting go is a refreshing part of my process.
To reduce fashion waste in my own home, I only purchase items that I know I will love and wear for years to come. I also only shop second hand or from brands that support ethical manufacturing for myself and my daughter, and my husband typically does the same. Reducing fashion waste in my own home was not something that happened over night, a few weeks, or even a few months, but when I learned about how wasteful and destructive the fashion industry can be, my mindset around consumption changed. It’s been almost three years now and I can happily say that my closet consists of ‘staple’ pieces that I love to wear items that I pondered about buying for some time and maybe only a handful of impulse purchases from thrift shops.
To continue reducing waste and in hopes of inspiring it in friends and community members, I also cohost clothing swaps a few times a year to talk about the fashion industry and supporting slow fashion brands. Something more recent (in the last year or so) is finding where to donate/ how to properly pass along old clothing so it’s not going to landfills or being shipped overseas where it will disrupt communities there. I’m still working on my research of reputable ways of doing that, so stay tuned!
My eye craves color, variety, style and I realized my life was fuller when I began reintegrating design and being surrounded by beautiful things.
I don’t aim to amass ‘stuff’ for the sake of it. I do like to buy solely for aesthetics, I try to neutralize it rather than suppressing it. I do this is by sticking mainly to vintage. I’d say 60-70% of my home goods, books, appliances, and clothes are either thrifted or bought at a curated vintage store. Normally, the only things I buy new are athleticwear, swimwear, basics and bath, and some kitchen goods.
Then I go route two: if I can’t find it used I go to brands like tonlé who fuse the less-waste approach with quality construction (I’ll probably have this dress for 20 years and ensure it ends up in a good friend’s closet after!). Then I ensure I’m caring for them properly and try to buy 100% natural blends because right now we don’t have the technology to recycle blends.