Ilana Kohn Caroline pants (small)
James Perse brushed jersey turtleneck (several years old)
James Perse cashmere cardigan/coat (several years old) |
secondhand black cashmere cardigans at The Real Real
Golden Goose hi-star sneakers | secondhand Golden Goose at The Real Real
I am half-heartedly working on a year-end recap of what I bought and sold last year, but got really discouraged when I looked at my wardrobe audit spreadsheet and totalled up the number of items I added in 2018 (about 36). I sold a lot of things last year too, but I’m not sure exactly how many. Probably not 36 items. I’m not being too hard on myself, I lost weight early in the year as a result of my broken jaw, and ended the year pregnant, so….
I’m not trying to keep a minimal closet, or to a set number of items, but I do want to wear the things I have more often. As it stands, I have so many things I can’t possibly wear them as often as I’d like. On the other hand, is that a problem? I make a conscious effort to buy things made of natural fabrics, that are sturdy, practical, and will stand up to many years of wear, either by me or whoever I pass them on to. And I’ve become more comfortable holding on to things I love (that spark joy?) but that I don’t wear as often as I thought I would.
Lyn from Accidental Icon’s money diary – I love her, and also found her analysis at the end, looking beyond the things she spent money on to what spending that money MEANT to her: she is taking care of her health, walking a lot, visiting her mother, etc. She was also candid about shopping for her blog/business. Her blog is different than mine (obviously) – I post outfits, and she shoots editorials. She shops for those shoots with a look in mind, and those are business expenses. It made me think about tracking my spending for a week sometime. Might be interesting…
Plastic is part of online shopping (and life, really) – this is a long but worthwhile read. As usual Alden has written a thoroughly researched article that addresses the issue of plastic packaging no one really talks about or understands – the plastic that comes with online orders and even meal kit deliveries. Unfortunately plastic is nearly impossible to avoid altogether. I even saw a story on instagram about bulk items arriving to a bulk supermarket. How do you think they got there?? IN PLASTIC BAGS!!! Yes, it’s less plastic than if each serving or whatever was individually packaged, but still, there is no way to avoid plastic altogether for most food items, and even most clothing.
Side note: We can try to avoid as much plastic as possible IN our clothing though, which is why I was SO disappointed that Everlane’s new “cotton” cardigan is 27% nylon. I was all set to try one, but I saw that and said no thanks. It doesn’t need the nylon in my opinion, and also, as with anything we wash that includes synthetics it will release microplastics into the water ending up in baby turtles’ stomachs (unless you use a mesh bag to collect it). I was really disappointed by that amount of nylon and frustrated that they would make such an effort with their ReNew items and seemingly go backwards in this way.
INSTAGRAM ISN’T REAL LIFE – @renee.elizabethpeters has been posting on instagram about “the Truth most sustainable influencers won’t tell you” – which is that individual actions won’t change the world, and indeed, many of said actions aren’t available to a majority of the population. It is a great privilege to be able to buy organic fruits and vegetables, eat (mostly) vegan, and buy clothing from smaller designers (and then virtue signal to others on social media), but is that enough to “change the world”?
No, of course not. We need systemic, industry-wide changes, and global understanding. JUST TALKING ABOUT BUYING “ETHICAL” FASHION ON INSTAGRAM won’t change a thing. It’s an echo chamber.
So is the internet, incidentally – says the person who posts her mostly ethical & responsible outfits online. And here’s where I hold my own feet to the fire: I could do more than review and discover new, more responsible designers – we are not going to consume our way out of this. I can absolutely do a lot more in terms of reducing my own waste, using less plastic, etc., but I can also make a more concentrated effort to understand what sustainable living looks like all over the world, to others who are not as privileged as I am.
There is not one way to live sustainably. There are lots of ways to support and honor the people who make our clothes, and one of those ways might actually be continuing to buy clothing from H&M (think on that!) – a mega retailer making sustainability strides on a large scale. And yes, going vegan *may* be the “best” diet for people and planet, but the reality now is that people eat meat – shouldn’t we also be working hard to shift from factory farming to more local, sustainable and ethical farming, honoring the animals that feed most of the population?
We have to be careful not to get stuck in our ideas of what ethical/sustainable living looks like; it is different for everyone depending on where you live and your socioeconomic position. What we see on instagram of 10 piece expensive capsule wardrobes in clean, minimal cottages with white walls isn’t reality for any but the smallest percentage of a percentage of the population. Reality is messy and complicated.
But I also believe that with great privilege comes great responsibility; it is the privileged among us who consume the most and produce the most waste, so the burden is on us to consume less and produce less waste, is it not? If not us, who? We have the means and the resources to do so and no excuse not to try and make the biggest impact we can. So I will not stop trying to do better all the time, but I do NOT expect others who don’t have as much as I do to do the same.
As a business-owner, I do everything I can to reduce waste and encourage recycling. Although no solution is perfect, I try to better. I use 100% recycled/recyclable poly mailers to send nearly everything out for slowre, and I wrap items in old calendar pages, or packing materials I’ve received myself; I don’t use anything “new” for shipping. When I have to ship in boxes I reuse boxes I’ve received from online orders or consignors, and I wrap items in plastic bags I’m reusing as well.
BTW, this is mentioned briefly in Alden’s article about plastic in online orders, and I think I’ve addressed it at slowre, but items that are shipped in cardboard boxes NEED to be wrapped in plastic, or some other sort of other waterproof material; do you have any idea what boxes go through before they get to you?? It’s not happened to me often, but once or twice I’ve received a wet box but the contents inside were protected by a sealed plastic bag. Thank goodness.
Anyway, I echo Renee’s sentiment that those of us who have a voice and some influence shouldn’t be placing ALL of our attention only on posting ethical ootds, or photos of our zero-waste kits for eating out. We should actually be DOING the work, spending our time advocating for more systemic change and trying to understand what sustainable living looks like all over the world – supporting THAT, not our own (consumer-centric) ideas of what it SHOULD look like.
Nothing is so simple, and climate change, plastic waste, pollution, etc., are big issues that require big solutions. And as I mentioned above with H&M, we shouldn’t dismiss outright efforts by large corporations to make their industries more sustainable, fair, and ethical; large corporations have a HUGE impact, even when they do seemingly small things.
J Crew (& Madewell) announced a Fair Trade initiative for denim – they’ll be producing 30 styles of denim at the Saitex factory in Vietnam, which is the same factory Everlane uses, and Loop is working with companies like Tide, Haagen-Dazs, Coke & others to provide delivery and pickup service for certain products in reusable packaging – think about old fashioned milk delivery.
On social media, both of these efforts got a lot of flack for coming from large corporations, but honestly, I find those lines of argument tiring, and frankly way too idealistic. Of course, we should look at those efforts with a hefty dose of skepticism and analysis, but if we expect large scale change, who better to implement it than large companies, and yes, corporations with a lot of money? As much as we love Elizabeth Suzann, the brand isn’t appealing or accessible to enough people to affect the change we need to see, and quickly. (although smaller brands are definitely “disruptors” in the industry and are pushing the large brands to make positive changes).
All this said, I still believe that individuals can make a difference and we all need to do the best we can given our circumstances and levels of dedication. There is no excuse for those of us with privilege and the knowledge to do better not to do so.
Cleaning out the garage this weekend, finally getting around to organizing (Kondo-folding my clothes) my closet better, and reading. Lots and lots of reading hopefully 🙂
What are you doing this weekend? Oh yeah, the super bowl haha… watching that with my husband.
Have a great weekend!
Darn, the little sign-on widget that’s normally on the right is missing. Maybe it’s me?
I have been reading this week about the Farm Bill that was passed at the end of 2018 that “allows” hemp nationwide (NC was one of the states that allowed it already) but most of the articles have focused on CBD and what access to that might mean (hopefully more research, because right now….) Anyway – I want more hemp clothing, seems like it might be more possible – wondering what sorts of timelines are involved? Have you seen anything in your readings on sustainable fashion?
This weekend – got my 10yr Tdap booster today, went to library. Will be reading 🙂 No sportsball here. Want to watch Chinatown this weekend – we’re going to southern CA in a couple weeks for work and my husband has never seen it! (we had been talking about water rights for some reason…)
Leah Wise says
Sigh. I think I’m just exhausted from online chatter, but I find all these arguments around taking action that occur *on social media* sort of inane (that’s not to say that they aren’t influencing people in important ways, I’m just really not feeling Instagram these days). I don’t think Renee herself is virtue signaling, but I think a lot of people who talk about these sorts of things or suddenly get *woke* are responding to outside forces of guilt and shame that encourage a kind of performative activism on social media that doesn’t carry into the “real world.” I have felt a personal need to streamline my brand on the internet to deal in some nuance without trying to speak intelligently to ALL interrelated social issues. I spend my days discussing a huge variety of social issues with my community and I can’t always do it online, too. I’m also increasingly wary of hot takes, so I’m just gonna sit over here and think.
In regards to your initial musings on your closet: I’m kind of there with you on thought that I *do* have more than I can cycle through easily in 2 weeks or so. Which is maybe too much (from whose perspective)? On the other hand, I feel like I am building a clothing library. Home book libraries exist as bodies of information and knowledge for the readers who build them. Some books sit for years before they get picked up and consulted again. Most people serious about building their intellectual space invest in at least a bookcase, maybe 2, 3, 10, etc. So, maybe that’s what I’m doing with my wardrobe? I am serious about investing in my aesthetic space, and clothing (if carefully sourced) is an exercise in building up my own taste and sensibilities. My closet is a reference guide; an actively consulted shelf when I have questions about colors, fit, texture; and a holder for the clothing I put on my body every day. Just wanted to share this thought with you … the idea of the multiform nature of a “library” has really been swirling in my mind lately.
Thank you so much for writing this – Kindred spirits on the sustainability subject 🙂
I actually find it pretty remarkable for a “fashion” blogger that you added only 36 items to your closet (and less in net). A number of bloggers trying hard to limit their purchases despite high interest in style/fashion come up around 20/25, and I’am also around 25 over the year while thinking of myself as a minimalist – Haha !!
In your case, your interest and livelihood revolves around clothes, so you cannot escape them completely, even though posts about modeling Slowre items are always welcome. And your body changed early 2018 – I just hope that with the pregnancy, you are not going to regret too much things you let go because they became too wide (I’m a bit wary of any brutal closet cleaning, such as “get rid of it f you don’t wear it for one year” – Time flies, life changes, opportunities come up, and we should hang on to thinks we really like, even if only for the memories, rather than regretting them and buying more to replace them…)
As always, I love hearing your thoughts on this Grechen! The echo chamber of IG is mind numbing and the amount of in fighting that seems to be happening in the community as so many folks refuse to see the intersectionality of ethical fashion with so many other social and environmental issues is just discouraging. I shut down my ethical fashion account, and the amount of time it’s freed up to pursue doing work in these areas *in real life* has been both amazing and has me a bit ashamed of how much time I was wasting before.
I was also really disappointed with the large Nylon contents of Everlane’s cotton sweater (and their alpaca sweater too). Even Madewell can manage to make a reasonably priced 100% natural fiber sweater. I wonder what their excuse it?
Grechen Reiter says
i can’t think of any other reason for everlane using so much nylon except price? trying to keep it cheaper? But that also doesn’t make much sense to me. honestly, i have no idea….it’s so odd to me. oh, and also the alpaca sweater!! i love alpaca and find 100% alpaca to be very sturdy – i don’t know why they needed to add nylon to that either?!! ugh.
The discussion about nylon mixed with natural fibers is an interesting one, because for some more fragile fibers (like alpaca or cashmere), the presence of nylon will make it much more “durable” (by extending the life of the garment for potentially several years – the yarn will be more resistant and the garment will wear less at critical areas such as edges or elbows). I love my cashmere sweaters and jackets (alpaca is very itchy to me), but get very frustrated when they always wear off at these same areas (or at the level where my belt buckle presses against the kitchen sink). Since I’m good at needle work, i mend them a lot and crochet “elbow patches” in extra-fine alpaca yarn to fix my elbows for jackets I wear at home (luckily working from home), and keep them for years – You can also felt an old sweater on purpose and just cut patches in it to rescue your other favorites ones. But how many of us have thrown away sweaters with holes that could have been prevented ? What is more “sustainable” between going through three alpaca (or worse, cashmere) sweaters that wear off at the elbows or one that will last thrice as long because it contains some nylon? How long are we willing to wear the same clothes (or outdated ones that would be difficult to resell) when it’s still the best path to a sustainable consumption? The “sustainability/durability” issue, which I care a lot about in my daily life, is such a complicated one and we all have our own ways to look at it! But even if it seems pointless to some people, and we may not change the world, it also conveys some respect to the ressources and labor that come into what we are wearing.
Grechen Reiter says
i don’t think i’ll regret the things i’ve already gotten rid of, but i am being very careful of what i keep/get rid of now. and what i’m adding!!!
i’m usually very good about being thoughtful about what i get rid of/keep 🙂 so far, i’ve had no regrets.
Grechen Reiter says
oh, thank you for your input on this marie! i don’t have any alpaca that is very old, so i’ve not worn then enough to have them wear out, but i have had some cashmere for 4-5 years that is 100% cashmere and no holes or wear yet (except for moth holes on one sweater a couple years ago). i mean, it pills like crazy, and looks worn, but i don’t mind that at all. i will wear those sweaters until they’re falling apart…
and i had one sweater that had some wool/nylon in it that got random holes in it, without even having been worn much (not moths).
but yes, it does seem like it can be a durability issue – it’s heard to measure the tradeoffs exactly though!! and it probably has to do with more than just durability, like how the garment is knit?
Grechen Reiter says
oh!!! i love this idea!! thank you so much for putting it so beautifully.
i’m happy to consider my wardrobe a library – i definitely go in and try things on every once in a while, just to play around and remind myself of the beautiful things i have. I don’t always end up wearing whatever I try on or play with, but that’s okay, i find it useful in understanding where i am at the moment aesthetically, and maybe also where i am not?
Grechen Reiter says
it is exhausting…
i think you’re doing the right thing and appreciate how you’ve taken a step back on social media. and being thoughtful is always a good idea – you can always tell when someone is in a hurry to craft a response to something, or make a point, it’s never as measured as it could be. and i see a need for calmness and some level of detachment lately –
Grechen Reiter says
are you using the forums? I wasn’t sure anyone was using them, so i just removed the links to them!! sorry about that. let me know and i’ll put them back!
i too would love more hemp clothing, but haven’t seen a lot of brands working with it too much, besides eileen fisher a little more, and i know elizabeth suzann did for one or two pieces. i know there were some other smaller designers who worked with hemp as well, i’ll do some more research and see what’s happening on that front lately.
don’t even get me started on cbd. so much hype…although i’ll admit we use it very effectively for dagny. and my friend swears by it. i just don’t see a whole of evidence that it’s efficacious, especially since there are so many variations
It was the sign in – I guess it was for the forums but it let me “stay” signed in so I didn’t have to sign in to comment for your blog each time 😉
I’m hoping that now hemp is legal (stupid govt) that it will be easier for designers/companies to obtain & use in clothing. Just not sure how long that could take – have to get it grown first, not sure how many farmers would be interested. NC has a great page of information under its agriculture dept (because NC has had the pilot program since 2015) but doesn’t say how much is being grown….And of course now I worry will it be grown for CBD and not hemp clothing? (or rope of the other industrial uses) Can a single harvest be both? I clearly need to do more research!!
I’ve used CBD pain cream and I think it works but who knows? Too much variation and I’d like more regulation and a heck of a lot more testing 🙂 Fashionista had a nice article last week about companies who want to become the “Sephora of CBD” and one of them did talk about requiring all the 3rd party lab testing before marketing products – I want to see stuff like that!
I don’t think a “mesh bag” (often made with nylon!) will actually do anything to stop microplastics from getting into the water/ocean. Microplastics are, by definition, too tiny to be caught by a physical filter.
This is a pretty good article about the basics – I have tried to switch as many consumable products as I can from packaging in plastic to versions that don’t package in plastic.
Thank you for the shout out! I’ve also been meaning to research synthetics in fashion. I was told by a textile researcher in Sweden this summer that synthetics do make clothing last longer – his lab is trying to figure out how to melt polyester out of cotton so that both can be recycled for that very reason. He advocated for keeping textile mixes simple, 2 at most. Right now brands put in 3 or 4! But if I’m going to buy a sweater with acrylic or polyester or nylon, I’m going to buy it secondhand…because it’s there to make it last longer!
Lisa the Sequinist says
I just found your blog today on Reddit and am poring over all of your old posts. I am thoroughly enjoying them. Also, I had a baby at 43, so I’m feeling you on the mama in her 40s situation!
It sure can feel like Instagram is the WRONG place to be for anyone with a thoughtful approach to their wardrobe, but then again, it is so refreshing to me to see that eco fashion and investment purchases are starting to gain traction over the fast fashion ghouls. It is genuinely starting to feel a bit cringey to see people wearing H&M and Zara, almost like seeing someone smoking 🙂 This is a long winded way of saying Yes Instagram is exhausting, No one post doesn’t always make a big difference in the world, but if you make one person think differently about their purchases and consider the provenance of their clothes, you’ve actually done the world a favour. xx
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