I’m sick of hearing the world ‘sustainability.’ I wonder as someone who not only works in fashion but, more simply, has Instagram and Twitter accounts, if it actually means anything.The conversation is not always welcoming. The conversation is not always comprehensive. The conversation is not always a conversation.
Responsibility, however, that interests me.
For this month’s A Week in My Wardrobe, I looked at my own wardrobe to put together what I called a ‘Responsible Edit’ which is a mixture of mainstream vintage, charity shop finds, and designer items. It’s as comprehensive a vision of ‘sustainability’ as I can conceive for myself. These purchases were decisions that buying new arrivals or from fast fashion e-commerce sites weren’t essential when it came to building an outfit.
Scours the vintage section. For my Monday classes, I wore a navy, black and white Fila puffer jacket (from a 2017 Village Hall kilo sale), beige Dickies flared workwear pants (from Topman’s vintage section – my favourite destination in the Cork store), and battered Converse.
Customise your clothes. On Tuesday, I chose my H&M striped shirt in shades of pink (from a charity shop) and Topshop high waisted trousers (from their women’s vintage section). The trousers were once beige but the oil from a kebab at Istanbul stained them beyond redemption. (I was inconsolable). So I dyed them black. When in doubt, dye your clothes black.
Spend your money wisely. For day three, I wore my go-to blue Eckhaus Latta high-waisted ankle-grazer jeans and leather loafers from Sebago. This outfit, while not sourced from a vintage section, is the product of hard work and money well spent. These are clothes that will stand the test of time and because of their elevated quality will last.
These clothes, expectedly, flew under the radar. There was nothing too challenging about them. The puffer jacket and the jeans received compliments. I’d say where I got them, though, and that’s where things would get interesting. We’d trade notes on our favourite vintage spots and charity shops in Cork City or further afield. We’d assess whether the current state of influencer marketing is toxic for our physical environment.
Class was a big topic. The sustainability conversation often ignores the fact that not everyone is in a position to make the most conscious decision because it’s beyond their means. It ignores the fact that not everyone is comfortable with charity shopping where awkward sizing poses a threat to potential outfits — look no further than Laura O’Sullivan’s brilliant article a few issues back about how thrifting is not in the favour of plus-sized shoppers.
The conversations would conclude that we should promote mainstream vintage, charity shop finds, and designer items (that doesn’t mean these are without their ethical faults too), but we’re not in the position to a) dictate how someone spends their money and b) chastise someone if they want to buy a new dress for a night out. The only thing I can do is encourage them to also pursue alternative avenues but not stray into territory where one is left feeling guilty for buying one new item.
I realised not long into my decision to stop buying clothes I didn’t need that when I slipped and treated myself to a new jacket or a new pair of shoes, that nothing is ever achieved through self-punishment but self-discipline.
That’s the biggest issue with the sustainability conversation. Nothing is ever achieved through attacking someone’s actions or through virtue signalling. What we can do, however, is encourage each other to be better and make smarter choices. Our wardrobes, and the world, could use a lot more of that.