What is better than sustainability?

The other day I was presenting for a large group of people at an international event. It was a webinar, so I didn’t really know how many people were there. For all I know they could have all left the conversation while I was speaking and it would have been an empty room by the time I was finished. Didn’t matter, though, I was presenting a topic that I found super interesting, “standing out in the current fashion scene as a sustainable fashion brand”.

One of the things that I had to answer was, “what is sustainability?”. Before I gave my answer I quoted an answer that I found online, which was a bit like this; sustainability is a way to give the current generation what it needs without taking from the next generations. My answer was this; Sustainability is the status quo. Sustainability is normal.

If you want to make your wardrobe more sustainable, you just do that. You buy what you normally would buy in regular stores except you buy them from stores that sell clothes that are made sustainably.

Now why do I call buying sustainable the status quo when you are still finding it difficult to navigate the sustainable clothing-scene?

Well, because it is not.

Talked to me 10 years ago and I would have had a different opinion. Back than when I wanted to work with natural fabrics in a collection I would have had about 10 magnificent different hues of brown to chose from. I still have the patches that I requested online, at about 7 different stores that did online shipping of natural materials. There was no way I could get the materials from where I was living. They were all very crude, with washed down colours. There was no way I could do with them what I wanted to do with them. It was hard for a brand to produce truly sustainable items at that time.

Not now. Now there are so many ways to be more sustainable with your wardrobe and new brands emerge weekly. The ways to find these brands, one of the things that was troublesome in the past, are also coming up like mushrooms too.

If you are still struggling with buying more sustainable it is possible that you are thinking with too much limitations. You are literally trying to keep your old habits while just trying to be more sustainable. Like I said to the people that were listening to the webinar, what else can you do? Okay, so you are sustainable, what more are you? What are your core values and do you clothes represent those? You values do not stop at clothes, right? What else is there for you?

I am talking about sustainability+.

The problem is that sustainability works in such a different way from normal fashion that it is impossible to change without really changing. The struggle comes from the clash between how you are used to doing things and wanting sustainability to fit into those same habits. You want to buy the clothes that you are used to buying, only they should be made in a sustainable way.

Simply changing the source of your clothes will make you feel better about them, but doing it without looking at who you really are means you pass on a great opportunity to reconsider what clothes could do for you.

And that is sustainability+. It just doesn’t stop at sustainability because solving the problems fashion production represent through sustainability can mean so many things!

Fashion being sustainable might mean the production of clothes that are only worn one single time. It might mean wearing the same kind of pants for everybody. It may mean having no secondhand clothing anymore. It may even mean having only one outfit where many outfits can be projected upon. There is simply no saying what sustainability still has in store for us, but knowing yourself really well is the quickest way to a sustainable wardrobe that you love, right here, right now!

If you want to be more sustainable out of guilt for the environment it is not going to make you feel well. You could be more sustainable while having fun. You can have fun changing your wardrobe if you make sure that the things that you are trying to do are in line with your personality. Because changing to a wardrobe that suits you better is always more sustainable.

I will say that again, especially for you; a wardrobe that is filled with items that are perfect for you is per definition more sustainable. Clothes that are so awesome that you never want to let go of are the most sustainable option. You will make sure they do not wear out so quickly by washing them less or repairing them. You will use old to create new or have somebody create something new. You will feel fantastic washing an outfit that is soo awesome by hand because the outfit makes you feel fantastic and you want it to last.

Sustainablility+ is more than just being more sustainable. It means you look at what is important to you and integrate that into you buying, caring and wearing habits.

And it is more fun because it is not done out of guilt. It is done out of love for yourself.

What is your biggest sustainability-lifestyle-wardrobe struggle? Let me know!

Tunnel vision.

Did you know that both consumers as well as creators in the fashion industry suffer by the way the fashion machine works?

I have recently read, again, that change in the fashion industry should not only come from the industry itself, but also from the consumers. Most of those times the remarks are aimed at sustainability issues. Often it seems that the changes we are talking about are simply changes in production methods (less CO2, biodegradable fabrics and so on.) It may implicate that all we need to do is to make sure production isn’t environmentally impactful and we are good to go.

But that is not enough. The whole of fashion should be changed, and could be changed. Because it isn’t just the impact of the chain of production, that is a problem. It is the soul of fashion that is hollowed out through so many years of high speed roaring of this fashion-machine.

Sometimes things needs to be repaired. We could make sure things improve. Things that need repairing are just signaling a problem. An opportunity, if you will.

Both consumers and creators in the industry are not happy with how the fashion industry works. For the consumers it means they have plenty of clothing but nothing that is really worth it to wear. I would like to add to that a feeling of inadequacy that is being fed by all kinds of media. Consumers do not feel well about how they look even after spending so much time and energy on their looks. If they would, there wouldn’t be a problem.

The creatives working in fashion, whether that is in production, design or in a store often are not so happy with how it currently works, either. They won’t often tell you this, though, because it seems so normal. It seems so normal to only worry about how many items you can sell in a day and not if that person is going to be happy with the outfits on the long run. It seems so normal to work extra hours when you are working as a designer or buyer in fashion, because, well, that is what everybody does! When drawing from my own experience, I have heard many manager or head of design say; “I expect them to keep up with the trends in their own time.” At the time it didn’t even sound like a strange thing to say, when you work in fashion you have a feeling for trends. But next to the workload and the extra hours you already work, it is not reasonable. What hurts too is that often creativity is not the real propeller. It is cold hard numbers that will decided whether or not a design gets through to the final stage of the process.

Fashion is strict; there are only a few ways to wear clothes. There are only limited ways to experienced fashion that you can see represented around you in daily life that is considered the right way to do it. That makes it hard for a consumer to look and be who they want to be. It is hard to dress the way you want because it is easy to stand out. Besides, standing out is hard when you do not feel confident.

For creatives it means that it is hard to do things differently. When they have out of the box ideas it is often hard to get them to work. Fashion has worked in a certain way already for years. It means that people through the entire production chain are used to the way things work. It makes creators feel like they are swimming against the current even if they want to do something simple, like having no sale.

And that hurts even more, on a deeper level.

On a deeper level fashion lacks creativity. Because fashion is so generic it is hard for creatives as well as consumers to think outside the box. Both should be able to find a way to be truly in love with the clothes they produce/wear. Fashion is only experienced, produced and sold in a very narrowminded way. If there would be more examples of fashion being made and experienced differently, for a larger audience, it would be easier to find a way that is novel still, and works for you. We all have a sort of tunnel-vision when it comes to fashion and what we expect from it.

How do you get rid of this tunnel-vision?

Well, you start to dream. You start to figure out what what you would want your relationship with clothes to be. How would you want to feel? Where should clothes come from? What should they have to represent in order to be that what you want them to be? What should they be in order to feel great in them?

When you start brainstorming what you think clothes should be, in their very core, it means you need to make sure you do not think in limitations. It doesn’t need to be here tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if you can afford it. It doesn’t matter if production can already be done that way. It doesn’t matter the current system doesn’t support it yet. It doesn’t matter that kind of fabric doesn’t exist yet. Fashion is rapidly changing. If you create a clear goal for yourself, you can start to take steps to get there. Without a long-term goal you wont get there. If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything.