Six items in 2018, and why I’m not doing it

This time last year, I was freaking out about undertaking the six items challenge – wearing only six items of clothing for six weeks. This year it starts again tomorrow, Valentines Day as well as the first day of Lent.

Lent, as you may know, is a period of fasting and penance for some Christians and Catholics, so what better time to have a fashion fast than at this time, whether you’re religious or not. You won’t be the only one. There are plenty of people around the world taking on the #sixitemschallenge.

I’m not one of them though, and the reason is threefold;

  1. I took the challenge last year, and feel like I really gained some deep and meaningful epiphanies – for me it really demonstrated the minimalist mantra of less is more. And really that is what the challenge is about. Yes, you can fundraise for Labour Behind the Label, the organisation that runs the challenge, but on a personal level it is all about pushing yourself, and learning about yourself and your consumption.
  2. I know I can do the challenge, so that means it’s not really a challenge anymore, is it?!
  3. All the people I was able to share my challenge experience with are still the same colleagues, acquaintances and friends (and family obviously) so I don’t get to have that same fresh impact as before.

Although I think it’s too late to officially be part of the challenge, you are never to late to have a fashion detox as part of a journey toward less fast fashion in your life, or maybe for you it’s about less stuff, or mindful consumption, or all of the above.

If you want to be inspired or just get some useful tips for your own fashion fast, check out my latest article published in Eco Warrior Princess.

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Inspired and scared by Japan

We recently returned from a mammoth 6-week holiday.

We knocked off family reunions and reconnecting in the Netherlands and the UK, and added Singapore and Japan to the mix on either end for ‘fun’.

As this is a blog about sustainable fashion, I won’t go into too much detail about the actual travel. Suffice to say it was exhausting, exhilarating, eye-opening, entertaining and epic. Our son turned two on the trip and with it came challenging new defiant behaviours. Thankfully, he loved the trains, planes, lift buttons and city lights as we went.

When it comes to sustainability, I found I really had to leave my values at the departure gate. Living out of a suitcase for a month and a half with a two year old and a teenager really knocks the wind out of any eco sails. The priority is feeding, getting places, and often working on the spur of the moment. I decided taking my Keep Cup and Reusable nappies was just asking for too much!!! Although I took my tupperware, beeswax wraps, reusable bags and soap bars there was a lot of convenience single use plastic and take-away paraphernalia being bought.

So yes, I was not very eco while I travelled. And it struck me just how un-eco the world really is on an every day basis.  Singapore and Tokyo really shocked us. WOW!!! Single use plastic everywhere. I understand that these places cater toward convenience, small kitchens that are barely used, and life (especially in Singapore) dining and socialising on the street. But fruit cut into pieces and individually wrapped!! Dine-in margarine iwth it’s own attached plastic knife! Really!?

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Even when dining in, plastic cutlery and butter was provided. The butter comes with a wee knife. So unnecessary!

In Tokyo, all the cafes sold dine-in coffee in disposable cups. I wondered, was there simply no space to keep ceramic mugs for all the millions of people that visited that cafe? While Japanese are hot on recycling with separated out rubbish bins everywhere, I have to wonder about the priority. Surely, the best way to keep on top of rubbish is to minimise it, not recycle what is thrown away. What about bringing your own bag? I didn’t see a single reusable shopping bag in Japan.

We found it a little terrifying that the government of a country like Japan, with its 127 million people, doesn’t promote reducing as much as recycling. No wonder the oceans are littered with islands of plastic.

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Just a spot of Sunday shopping in popular Harajuku, Tokyo, with millions of Japanese

But, I suppose, that all of that requires a huge cultural change for millions of people. People work so much and so hard that office towers  with 40+ levels contain supermarkets, dentists, gyms and restaurants so workers need not venture far during work hours (which seem to be 9am to 7 or 8pm). It’s all about convenience and eating on the go.

On a positive note, I just love Tokyo fashion. Tokyoites dress so well in a style that I admire – unpretentious, well-tailored, classic and Parisian-inspired with beautiful fabrics with subtle pops of colour. I was blown away by the uniformity of that style, and general exceptional presentation by the millions of commuters we encountered. I’m not saying body size and shape diversity and personal taste aren’t important and to be celebrated, but seeing thousands of well-presented, perfectly made-up people is pleasing too in an aesthetic way. Here are a few examples (I got more confident to ask people to pose just as we left!). Seeing traditional dress was also cool. The gentleman with jandals was listening to music through his iphone – I just loved the effortless mix of old and new.

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11 gifts for the ultimate ethical Kiwi Christmas list

A little while ago, Claire the Ethical Fashion Project Manager from Tearfund and I, pulled together the ultimate sustainable fashion summer list, as well as one for Christmas. Here is the combined list, with some great summer items from local Kiwi ethical brands, as well as ideas rather than brands for a Christmas focused less on consumption and more on sharing and caring.

It’s not too late for online orders either!!

  1. Give a Gift for Life. I especially love this, Donating a life-changing gift on someone else’s behalf with Tearfund. You get a card to give them, letting them know the difference they’ve made in the life of someone in need.  You can give so many different things including a goat, drinking water, training or a veggie patch. Surely that’s a lot better than another pair of socks in the drawer. Nothing could be more in the spirit of Christmas than a gift that actually gives.
  2. But if you do want to give them something they can wear immediately, how about a little white t-shirt from a Little Yellow Bird. Sturdy, soft and long organic cotton shirts are from $35 or $45. It’s not only white tees but stripes and colours too.
  3. Or a lovely summer dress from ReCreate. Also organic cotton, but not only that, Debs and Erica from ReCreate set up a sewing centre in Cambodia providing employment and training to locals many of whom were living in slums before. Their clothes really encapsulate that laid back Kiwi feel. By the way they do meanswear too!

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4. But you know, it’s not only about easily wrapped gifts. Gift your skills. There are endless possibilities in this category—resole your spouse’s favourite shoes, craft lovely new covers for your mum’s sofa cushions, weed your neighbour’s garden, bake cupcakes for your niece, or baby sit on New Year’s eve for your friend. You can even design the gift voucher on www.canva.com.

5. Buy pre-loved. Hunting for that perfect gift, whether it’s a funky retro salad bowl, or a designer label jacket, also shows you really care enough to take the time. The Walk in Wardrobe in Queenstown central is my favourite.

6. Maybe you’ve had no luck going pre-loved, then check out WE-AR for beautiful, light, yoga-inspired garments.

7. The beeswax food wrap. This one might seem a bit left field, but I can’t overstate the life-changing wonder of beeswax food wraps. No more cling film (which I personally hate because of how much of it ends up in landfill). These reusable waxy wraps keep everything tightly closed, and colourfully wrapped.

8. Make a book for memories. Nowadays, there are lots of companies that allow you to curate your own photo book and publish it hard copy. Kroma books are the local version of Chatbooks, but it looks like Milk Photo Books and Artifact Uprising use recycled, acid-free paper making them a more sustainable option.

9. Share or buy an experience. Organise an experience for your loved one—a ziptrek, a dinner out or a movie voucher.

10. Allbirds are the gift that they’ll never stop wearing. Just ask my me!! These are merino-made runners that tick a lot of boxes, including comfort (truly), style, ethics and sustainable values.
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11. This one is for the kids. The bestest most comfortablest tee for 4-12 year olds from OKI For All. My personal favourite, and one that I am begging Kerith the founder and designer to make adult versions of, is the Akiko Kawakami illustrated story of OKI tee featured above.

With those ideas, you are set and ready to go.

 

Kiwis at Eco Fashion Week Australia

This Thursday, November 23rd, Australia hosts the biggest eco fashion week in the region.

The inaugural Eco Fashion Week Australia is to be held in Perth until the 27th, and while the event name suggests an Aussie-focus, organiser Zuhal Kuvan-Mills has invited  designers, artists, activists,  media and businesses from around the world.

Our very own Senorita AweSUMO from just “down the road” in Dunedin, is showing an 11-piece collection made of items with an incredible story.

Designer Fiona Clements has upcycled and regenerated tent canvas and everyday waste items collected from the streets to create something that is a strong statement, not just in the sharp silhouette of the pieces, but about our throw away culture. Screen Shot 2017-11-19 at 4.19.19 PM

In an interview with Fiona about her collection and the show for the Otago Daily Times, she said how disheartening it was to see how much rubbish people dropped on the ground. With incredible insight and innovation she has paired throw away single-use street waste with fabric donated by the Otago Museum. The green tent substrate was from an exhibition about Otago Nurses in WWI (an exhibition developed in collaboration with  Otago Polytechnic bachelor of design  students).

She also used hemp and organic cotton fabric in the collection.

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At a sneak peak pre-runway show in Dunedin

Runway shows like Senorita AweSUMO’s will present the best in organic, handmade, local, “re/up-cycled”, fair-trade, ethical fashion and textiles. Not only fashion, but the aim of the fashion week is to raise awareness  of environmentally-conscious “slow fashion” in the region, highlighting innovation, avant-garde design and education.

I take my hat off to Fiona, as well as Zuhal, who has shown collections from her Green Embassy haute couture eco brand around the world at several eco shows. These two pioneers are part of a growing consciousness and global conversation about the origins and ethics of our clothes, about being innovative in designing waste-free or regenerating for design, and about simply being mindful about what we wear and what we waste.

And by the way, Zuhal, who I also had the privilege of talking to, has high praise for Fiona, and the work she is doing both in her Vogel Street sewing room, as well as on the Kiwi and global stage.

For my part, I am very proud of what we do in New Zealand, and I wish Fiona and the other New Zealand designer, Heke Designs from Waiheke Island, best of luck with their shows later this week. Kia Kaha.

First and second

I‘ve been thinking about pre-loved clothing a lot lately, especially since hosting and helping arrange the recent Walk in Wardrobe fashion show at the Sustainable Queenstown annual eco fair.

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The lovely Eco Fair Fashion Show models (with me in the middle)

I remain a strong advocate for buying sustainably-produced clothing from credible and transparent brands, but second-hand clothing is moving up in my esteem.

Here’s why…

It’s great that in recent years so many sustainable brands have launched. You can now buy something that is ethical, on trend and at a different price point almost every weekend. But I wonder what that means for our exhausted planet? It feels a little like fast fashion.

With all these ethical and sustainable brands popping up, I am thinking that we need to take it back to the principles behind sustainable fashion – creating something that sustains rather than destroys resources for future generations to enjoy. I’m not saying certified organic cotton and a fair trade wage system is destructive. No. But second hand clothing really targets the consuming resources part of the equation. It is a great way to reduce consumption by recycling and re-using, and lessening the landfill fabric waste that is just as bad as the waste created at production. It also gives us a lot of choice, style wise. I also feel that if an item has made it through a couple of washes and still looks good on the shelf then it should last long too. From a wallet perspective that’s a deal – greater guarantee, less the price.

A fellow blogger and vintage and pre-loved store owner, Leah Wise, from Stylewise, also made a good point in a previous blog regarding big fast fashion brands cashing in on re-purchases. With my media and marketing background I feel they get double the brand awareness when items are worn again. But, as she said, the second hand market is its own economy. Besides, if someone asks who we are wearing, we get the opportunity to say we have deliberately bought second hand to lessen our carbon footprint. Leah also pointed out that re-using acknowledges the work that has gone into making these garments and that resonated with me too. After all, the #whomademyclothes campaign asks us to question manufacture, so why shouldn’t we also show our appreciation. That is our love for fashion – appreciating beauty and style.

Perhaps the ultimate solution then is supporting a second hand sustainable-brands market, and with all these brands emerging that becomes a real option. Jess from Muka Kids has run a system like this for years where you can trade your sustainable ethical brands via a Facebook marketplace. It is particularly popular for kids clothing.

So then the question is what if I find a great sustainable brand on ebay and it has to be shipped from the US to New Zealand? Crikey. I’ll have to delve down that question another time! At the end of the day there are many factors that guide our purchase decisions and that’s the most important thing – being mindful. I’d like to add to that – not only mindful but joyful and proud of trying rather than being guilty for not ticking all the boxes.

Featured photo credit – Walk in Wardrobe.

 

Spring and change are in the air

I love Spring. It is absolutely my favourite time of the year.

There’s sun, but not too much of it. Beautiful blossoms start to flourish, scenting the air and bringing colour to the grey. And yet, I still get to play in the snow, and wear my jacket and scarf some days. Perfection.

But it’s also time for new beginnings. For me that is significant. This month, I am opening a new chapter and starting up a new business. Well, it’s a creative platform of sorts, where people with a need for branding, PR, communications etc can come to The Cre8tive Group – that’s what it’ll be called we think – and have access to a whole bunch of incredible freelancers who will collaborate together for each client, and draw on different strengths for each ‘commission’. It’ll be a springboard to broaden my scope and specialise in sustainable businesses. That’s the exciting part.

But in the meanwhile, something very very important has to happen. It’s probably not as important as paying bills, but it sure does feel like it today.

My new Spring Capsule Wardrobe.

 

 

As ever, only 30 items. So I am pulling out the black and grey and bringing in dots, pink, blue and white. Patterns, lightness, shortness and shoes that don’t go above the ankle. The feel of grass on my feet,  the sun on my face. I love Spring. Did I say that already?

And as always, I’ll leave a couple of empty hangers to purchase something new for spring that will last me all the way through to the end of next Spring (at least!). Look out Pinterest, here comes a new pinboard.

In winter I got a ‘new’ pre-loved denim shirt in exchange for one I could no longer mend, a pre-loved cowl neck cashmere sweater, a new pair of ankle boots from Kate Sylvester and a couple of items from WE-AR, a Kiwi brand that is fast becoming a favourite. I had 7 slots left after compiling my winter Capsule wardrobe, so I did OK there (Still catching up from a severe lack of clothing post pregnancy and nursing wear).

What’s your Spring Wardrobe looking like? Or perhaps you’re gearing up for Autumn (also a lovely time of the year). What do you have your eye on? Either way, have fun curating your new wardrobe.

Buyerarchy of needs, and why I disagree with it…

Back by popular demand…

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present a little bit of my knowledge and passion to a packed audience of more than 200 wonderful women at Queenstown’s Inaugural Women’s Summit, organised by Sustainable Queenstown.

In my Pecha Kucha about sustainable and ethical fashion, there was a diagram that seemed to resonate with audience members, and so I thought I might revisit it in my blog. Here it is – Sarah Lazarovic’s nifty pyramid – the buyerarchy of needs, based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

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Cool, isn’t it?

Lazarovic is an illustrator, writer, irony-recogniser, call-it-what-it-is type, and general awesome creative. She also lives minimally, and for a year instead of buying what she wanted she painted what she wanted, and then published the visual essays. I admire that.

But I disagree with Sarah. In the pyramid in my head the first three are fine, but then I stop. When we buy pre-loved clothing that hasn’t been ethically made, we might consume less and re-use more, but at the same time we are supporting a fast fashion industry that pollutes, employs children, doesn’t pay fair wages, and so on and so forth (see a blog about that here). By buying a second-hand label that rates poorly for ethics and environmental sustainability, we’re supporting them and their branding. We might lower our own carbon footprint, but not the global footprint.

In my pyramid, I prioritise buying and supporting sustainable and ethical fashion labels. If you can buy these second-hand we’ve got a Yahtzee!

I don’t have the tools to create something fancy… So here is my rudimentary diagram descending from best to least. In all honesty though I operate at purple/no.1, 2 and no.5 and at a push no.6 the yellow block – 100 wears.

My fashion consumption pyramid

Love what you have first!!

To me, it’s absolutely important that ethical and sustainable brands, labels, marketplaces feature strongly in your consumption pyramid. It’s a more global humanitarian approach and sends a clear message that ethical and sustainable comes first, even over fast fashion seconds – yes, that’s right, we don’t even want your fast fashion seconds!! Boom!

Thanks for the inspiration, Sarah.

And thanks to Sustainable Queenstown for the opportunity to share.

Spreading the word

A little while ago, Tearfund, a New Zealand-based human rights charity released a report rating companies in New Zealand on their ethical credentials. They did so in partnership with Baptist World Aid Australia which launched the Ethical Fashion Guide a few years ago.

I got in touch with Tearfund to ask about how I might become involved, how I might be able to help spread the word. I’m proud to say this has resulted in me collaborating with Tearfund to pen a monthly blog – a Beginner’s Guide to Ethical Fashion. I’m pretty stoked to be working with Tearfund, spreading the word, making change.

The guys at Tearfund and I were blown away by the reaction New Zealanders had to the report, which you can download here. More than 6000 Kiwis have downloaded it as a resource to see which NZ fashion brands are ethical, ie they care that the workers who make their clothes get a fair wage, fair treatment, have basic employment rights, are not children and are safe at work.

People were then asked if they would like to subscribe to a monthly newsletter about ethical fashion, with a choice to receive a blog aimed at novices on the topic (ie mine) all the way through to the more experienced.

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More than 2000 put their hands up for the beginners blog! And after the first was published, plenty of them asked questions and made suggestions about what to cover in future blogs. They were engaged, enthusiastic and ready to make a change. It was an awesome feeling to know that people care, and want to know more.

Here is a link to the last one, and the August blog will drop in a couple of weeks. Click on past issues if you’d like to read previous blogs or subscribe if you’d like to do that.

Not long after that…

…my friends over at Sustainable Queenstown arranged a summit in Queenstown aimed solely at women and their role in social and environmental sustainability. They asked me to speak at the Women’s Summit along with some inspiring incredible women in the region. They initially thought 100 or so ladies would turn up, but on the night 240 people made it.

So once again, it really seems as though people are ready to make the change and #bethechange.

Both these collaborations have inspired me to build up my own Beginners Guide for the blog – perhaps once a month with tips, links to brands and answers to any questions. So, yes, if you have any questions, definitely ask… And if you’d find a guide useful, let me know also. Comment, email or get in touch in whichever way you want (just not pigeons. My dog will eat them).

 

 

 

Mid-winter crisis with a cherry on top

I’m having a bit of a crisis.

We’ve just had the shortest day of the year here in New Zealand.  The weather this weekend has been particularly horrible, grey and overcast. Everything feels drab. My winter wardrobe just seems so grey and brown. It all feels dull and dreary.

It doesn’t help that a lot of what constitutes my capsule wardrobe is clinging on from my post-pregnancy days. I gave birth to a gorgeous boy a year and a half ago and the ‘uniform’ for most of the following year was jeans/pants, t-shirt, jersey and trainers across the white, blue, black, grey spectrum. A lot of this is still hanging in my wardrobe and it feels like I need something new.

In the past, I would have armed myself with ye old faithful credit card and gone shopping for shiny new things to make me feel better. Usually, instead of buying one great, good quality item I would have tried to squeeze as much as possible within the budgetary limitations (and still probably blown it).

But the new me knows better. A: a splurge on a budget is only short-lived and you usually end up with a whole lot of clothes you’ll never wear. B: It looks shiny and new for a short time and then it’s just drab/shrunken/pilling/itchy. C: I know it’s just a phase.

So yes, I want something shiny and new, but I am staving off the desire to dole out spontaneously and without discernment. I have a few “blank tiles” in my capsule wardrobe (I think I was six items short of the self-inflicted 30 items) so I am taking my time to find the right items. Yesterday I swopped out a torn denim shirt for a second-hand new one, so not exactly new as it’s a replacement but it did satiate my shopping desire a bit.

There’s also new pair of Kate Sylvester shoes on the floor and a fair trade scarf in the bag at Loyal that I am still deciding on.

So you see, being ethical is not always the easiest choice – it requires resolution and a smattering of additional discipline at times. It’s easy to just go and get a bunch of cheap garments that are trendy for this month, but it’s an endless cycle. On the other hand, buying six new items that meet ethics, sustainability plus durability would definitely blow the bank right now. As I said. It ain’t always easy.

I recently read a great piece from a fellow blogger Stylewise dispelling the myth that ethical fashion followers are elitist and need not worry about pesky things such as budgets. It came days after another blogger On the Road to Ethical talked about budgets and wishlists too. What they write totally resonates with me.

 

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Here are my new Kate Sylvesters. This is an iconic, well-established and loved Kiwi brand. I have always avoided it for price and I assumed it wasn’t ethical. But when I read that the brand was Child Labor Free certified, I was intrigued. Now, it turns out they use carbon neutral energy, check sustainability policies of suppliers, produce a lot of the product in New Zealand and use organic cotton and merino. These shoes are leather and unfortunately Kate Sylverster isn’t transparent about where its leather is from, but I felt comfortable with supporting this local brand for the above reasons and because it continues to improve. Plus the style is feminine, intelligent, confident and distinctive. And guess what? They were $100 down from $430!

Now that is a much-needed shiny cherry in a crisis!

(trusty Vogue there too)

Five tips to get your capsule wardrobe sorted for winter

Winter is here, and I need a whole new wardrobe!!

Fear not – I’ve been shopping in the garage and not the mall. I’ve laid all my winter and autumn clothes out, and I’m ready to chose 30 items for my winter capsule wardrobe.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

About three months ago, off the back of the six items challenge (six clothes for six weeks), I opted to put only 30 items back in my wardrobe for the duration of Autumn. This is called a capsule wardrobe, and it generally includes 30 main items, with unlimited use of accessories, underwear, active wear and shoes. Click on this link to view my video about that decision.

Why a capsule wardrobe? To make my morning routine easier, to continue on my path of living more minimally out of respect for the environment, to declutter, and to just be mindful of my consumption.

Here are a few tips to curate your capsule wardrobe
(winter-themed, of course):
  1. Be practical. Make sure you have enough warmth for the following three months. And remember, it is only three months so if you have trouble letting go of something, it’ll be back in your grubby paws before you know it.
  2. But not too practical!!! Got any favourite pieces from your autumn wardrobe? If they are warm enough for winter, keep them. You can always add an extra layer. Hold on to the things you love!
  3. Put together outfits (like I have below) so you can see what works. That way you can see the mix and match possibilities, and you already know what you have when you’re late in the morning.
Winter Capsule

Check out what my winter looks like.

  1. Colour coordinate. This is pretty easy because in winter everything tends to be dark so you can easily mix and match. At the same time, don’t be afraid to add a touch of colour to that.
  2. Be versatile. Think about how to dress items up and down. I find you can almost lift any outfit for a night our with high heels, lipstick, a great jacket and attitude!
My Choices

Two jackets. 1 pair of kick-flare cropped jeans (love these from Nobody Denim). Three skinny casual pants (black, floral and blue). One black dress (this one is all seasons) and a denim pinafore. Also, a black stretch pencil skirt, leggings and a neat pair of dark blue trousers. Two cardigans, two knit jerseys plus two cotton long-sleeved tops. Add a peach shirt and a denim shirt plus a mustard dress shirt. There’s a black and white tunic plus one cotton black v-neck (also an all season one) for a total 21.

I’m leaving room for one more jersey (a black turtle-neck knit above the knee if I can find one), and well… I don’t need any more. I could allocate the space to 5 pairs of shoes, two scarves, and a hat to get to 30. There’s people out there who do exactly that – include everything in the 30.

I don’t have a special occasion outfit per se, but there’s plenty here that I can dress up.

By the way, a capsule wardrobe doesn’t come with hard and fast rules, so you can change items if you want to. It’s up to you really. It’s about being mindful about our clothes, valuing them and caring for them (and thereby taking note of who made them and how). If we just add or change at a whim, we are no longer being actively mindful, and then the reason is lost.

Good luck and let me know how you get on.