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.

5 reasons ethical fashion is not more expensive than fast fashion

There is a perception that sustainable ethical fashion is expensive.
Of course it depends on how you look at it.

Dirt cheap has become normal. But actually, way back when (it wasn’t even that long ago) clothing was generally ethical and sustainable. It was locally-made using natural dyes and was designed to last for years. These clothes were the norm, but as fast fashion spreads and grows (like fungus) churning out cheaper and cheaper clothing, we perceive the cost of clothing to be less than what it truly costs.

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 2.05.53 PMIn spite of that, when you love clothes but need to eat, a $5 cheap t-shirt wins over that gorgeous organic cotton Kowtow top for $60. But wait – as they say – you can have the organic cotton top and not break the bank.

Since becoming an ethical sustainable fashionista,
I have actually saved money. How?

  1. Take that Kowtow cotton top. Pure organic cotton clothing (so no blends) is durable, retains shape and colour and holds less odour. In other words it kicks the backside of cheap cotton (which lasts a season and shrinks or stretches along the way). You won’t need to buy another top for years.
  2. There aren’t many ethical and sustainable fashion brands in my neighbourhood (nowadays they live in big cities, or online marketplaces) which makes the purchase/return process (especially from US or UK to NZ) more risky. As a result, I browse as much, but buy less. I have to really like it to buy it.
  3. Because I really like it, I will wear it often, and for a long time. A 100 wears (check out hashtag #100wears) of any garment is a pretty good use of the garment.  With more items I actually like and actually wear, I have less reason to buy more.
  4. I have come to understand the true cost of fast fashion and it has tainted my taste for cheap garments. Whether it’s part psychology part material, I don’t know, but the clothes just don’t feel good anymore.
  5. Ethical and sustainable clothing manufacturers value longevity and durability of material as well as human relationships (the suppliers and not just the consumers). This results in high quality clothing and brands that will last the distance. They care about people. Fast fashion brands – let’s be honest – only care about $$$. I’ve come to prefer the reliability and quality of ethical, sustainable brands.

HOWEVER… I did have to make a mind shift to stop myself from shopping shopping shopping. And it took a couple of years. I didn’t just suddenly wake up and exercise restraint. For me, it took time. 

Now that I am here, I could not be happier. I have a small wardrobe of lovely, mostly high quality, mindfully-made items that reflect my style and work well together. I feel great and that means I look great.

I recently watched a doco on Netflix called the minimalists. Their experience and the those of the people they interviewed really resonated with my experience.

 

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 READ MORE HERE:

Here are a couple of articles you might like to read on whether ethical clothing is pricey.

This one from HuffingtonPost is great in highlighting that ethical and sustainable garments reflect the true cost (both social and environmental) of clothing, while this one from Project Just gives you some tips on how to shop cheaper. They have put vintage, trade and swap up top, with points 5 and 6 covering researching ethical brands and shopping quality.

 

View story at Medium.com

What did they say?

Fashion Revolution week ends, but the cause doesn’t.

Never stop questioning who made your clothes.

During Fash Rev Week, as they call it, I asked Ice breaker, a New Zealand outdoor active wear brand that specialises in Merino wool, and Everlane, a US-based online fashion retailer with strong transparency principles, about their ethics.

I approached Everlane because I like their clothes, and have read over and over that they are ethical. They get the ethical badge because they divulge where their garments are made, that they audit suppliers, and show images of the supplier factories. But does that make them ethical? Not really as it turns out. They’ve been accused of greenwashing – when you use PR/marketing to exaggerate your ethical/sustainable values when unable to back it up – largely because the stories about their garment origin offer no real information about, for example, the safety of the factory and living wages, animal welfare, dye toxin disposal. I was a little heartbroken so I thought why not just ask. It is after all a week to be revolutionary!

I chose Ice Breaker because I love NZ-made merino clothing, and am a big outdoors fan. I own a pair of their leggings and they really served me well on a three-day hike. But the day that I drove out to go on my big walk I read that the Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion report ranked them the lowest of all NZ Brands. How disappointing.

Everlane was awesome in their reply. Not only did they take my email seriously but they explained in some detail their supplier compliance processes including instant dismissal over labour exploitation. They explained about their use of dyes, animal welfare, even going so far as to say that silk is generally not sourced without harm and is then best avoided. While they still didn’t divulge some aspects I felt assured by the following, a small part of the email:

“… as we continue to grow as a company we strive to know more about the details of our products–from seed to stitch–in part so we can be as fully transparent as possible with our customers.

Regarding our manufacturing partners, all of our factories abide by standards set by the International Labor Organization (goo.gl/ZVPdgU), which include prohibitions on compulsory and child labor, discrimination, and the right to free association and collective bargaining. In fact, if we encounter evidence of child labor, human trafficking, physical/sexual/psychological abuse, or discriminatory practices we will cut ties with the guilty party immediately.”

Most importantly, Everlane acknowledge they could do better and are improving everyday. They want to be regarded as an ethical brand. Am I being greenwashed because I like their clothes? I’m going to get a second opinion, so I’ll share what I find out.

I have yet to hear back from Ice Breaker, but to be fair it was only today that I got in touch! Again… I’ll update as always.

Did you get in touch with anyone? What did they say?

I’ll leave you with this pointer from Margaret Mead, borrowed from encircled. It resonates with me, not only because it’s true but because I studied anthropology and Margaret Mead was a well-known if sometimes controversial cultural anthropologist who studied people in the South Pacific not too far away from here as it happens.

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Be curious, be revolutionary

Fashion revolution week starts today.

What is it? Fashion Revolution Week and the #whomademyclothes hashtag campaign runs in April around the same time as the Rana Plaza factory collapse happened in 2013. The event is more than commemorative, it is designed to raise awareness about who makes our clothes, calling on us – consumers – to ask for greater transparency from our fashion retailers.

The factory in Bangladesh made worldwide news when its collapse killed more than 1,130 workers but, more importantly, it also spurred the industry to make changes. As a result global fashion brands and retailers and trade unions are working together to build a safe Bangladeshi ready made garment industry.  There is still a lot of work to be done however, as I always feel, something is better than nothing.

Fashion Revolution Week is about so much more than the terrible event. It is gaining incredible movement globally as the week to raise awareness and ask who made our clothes. As they say:

“Much of the global fashion industry is opaque, exploitative and environmentally damaging and desperately needs revolutionary change. We love fashion, but we don’t want our clothes to come at the cost of people or our planet.”

That’s how I feel, and I put my support behind them.

Who made your clothes? Maybe for this week or this year, I challenge you to look at one item you love in your wardrobe and try to find information about who made it. If you can’t immediately find the information, contact the brand and ask. The more we ask, the more fashion brands will understand our desire for transparency! GOOD LUCK!!

If you’re wondering who made my dress shirt – It was made in Jiangmen, China for Everlane. It’s been really disappointing actually for me because I read several blogs telling me Everlane was this amazing ethical brand. Their website certainly showed vast transparency of where their clothing was made. But actually, they are not as ethical as I would like my clothes to be. Yes, Everlane are transparent, but this doesn’t automatically mean ethical. At the time of checking, Everlane wasn’t on the GOODonYOU app, but now when I check it, it says its ‘not good enough’ (booo).

My mission for fashion revolution week is to try to change that!!

Flash alert – ethical guide released

Baptist World Aid Australia have released their 2017 guide to how well – or poor – fashion brands in Australia and New Zealand are shaping up when it comes to ethical suppliers. Click here to view it.

This guide is excellent and is setting the standard in ethical fashion rating for this region. While some of the brands asked to submit their supply chain practices did not do so, and therefore it might seem not wholly representative, the report explains this and why they’ve rated these particular companies anyway.

NZHerald published this story and it featured on TV this morning.

It’s great to see companies getting better. That’s what happens when consumers demand better ethical practices! Yay to us! And well done to them! 🙌

Finished, Far & Wide

Finished!

It’s been a challenge but I’ve loved the experience. I’ve also loved being reunited with my wardrobe. But I am a changed person. Here’s my take on finishing the challenge.

But before I kick off, I want to extend a very warm welcome to new followers to the blog. Hello! I look forward to us sharing and caring together.

So the story has gone far and wide. *blush* I’m just pleased that the message about being more conscious about consumption is getting out there. It shows that people care and are interested. The response has been great, and it spurs me on.

Here are links to the stories if you want to see them:
1. Stuff.co.nz
2. DailyMail
3. NZHerald

I start again. But instead of putting everything back into my wardrobe, I put back 30 items. My capsule wardrobe begins.

Here’s a great article about the capsule wardrobe from the master Anushka Rees, who’s blog first introduced me to the idea a couple of years ago. This 101 blog is quite long, but the gist is to choose 20-30 items that work together for a season. They reflect your style, your ethics even. You might swap a couple of items over the season, but always the total remains the same. Importantly you are deliberately conscious of your choices and minimalist. You decide if this should include active wear, or work uniforms or perhaps shoes. It depends on your needs.

I’ll be writing more about this and what choices I’ve made.

Plus a few other interesting topics as I go. Stay tuned…