H&M is great. Uniqlo is awesome. Zara is fucking trash and you shouldn’t buy anything from those art stealing bandits. The allure of fast fashion is strong. Particularly for the ubiquitous rise of the brokeboi looking to ball on a budget.
And for good reason.
I’ve been there, trust me. I’ve seen that iteration of hell.
“Whoa Jia, isn’t that a bit judgemental?” I hear you ask. “Not everyone has $473 USD to spend on a longline jacket vest Sith-looking garment you elitist prick” I hear you say. “Just let me blow that $55 and be avant-garde for a day.”
And that’s fair. I’m not saying you should cast out all you own that is H&M. Fast fashion is like everything else in this world that causes a release of dopamine – good in moderation.
I’m just saying that sustainability for the environment and for your pocket can go hand in hand, and by keeping mindful of your wardrobe you can better define your style. This is my guide to keeping your wardrobe clean and focused at the same time.
Step 1: Have a good hard look.
Get up. Go to your wardrobe. Pick out everything that you haven’t worn in the last 2 months (excluding seasonal clothing like coats or jackets if you’re in Summer). Grab it all out and just look at the pieces. Observe them individually as pieces but also within the totality of your entire wardrobe. Try to figure out why you haven’t worn them and ask these questions:
- Does the colour mesh well with the other pieces in your wardrobe? Seasonal colours like black, white, charcoals and olive are generally always in style, however there are certain trend colours that look wavy but lose its charm once you get out of the water (looking at you, bright orange).
- Is it the silhouette or the fit that’s the problem? Has the silhouette gone out of style or transitioned, or no longer works with the piece?
- Most likely, the piece just no longer sits well in your style. It just doesn’t meld well with the rest of your pieces, and that’s okay. The first step is admitting the problem.
Anything that you know you’re definitely not going to wear, put it to one side. You should then be left with a couple of pieces that you don’t seem to wear, but can’t bring yourself to part with because you’re clingy and indecisive, and that’s okay.
Here’s what you do: In the next week, you’re going to incorporate one of those items in a fit that will actually be seen by people who aren’t yourself in a mirror. If you have a lot of trouble even building a fit for the piece, that’s a good sign to throw it to the other pile. If you make a fit with it but you’re a bit nervous to go outside and be seen in the fit you should throw it in the other pile, probably.
Key part of the challenge? It can’t be the same or a similar fit to the one that you wore it in when you originally purchased it.
There. We should now have a pile of clothes that we can safely say we probably won’t be wearing for the rest of this lifetime.
Step 2: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rihanna.
Okay, hard part is done. Have a teary farewell to the garms you’re leaving behind. Say a few heartfelt words. Move on.
Obviously you’re not going to throw these clothes in the bin. You read my writing so you’re clearly not stupid. A couple of tips on what to do with the throwaways based on what type of clothing it is:
- Hype/Fashionable/Rarer pieces (pieces that hold their value): SELL THAT SHIT. Utilize sites like Grailed, or Facebook trade, swap and sell groups (Underground Society is a solid choice for anyone in Australia/NZ, DM me if you want more info). Get rid of them and put some money in your pocket so you can buy stuff you’ll actually wear.
- Outerwear from fast-fashion/low-tier brands (e.g. Zara, Uniqlo, H&M, ASOS, Industrie): This is just from personal experience, but outerwear is generally the only thing that will sell for a decent price from these kind of brands. Put them up on E-Bay, or Carousell, or on a local Facebook group. People are just more reluctant to purchase knits, sweats, pants, etc. online, particularly if they’re used. People don’t want to wear pants you’ve probably farted in? Weird, I know. (PS. I will definitely wear pants you’ve farted in if they’re a piece I really like, please be sure to message me)
- The Rest (T-shirts, shirts, knits, sweats, pants, etc.): It’s definitely a bit more difficult to get rid of these in a way that doesn’t involve a garbage bin.It’s not impossible though, you just gotta get creative. Give them away to people who can wear them, family members or your friends little brother. Have a garage sale. Wear them as pajamas. Wear them when you cook. Eat one piece of clothing a day until Jason Segel eats one of his (film it for the YouTube money).For the really worn items, cut them up and use them as cloths to clean your leather shoes or boots if they get wet, or as rags to polish your leather footwear/bags.
Be wary of giving them away to charity run op-shops. Most of the time, those pieces will end up in the bin, especially if they’re less wearable. I’ve worked at a charity before, and a lot of the clothes we received ended up in the bin if it was faulty, or not in salable condition, and the clothes that didn’t sell ended up in the bin anyway. So don’t be fooled into thinking that donating them is always one step above throwing them away.
Often a better choice (albeit a bit more effort) can be a non-for-profit that actually aims to recycle the clothes, rather than just resell them.
Reluctant Pro-tip: H&M allows you to trade in pieces of clothing or fabric for a 15% discount. I know this entire piece is about reducing the amount of fast-fashion you consume, but if you’re inevitably going to buy something from H&M, you might as well contribute something and save some money while doing it.
And while H&M’s sustainability program is pretty misleading, with pretty much only 1% of the total donated fabrics being reused by H&M according to their 2015 Sustainability Report, it’s still better than it going to landfill.
Step 3: INVEST INVEST INVEST!
Okay, so you have a little bit of cash from selling your unused clothes. Or maybe you just have a smug feeling of self-satisfaction because you ate a t-shirt in the name of Jason Segel.
Either way, now is the time to make a change. Look at investing your money, instead of spending it. Invest it high quality clothing with craftsmanship and care. Invest it in a brand or a designer or a movement that you actually care about. Invest in high quality clothing that will actually retain its value, rather than dropping faster than a car out of the dealership.
Do your research. Really learn about the designers, about their history and their art. Figure out how their vision fits with your own personal style. Neglect some and embrace others. Figure out who you are and what you’re about, rather than just adopting a shell created by a plagiarizing fast-fashion brand known as Zara, like a hermit crab crawling into a used beer can.
And treat every piece you purchase like it’s a piece of history. Because it’s now a piece of your history, and like anything beautiful, deserves to be treated right.
I have no doubts that I am probably fighting a losing battle. A battle in which a large amount of my opposition has no idea they’re participating in. But like Quixote I charge nonetheless, and the blades on the windmill of fast fashion continue to spin.
03 Jia Huei
P.S. – This article was written in a H&M Hoodie. Don’t @ me.
PSS. Here’s a bonus meme