H1Shopaholic to sustainable: this is what I did

Posted by Diane Tan on

5 Tried and Tested Steps to a More Sustainable Lifestyle

I personally got into working in fashion because I love creativity and beauty, so I understand for those of us who love fashion and spend our spare time nailing down the next perfect outfit, it seems like a lot of extra effort trying to become sustainable as well. I am not going to be one to say, don’t worry, dressing sustainably is just as easy as dressing “conventionally” – for sure, it takes a bit more work, a bit more effort, and a bit more thought, but I can guarantee you that the knowledge that you are wearing something beautiful, made by someone who was treated well, and created with materials that do minimal harm to our planet earth? It’s worth the effort. 

How do I know? Because I’m a self-confessed recovered shopaholic. When I was in university in New York City, I used to shop every other day at fast-fashion retailers or discount designer stores after school. It was only I learned more and more about the impact of the industry on people and the planet that I gradually started looking at my personal impact. I learned that fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world, and it’s also the second biggest industry involved in modern slavery. I had a big wake-up call watching the documentary The True Cost. Did people die making our clothes — is all the glitz and glam worth it?



By no means am I the most perfectly sustainable fashionista – every day I am trying to be better – but paraphrasing “Zero Waste Chef” Anne-Marie Bonneau, “We don't need a handful of people doing sustainable living perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” So here, I’ll list 5 simple steps that got me into living more sustainably. These habit and mindset changes might take some effort at first, but gradually, they’ll become as natural as brushing your teeth before bed (assuming you do that!)

Buying second hand 

 If you love trying out new clothing styles all the time and you are pretty used to it, one of the quickest things you could do is to switch to buying secondhand. From thrift to designer consignment to costume vintage and luxury vintage, secondhand garments come at every style and price-point. Personally, when I want new clothes, I look first to designer consignment stores. I appreciate the design and quality of luxury clothing items yet I wouldn’t be able to afford a lot of them at full price. By supporting second hand, not only am I extending the lifespan of already existing garments, bags or shoes, and preventing them from hitting the landfill, I’m also getting a piece of fashion of great quality that could last me a long while, at a fraction of their original retail price. Jackpot!

Support ethical companies 

There are clothing items that make it difficult to support secondhand, such as intimates and basics, for that, you need to do some research into what underwear, t-shirt, basics brands are paying workers living wages and using environmentally low impact material. Luckily, our friend Google (or even better,      <a href="https://www.ecosia.org/" target="_blank">Ecosia search engine</a> as you plant trees every time you browse) is always here to give you some quick answers. Simply type in “sustainable basics” and answers would come up from a few favorite ethical fashion digital destinations such as<a href="https://goodonyou.eco/" target="_blank"> Good on You </a>(an app that rates brands based on their sustainability credentials) &<a href=" https://ecowarriorprincess.net/" target="blank"> Eco Warrior Princess</a>(a blog). Though not particularly known for their basics, I personally love Reformation for their shirts, t-shirts, jeans and simple, timeless items.

Shop less. Wear what you have

Once you have mastered the first two habit changes, the third to master is simply to chill out and shop less. It’s a lie when that voice in your head tells you “I have NOTHING to wear.” Shut it down and recognize the truth that there is probably 3/4 of your closet you haven’t touched in the last 6 months and perhaps it’s time to try something new, from something you already have. Try styling your top differently with another bottom. Add a belt to the outfit and you have a completely different look. It’s time to get creative.

Don’t forget your makeup! Support clean beauty brands 

Do you really want all these chemicals you can’t pronounce on your face? Government regulations are notoriously lenient on ingredients companies could put in your skincare products, so just because a product is on the shelf of your local supermarket doesn’t mean it’s good for you nor the sea corals. What you could do is to support beauty brands that go the extra mile to put clean, safe, natural ingredients in their products, and all the better if they’re contained in plastic-free packaging! It is hard to tick all the boxes, definitely, <a href=" www.coconutmatter.com" target="_blank">Coconut Matter</a> is !

Replace single-use items 

Fashionista or not, city life bombards us with single-use plastic items every day, from coffee cups (even though they are paper,<a href="https://ourgoodbrands.com/recyclable-coffee-cups-naah-bullshit/" target="_blank"> coffee cups are actually not recyclable </a>as they have a plastic film on them!) to take-out lunch boxes to bags for pastries. What you could do is to start replacing these items with ones that you could use over and over again. Start with the item you use most, such as a reusable coffee cup (I personally love Stojo as it is collapsible and compact) and move on to other items. If you get a coffee every morning before work, you’re saving about 260 unrecyclable cups per year! I love checking out Live Zero in Hong Kong for reusable items that could lead to a less environmentally impactful life.

These are just some steps that have helped me to get on my journey to become a better fashionista and citizen, and I hope it would help you too. If everyone does their part, imagine the kind of beautiful future we can create!

Would love your tips too on the comments below! Every tiny contribution matters and I really think we can help each other!