There are few resources on slow living that don't come with a recommendation on reducing energy drains. And clothes philosophy is always a part of the conversation.
There are tons of recommendations for alleviating energy drains from a tidy closet, a uniform, a capsule wardrobe, to minimalism.
Leaders, scientists, and writers are all trying to figure out how to sustain energy in such a fast-moving, high decision time. One of the effects of too many options is decision fatigue - the mental wear that comes from making 35,000 decisions a day (for the average adult). There are very few things that can kick a mindful evening routine in the butt like a 6:30pm attack of mental fatigue.
That's why advocates of mindfulness, slowing down, and founders (Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jen Rubio) are fans of the uniform.
President Obama told Vanity Fair: "You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing."
But…errrr…decision fatigue (which is anti-polepole) isn't exactly the only reason why I recommend wearing your clothes. My passion for recycled clothes has more to do with how we treat our garment workers, how it affects our planet, and my frugal lifestyle (which allows for a slower pace).
Our Garment Workers:
80% of garment workers are women 24 and younger. Many of the young women are women of color, and they are treated awfully. 75% of the factories in which they work violate safety and health laws. There are cases of meager wages and also instances of pure slavery (El Monte, California - outside of Los Angeles - sweatshop).
I still remember reading about the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in 2013. I was pregnant with my first child and sitting at my desk with a cup of creamy black tea reading BBC News. Despite being aware of child labor I was shocked. In college, I majored in international studies and English/journalism. For our final senior project, a classmate did an incredible jaw-dropping presentation on child labor and factory workers. I connected my classmate's presentation to one of the most influential films I ever saw (in college) "Dirty Pretty Things."
In 2013, whether it was my sweet Neiko nuzzled in my belly or those three moments added up... Y'all, I realized that I couldn't pretend anymore.
I couldn’t pretend that I wasn’t contributing to a system built off of social injustice. And let's not even talk about America's history with cotton pickers...
Where do I begin? I guess, by asking that you watch True Cost. Even if it’s just the trailer. Take a moment to simply feel the devastation that fast-fashion causes.
Now let the list begin:
Hazardous chemicals - chemicals that have been found to produce birth defects in our farm worker's children.
Textile Waste - right now, "the apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil." And guess what? According to Forbes, even the oil use in apparel production has increased. "Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world's polyester fiber, which is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing. But it takes more than 200 years to decompose." Can anyone say global warming?
Tree Use. Y'all…. 70 million trees/year are logged to become fabrics for clothes (lyocell, viscose, rayon, and modal).
Water use - it takes 1,800 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans. ONE PAIR. And it takes 400 gallons to produce my favorite cotton shirt.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't make an announcement:
"We, as in all of Mother Earth's inhabitants, are in a water crisis!"
I have so much to say about this.
But for those confused about the importance of water:
Every two minutes, somebody's baby, a child dies from a water-related disease.
What does this have to do with fashion, you ask? Guess what industry is the second largest polluter of freshwater? Yup. You've got it.
Don't even get me started about what this means to aquatic life. According to Independent, "Polyester is the most popular fabric used for fashion. But when polyester garments are washed in domestic washing machines, they shed microfibres that add to the increasing levels of plastic in our oceans. These microfibres are minute and can easily pass through sewage and wastewater treatment plants into our waterways, but because they do not biodegrade, they represent a serious threat to aquatic life. Small creatures such as plankton eat the microfibres, which then make their way up the food chain to fish and shellfish eaten by humans."
"Conscious" clothes that are good for people and good for the environment are costly. Very costly. To pay a decent wage to the fashion industry's workers (farmer, garment, retail, business) while also paying for less toxic chemicals means a more expensive product. For example, the "first Black (Haitian) Italian," Stella Jean, has gotten the glorious title of the "New Face of Ethical Fashion" for all her work in ethical fashion (including a trip to the United Nations). That said, to buy a new shirt by the brilliant designer is about $400. There's also Tracy Reese's Hope For Flowers, another brand I became aware of that's ethically sourced and works with Detroit artists. It costs $200 for a beautifully designed socially conscious shirt from them. Another brand that stands out to me focuses solely on Nigerian artisans, Chioma Ngwudo's Cee Cee's Closet, where the clothes are around $50 for a gorgeously crafted shirt. For more on the designers, check out Essence's "A Conscious Shift".
And so as it stands, very few families can afford (even minimalist) closets full of "conscious" clothes.
So here are my tips:
Buy the item you LOVE. No judgment here if it's not conscious, just be resourceful - if you have $100, instead of buying 3 pairs of jeans buy just one (that is as conscious and durable as possible). If you have $20 - check sales, check thrift, check consignment or heck, buy one fresh pair of jeans from where ever!
Be super grateful for the moment and the item. As soon as you pay for the item, take a moment to realize that someone's father may have picked the material, someone's young daughter/mother sewed it, and there are so many folks that don't have access to clean water, let alone shopping. This is a blessed moment.
Wear the heck out of your piece. Wear your favs all the time! If someone says something - tell them that currently, we wear fast fashion items less than 5 times and have them for 35 days. This produces over 400% more carbon emissions per item per year than the garments that are worn 50 times and kept for a full year. Get preachy if you have too!
Mend them as needed. Y'all, let's actually create natural holes in our jeans from the wear and tear. Let's genuinely have an off-black grayish shirt from multiple washes vs. buying it that way.
And if after all that they are still in good shape, but you are ready for a new look give your clothes to someone else (for less or free) - a friend, consignment shop, or donation place. Right now, Americans are throwing away 70 lbs of clothing a year. Let's reduce that.
I hope that reducing your clothing consumption and wearing what you own brings you a bit more peace. I pray that it helps eliminate decision fatigue, wasteful spending, and unnecessary hustle. I also hope that knowing the benefits of wearing your clothes multiple times reduces the shame of someone seeing you "in the same thing" all the time.
Polepole, my friends.
Edited by Ashley Yancey