While visiting friends in Milan last week, I was once again reminded to hold on to clothes like you do longtime friends. The issue of sustainability and clothing continues to loom large in my mind. This topic was woven into conversations about luxury fashion, including jewelry, at the recent New York Fashion Conference. But, it’s hardly the only place where sustainability is a front and center topic.
Over the week leading up to and including Thanksgiving, I traveled to Europe, visiting London and Milan. I found inspiration in both cities, and in very different ways, that suggest that you hold on to clothes like you do longtime friends.
London’s venerated Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. A current exhibition, “Fashioned from Nature,” put the subject of sustainability and fashion front and center. The exhibition takes visitors on a journey through centuries of fashion. In many ways, fashion has taken explicit inspiration from nature. And yet, in many other ways, fashion has looted the environment that it otherwise holds in high esteem.
In Milan, my dear friend Susan, a client in Chicago when I worked for Neiman Marcus, brought it all home. Susan and I have been friends for, coming up on, thirty years now. On our first day there, the weather was cold and damp. The rain was steady in the evening. As we all prepared to get ready for dinner, we met back in a central place in the flat she shares with her husband. I couldn’t help but immediately notice the fabulous Eskandar wooly cable knit sweater she wore. After all, I had suggested she buy it from me at Neiman Marcus about 27 years ago! Here is an instance in which Susan followed my advice to hold on to clothes like you do longtime friends. It was almost as though she wore it to prove the importance of this idea.
Likely, you own good clothes that reach the end of the road, so to speak, in terms of their usefulness. I certainly have had that happen to me a lot as my style evolved so much over time. When you can no longer hold on to clothes like you do longtime friends, I suggest doing the socially responsible thing. Good quality clothes should not end up in a landfill. Donating clothes to organizations that help clothe the homeless, or help people gain employment top my list of recommendations. Of course, this applies to a certain level of clothing.
Clothing that wouldn’t serve others in helping to gain employment is still worthy of recycling. Did you realize that New York City offers free clothing and textile recycling? The city’s official clothing reuse program is in partnership with HousingWorks. The City of San Jose’s Environmental Services also handles textile recycling, although in a less comprehensive way.
One of the best ways to hold on to clothes like you do old friends is to upcycle your clothes. My friend Mary Jaeger, the fashion and textile designer, offers a unique way of making the old new again. By utilizing her special shibori dying techniques, she can help you to hold on to clothes like you do longtime friends. Just like longtime human friends, who change over time, you still cherish them. The same can happen with your clothes. Mary is on a quest to incorporate sustainability, upcycling, recycling and happiness into each of her artistic projects.
According to data provided by the City, NYC residents throw away around 200,000 tons of clothing, towels, blankets, curtains, shoes, handbags, belts, and other textiles and apparel. That’s nearly the weight of 900 Statues of Liberty! Can you imagine? And that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg.
We should tremble by these statistics and take positive action to improve our behavior:
– Annually, the global apparel industry produces 50 million tons of garments. 87% of this will end up in landfill.
– Consumers purchased 60% more clothing than they did in 2000. Moreover, these consumers kept their purchases half as long.
– All industries, globally, produce 48 million tons of polyethylene terephthalate [PET]. Of that, 24 million, or half of that, becomes polyester fibered clothing. And of that, only 12.5% end up at a recycler.
As a fashion and personal style strategy expert, my specialty most closely relates to luxury fashion. Like Susan’s Eskandar sweater, or Mary’s client’s upcycled Chanel jacket, the good stuff never needs to end up in landfills. I make a pledge to add fewer but better pieces to my wardrobe that I can do more with. Even more than that, I pledge to do that for my clientele. I do believe in consumerism as it certainly drives a healthy economy. Ultimately, though, we must advocate for smart consumer economy. We must do better as a society, because what we are doing today is unsustainable.
To help smart and successful individuals develop a smarter wardrobe, my personal color and style profiling sessions are a game-changer. With greater knowledge, you’ll end up with wonderful clothes that you’ll wear forever, just like Susan’s sweater.