Conscious Consumerism is a Myth & A New Fashion Hit list
"It is the consumeristic mindset, raised to the global scale, that now threatens us with climate breakdown, catalyses a sixth great extinction, imperils global water supplies, and strips the soil upon which all human life depends" -George Monbiot
Can you sew?
Me, barely. I can mend the holes in my clothes, attach a patch, hem the bottom of my pants, and sew on buttons. It ends there. Am I trying to learn more? Absolutely. Patagonia's CEO, Rose Marcario said it best: Repair is a radical act.
But why is repairing our clothing, the garments we have worn day in and day out, used as forms of self-expression and as status symbols, or simply for the necessity of keeping our fleshy suits warm and safe from the elements, a counter-culture act of a de-facto fashion Luddite? Because it makes us question our personal roles and culpabilities within a system that preaches a doctrine of overindulgence. The glue that holds our capitalist complex together.
"Consumption is the backbone of the American economy—which means individual conscious consumerism is basically bound to fail." Alden Wicker
I receive many questions from readers about how they can make the shift to purchasing ethically without going bankrupt in the process. The answer to this question lies in our reasonings --and let's face the facts: justifications-- for making purchases. I wholeheartedly admit to my personal and skewed internal rationalizations for making unnecessary purchases and the voids to which I have used them to fill.
There is a radical change that needs to happen. A mental and physical shift towards not just conscious consumerism -- a movement where the act of consumption is esteemed-- but to a place where how we hold what we have in higher regard to that which is new and likely not required. We need to move away from excessive consumption, from the latin word "consumere", meaning use up, eat; waste.
“70% of GDP in the US is based on household consumption. So all the systems, the market, the institutions, everything is calibrated to maximize consumption...The whole marketing industry and advertising invents new needs we didn’t know we had.” Halina Szejnwald Brown
But how do we foster the shift while not feeding the consumerism beast? This isn't just for those of us recalibrating our closets on a budget, but those of us who want to break the world --and ourselves!-- free from mindless consumption.
By being more material.
We need to VALUE the materials used to create what we need. The gear we use to survive, thrive, and sustain our bodies, beings, communities, and world.
We need to be treasurists.
We need to moon over and honour the hands, plants, pleats, minerals and gems that go into our goods. Value how they help you, protect you, and fill your heart.
Let the fire of this revelation shine the shit out of the amazing matter and circumstances already burning in your life and let it guide you to keep paying mad homage to your artist homies.
The artists that colour our lives and social feeds with adornments and pieces that celebrate our high standards for quality and, of course, range of motion. We want to move freely and move efficiently in clothing that embodies not just our skin suits but the way we personally impact and influence the space around us. We are not eco-conscious, but eco-fucking-DRIVEN.
Tips for Achieving a Movement-Centric Wardobe on An Budget
- Shop consignment/used or create a clothing exchange with friends. You know that friend who has that amazing denim jacket hanging in their closet that they never wear? Consider offering them a trade! You might both be surprised with what you come home with. My previous post is full of tips and tricks on how to donate clothing and shop consignment (check it out here).
- Buy less but buy better! The co-found of Free Label --a brand listed below-- was recently interviewed (here) and shared this beautiful piece of wisdom: If you commit to buying fewer garments and choose high quality and ethically made pieces, you feel a much deeper connection to the things you wear." I couldn't agree more. We need to stop looking at fashion as a disposable product and start treating each piece as a treasure or an investment. This article in the Atlantic gives the tip to spend at least $150 on each item of clothing. If you consciously make the decision to buy individual quality pieces less often, you will eventually end up with a wardrobe stocked full of garments that are built to last.
Take heed from Homer Campbell (righthand column) and wear your overalls everyday for three years (except Sundays, of course).
- The radical act of repairing. Learn some basic sewing skills or get to know a tailor in your area. There are many talented folks our there who can make the repairs that are out of your scope of practice. Bonus to buying higher quality garments? They are easier to repair! I make no claims that expensive clothing doesn't fall apart eventually, but because quality and craftsmanship of each piece was considered before profit, you are left with something that when life happens and you get a rip here or a fallen hem there, you can easily find a remedy.
One thing in particular that I love about Patagonia is their Worn Wear initiative. They have the largest garment repair facility in North America where they employ 45 full-time employees who mend people's much loved Patagonia pieces. They also have a mobile repair truck that travels the country! Check out the Worn Wear Stories on Instagram here and watch this BEAUTIFUL video below.
- Don't flip the whole closet at once. Understand that this is a process. So what if your favourite pants aren't organic hemp? If your closet is full of pieces that you love and wear regularly, keep it up! Replace each item piece by piece and when necessary or financially possible. Fact: no one cares if you have been wearing the same pair of pants five out of seven days a week. If they do, their insecurities aren't your problem. Just give them a high-five and strut away in your well-loved duds.
When you are ready to make a new purchase, ask yourself this important question: "Is this replacing a negative in my life?" Look into updating your closet when either what you have doesn't flaunt your bad-ass body like it should, can no longer be repaired, or doesn't resonant with the person you've become. The problem with our consumer-based society is that we are indoctrinated with advertisements of beautiful people whose new clothing appears to solve all their problems and celebrities who never seem to wear the same thing twice. This is the epitome 'waste couture'. A facet of our throw away culture that it is unattainable and completely unsustainable on a global scale. Consciously consider each purchase that you make as a radical act against a broken and toxic system.
- Shop sales and sign up for e-newsletters and follow the labels that you love on social media. Most brands have off-season sales (not just on Black Friday, after the holidays, or end of season sales anymore!). Many have online discounts and promo codes that they might only make available through their newsletters or for their social media followers. The makers and the labels that I mention below are full of real people making real changes to the industry. Consider following and supporting them because they are fighting against a rough tide in the fashion industry --the second most polluting industry in the world!
Shirts: Shirts can be tricky in the summer. We want pieces that aren't too heavy during the day, show just the right amount of skin, and can be easily layered with sweaters and jackets in the cooler evenings. These are my top choices for this coming season:
- I wish you nothing more than a spring and summer full of a multitude of outdoor pursuits. Whether it is a road trip across the country, a weekend camping trip, an afternoon on the beach, or a long haul flight to an exotic destination. The perfect t-shirt to take along is easily anything by Icebreaker. As far as sustainability and quality goes, Icebreaker is a leader of the pack. Just like humans, the amount of stress that we undergo affects every aspect of our bodies --including our skin and hair. The same goes for merino sheep. If the animal is stressed in any way, the final fibres that are spun from their wool will reflect the type of life they lead. And since Icebreaker only uses the best New Zealand wool available, they have set up long-term contracts with farmers that raise sheep in habitats that can only be described as 'all-inclusive resorts' full of organic food and plenty of exercise. They care so much about the standard of life of the sheep that they even mandate the music that is being played while they are being shorn! Merino wool is naturally anti-microbial and completely odourless. This creates a garment that can be worn a few times before needing to be washed --making it perfect for traveling and camping. The Cool-Lite Spheria Short Sleeve shirt is a true fit and comes in fun yet wearable colours (all natural dyes). The fabric is also blended with Eucalyptus which always keeps it cool to the touch no matter how hot and sticky the day is.
- I quite literally wear my shirts from Free Label every other day (this one and this one). The fabric is fair-trade, organic, and every item is made in Canada. The high hems on the sides are extremely flattering on my lady hips and make my legs look a mile long. Many longer shirts that have straight hems across the bottom end up cutting my thighs off at an unflattering spot. The classic colours and simple basics are easily incorporated into every wardrobe.
- This camisole top from Synergy is one of my favourites. The fabric is such a buttery soft organic cotton and dyed with low-impact dyes. It is elegant enough that it can be paired with the right cardigan for the office or playful enough to wear with shorts on a hot day. The bell shape of the shirt also prevents the ever-regrettable scenario of your fabric clinging to a sweaty summer torso.
- As far as long sleeves go, my go-to style for spring/summer has always been a striped marinière top. The light-weight organic cotton and lyocell Shallow Seas top in either of the classic stripe patterns from Patagonia is perfect for all your adventures, --either city or beachside. Wear it with shorts, skirts, culottes, and layered over tank tops and lightweight dresses. Another dynamite striped shirt is the Yarn Dyed Strip Tee from Jungmaven. I love mine and never travel without it. Check out their website for a plethora of fantastic hemp t-shirts!
Dresses: I love a simple dress in the summer. A piece that can be worn time and time again. Here are a couple examples of pieces that caught my eye:
- I love the look of the handmade linen dresses by Pyne & Smith. Linen is an incredibly strong and natural fibre that only gets better the more you wear and love it. This striped one is my favourite. It has a simple silhouette with wooden buttons down the front to rev up your own level of sassiness on a super hot summer's day. I would pair this with the cardigan from Babaa listed below.
- This dress from Groceries Apparel is kind of perfect. It's made of hemp, a fast-growing fibre that produces more fibre per acre than any other plant. It's totally anti-bacterial and biodegradable. The shape is flattering on most body types and has a long enough hem that it can be worn in more conservative situations (or for riding bikes and windy days!).
- Are you sick of me mentioning Synergy yet? I hope not, because I can't stop and won't stop! The Jamie dress from their new collection is the perfect summer party dress. It is so classy it hurts!
Sweaters/Jackets: Depending on where you live, your requirements for a summer sweater or jacket can vary greatly. Living in Canada, I always need to keep a light-weight sweater or jacket on hand if I'm going to be out all day. Here are some classic go-tos:
- You can't go wrong with a knit cotton cardigan. This chunky knit from the Spanish line Babaa is bang on. An easy shape that works to throw on over dresses or to wrap yourself up in the evening over shorts and a tank top. Each piece is handmade in small batches so get 'em while they're hot! Alternatively, this would be great piece to start hunting the vintage and consignment shops for. For a more minimal wardrobe, go with a classic colour like cream, grey, or navy to easily match with your existing closet. Or, pick a bright colour that you love and feel vibrant in! Your closet, your call!
- The Sydney wrap from Icebreaker is definitely an investment piece. But with the mantra of "buying less, but better" cycling through your thoughts, you know that making a purchase of a piece that is going to last and stand the test of time, it is beyond worth it. This simple silhouette will take you to the office, the beach, on a hike, and where ever else your bare feet lead you. This wrap top from Sweet Skin Hemp is also a favourite of mine. It is hella comfortable and incredibly flattering.
- I'm going to be straight with you here: I live in a rainforest. There is always the chance that I'm going to get a downpour on a hike no matter what the sky looked like a 200th of a second ago. A lightweight jacket that I can toss in my pack and wear all year long is worth every penny to me. The defined waistband of this jacket from Patagonia makes it a little more urban-friendly than the average water-proof coat. And since Patagonia is built to stay with you forever, pick a colour that you are going to love forever.
- In my last wardrobe post I talked about the tricks for finding the right denim jacket. The same suggestions apply for this season as well. The Dree jacket from Prana is a great organic cotton option with a bit of stretch to keep you free.
Pants/Bottoms: I am a huge proponent of bottoms that allow for a full range of motion of your juicy hips and waistbands that don't squeeze and pinch your digestive system all day. Many of the styles I list have a wider leg. The reasoning behind this is that a looser pant allows your circulatory system to freely flow without impingement --something that is important to regulate your temperature and fluid retention throughout the day (not to mention your general well-being!). It is an unconventional shape in a world that tells us tighter is better. I encourage you to give these looks a try!
- I am madly in love with these Corsica Culottes from Conscious Clothing. As an active mover and shaker, I love how they look like a skirt but can allow you to ride a bike or chase your kiddos around with nary a care! Culottes are a shape that many women find incredibly flattering. As someone with wider hips, I find this shape more complimentary to my own body-type than conventional styles of pants. All the colours by Conscious Clothing are perfect. The end. I also LOVE my Majan Culottes from Prana. Made with organic cotton and a bit of stretch, I can wear them out on hikes and then dressed up for dinner.
- Are you a fan of jumpsuits? They are the ultimate pant to keep your core loosey goosey. This playful version from Conscious Clothing has been my stand-by when I want to make a statement but still being able to cycle from my commute and have fun with my clothing. If you don't want to go full out, check out these overalls from Specks & Keepings. What I love so much about the Taylor Overalls is that you have the option to tie the ties around the waist however you find the most flattering for your shape. Each piece is handmade in LA for play and love. All the scraps of fabric left over are saved and re-used to future projects and crafts.
- Shorts. Ugh. They have been the bane of my summers until I found these from Prana. For years I either avoided them entirely or opted to cut slits on the sides of my shorts so they didn't strangle my thighs. So I owe a debt of gratitude for the mega-stretchy and flattering Tess shorts from Prana. I can actually move my legs in every direction when I wear these and don't have to worry about them sneaking up my booty as I walk (major win!). They come out with new colours every season so keep checking their website if you don't see a colour you like this season.
- I couldn't possibly do a summer post without including something from Not Perfect Linen. The incredibly strong fabric requires no extra care (see ya, iron!) and looks even better the more you wear it. These drawstring linen pants would be fantastic for day-to-day wear. I would pair it with their Washed Oversized Kimono on cooler nights.
Underwear/Swimwear: I don't hoard bras and underwear preferring to buy a minimal amount of beautiful pieces that I hand-wash and treasure. I know many who struggle with shelling out the cash for natural undergarments, but it's 100% worth it. Not only does it feel amazing to have these beautiful pieces hiding under a t-shirt and jeans, but your genitals are a highly sensitive area and absorb toxins at a high rate and require more air to breathe than they normally get suffocating in synthetics.
- I have mentioned Brook There before and, honestly, I still wear and love their bras and underwear everyday. They still look brand new! This bright melon coloured set is super fresh for spring.
- I have yet to try Pansy but I've heard nothing but good things. Not only is the entire line made in the US, but the organic cotton is grown there as well. I love the lilac and apricot colours of the bras and underwear.
- As far as technical underwear goes, you can't go wrong with Icebreaker. It is anti-bacterial in the craziest sense --the microbes literally fall off the fabric leaving you with a garment that not only dries extremely quickly but can be worn multiple times before needing a wash. The fit and feel of the Siren Bra is great.
- Patagonia does do amazing underwear, but I wanted to feature their swimwear here instead. There are a few eco swimwear lines making waves (hehe) in the industry, but I still love the quality and price-point of Patagonia. They have roughly 1 million options for recycled and fair trade swim suits in different colours and cuts. I also love how you purchase the top and bottom separately --I personally require a different sized top and bottom. Sticking with classic prints and colours is sometimes best with swimwear if you want to get some longevity out of it and only need one solid suit to meet your summer needs. This reversible top is super cute.
Activewear: "If you’re going to refer to part of your wardrobe as 'exercise clothes,' (or yoga/running/workout gear), then you have to acknowledge that everything else in your wardrobe is 'sedentary clothes.'" Katy Bowman (read her post here on the topic). Keep that quote in mind when you are searching for activewear. For the sake of this post, this category is referring to the techy clothing you need for intense activities that probably make up about 4% of your day -- running, cycling, mountaineering, gym-ratting, etc.
- My go-to 'fitness' clothing is always Patagonia. These pants are still my favourite. This Nine Trails tank top is made of Bluesign Approved fabric (read what that means here), but it is also technical and quick-drying without looking the part. And since a big part of 'buying less but better' involves, well, buying less, it's great to have pieces that can serve you in different situations.
- The merino wool used by Icebreaker is a revolutionary alternative to synthetic fabrics. Merino sheep are naturally odourless as a defence mechanism from predators. This adaptation translates to the fabric and makes a product that doesn't trap odour leaving you feeling fresh after an intense sweat. The Cool-lite Mira Shorts would be great to wear for working out or casually with a tank top.
- The prints by Daub + Design are some of my favourite and the most complimented on pieces in my closet. I am not a huge print person as I find I get tired of too many graphics overtime (I absolutely hate logos!). But the hand-dyed fabric by Daub + Design get's a lot of play. They recently launched a new active line, Daub Active, with new styles and fits for better movement. I have the Riley legging and love how the high waist stays in place no matter how I squat or run.
I took to the streets to find the best source I could on movement-friendly clothing for the male readers out there. I didn't have to travel to far to find Stefano Tripney (@captainstefano), the man himself.
"From 2009-2012 I lived in this beautiful city of Padova, Italy. Somewhere along the way I transitioned to wearing really skinny pants and was never quite comfortable in any position other than standing. Since that time I've grown wiser and only wear clothes that suit my movement requirements and allow me to adopt any position I need. " Stefano
It doesn't take long to figure out the theme that has taken over Stefano's wardrobe. Over the years he has shifted his closet to contain only pieces that fit within his values of ethical fashion and freedom of movement --constant movement in his case. With those principles in mind, his closet is primarily comprised of pieces by Seed Yoga or Jungmaven. Not having a job that restricts his self-expression or limits the capacity to which he is comfortable (I joke that most of his clothing is actually his 'day pajamas') he can get by with wearing fantastic t-shirts and hemp pants with an unstructured blazer or a perfectly worn-in denim jacket to jazz it up.