Feed the brain, feed the brain…
1. Occasionally consumers do have enough power to move something, that happens rarely, though. The title should be ‘If people with money get angry with somebody, they might kill their brand’ instead of Stop buying crap, and companies will stop making crap.
2. Not only Paul Manafort‘s shady deals went on trial, so did his taste in clothes: Did Paul Manafort Secretly Dress Like Steven Seagal? Somebody with time on their hands could write a whole set of papers about (a) the gendered aspects of such ‘taste trials’, i.e., how garment or home décor accumulation is ridiculed because of its association with femininity, a collection of sports cars wouldn’t have raised such amount of scorn; (b) the glee with which media dissected his extraordinary sartorial spending; and (c) how lifestyle aspirations can turn around and become evidence against you.
3. And some more symbolic sartorial politics from USA: The presidential love of denim – an illustrated guide. D-oh, those are not mom jeans, those are president jeans!
4. An unexpected take on mental health and medicating oneself down to the population average: “This is the reason I take these meds, right? So I can live a life that seems relatively normal. Except for one thing: I don’t want to be normal”.
5. In the local news, taking into account that many undocumented migrants in the big Spanish cities end up as street vendors of fake goods and knickknacks constantly harassed by the police and earning criminal records that then make ‘papers’ nearly impossible, there is activism around these issues and much of that involves garments. (In Catalan) Roba que dignifica vides + (in Spanish) the union of street vendors who have launched their own garment line + (in Spanish) and, as an alternative to those economic activities, there is also a cooperative dedicated to African-inspired fashion and catering: Diomcoop / Diambaar. So if you want a waxprint-y something made in Barcelona, those might be the people to get in touch with.
What I was writing about a year ago: Capsule wardrobes trans-seasonally and beyond seasonality.
What I was wearing a year ago (see how many items coincide!): #whatiwore 2017w33 + Sunday links.
Another old post you might enjoy because the swap is coming: Why We Swap and How.
Are you ready for the September swap? Oh, yes, it has been too long… And if you are not in Barcelona, make your own! I have plenty of tips here, y también en castellano, por supuesto: He organizado seis intercambios de ropa y ésto es lo que he aprendido.
The only way how a pair of Birks can look dainty is by another, bigger pair.
#100wears is the most beloved garment section where I show off the longevity of items I’ve worn at least 100 times and urge to elevate the rather low #30wears aspiration. Basically, a love song, a poem, a “there are some garments so good I can’t stop wearing them”… My pair of Vegan Birkenstock Gizeh has reached the magic wear threshold a while ago – it’s now 130 and counting – so here comes the love song.
This is my first pair of brand Birks as it took years for vegan models of my liking to appear in the vegan section of their store. I have been pinning these ‘made in Spain’ suspiciously similar vegan sandal for years. I knew I would like the model as these were the copycat sandals I wore to shreds in summer 2005. And then I went back to the store and with my despair about how could a pair of shoes fall apart so quickly (the toe post came out, so that was a design flaw) cajoled them into giving me another pair for free:
So all the stars aligned last July and for rather reasonable 65€ we have been happy ever since, getting up to #100wears in less than a year. And their production practices and attitude couldn’t make me happier… I mean, somebody who is willing to go on record saying that collaborations with Supreme or Vetements would be ‘prostitution’, among other strong opinions about the world of fashion is exactly the person I want to buy sandals from (see this for a historic overview of Birkenstock footwear).
When it comes to fit on my hobbit feet, you can see that a size 38 is a bit long (in sneakers I typically wear a 39 to fit in all that width) and a bit too narrow as my pinky is hanging on the edge. Trying to get it right I actually went to a brick-and-mortar pop-up here in Barcelona, and this size is a compromise between their generous sizing and my even more generous feet. After a year of active wearing – I also got a pair the same model in EVA for home and swimming pool use – I’m very happy with my choices. But if you are the one with very narrow feet, these might not be for you (not for nothing they do a narrow-feet option), leave them to the hobbit people!
My biggest surprise – but obvious when you think about it – is that while they are very easy to just slide into and hang around, Birks are not a walking shoe. Less so with the ones made of EVA because that plastic is cushioning, but that original anatomical footbed is not giving you any spring. It supports, yes, but that’s it. So walking long distance is not a good idea, at least I get feet blisters which is no fun at all. And keep a heavy duty cream for your feet at hand, as they get dry and tired in sandals (as opposed to wet and smelly in sneakers). Also, my feet create vacuum with the footbed when walking and often make little fart noises… You decide if that’s a perk you’d enjoy. I don’t know any other Birk-wearer that has the same issue, so it probably has to do with the hobbit feet and not so much the shoes.
Another primer: although they look incredibly sturdy, they do wear out, especially, of course, if that happens to be your only sandal and you are a shredder (a counterfactual: C’s Birks are from 2016 and look immaculate in a live-forever-Highlander-way). So at least for me this is not a #buymeonce scenario. Mine have wear and tear, and the reason for discarding will probably be the left heel. They are surely hanging in there until this autumn, and we’ll see how the next summer goes. If they survive until next July and clock in the respective 260 wears, I might have to do a ritual burial and all. After 130 wears (and no cleaning or any other active upkeep), this is what they look like:
What pieces easily reach #100wears in your wardrobe? Have you ever had the perfect match between desiring something for a long time, then getting it and being truly satisfied? Have you had any recent #buymeonce finds or #buymeonce disappointments with something you thought would last forever?
Brain-food, brain-food, what a good idea…
While the focus here are classic male fashions, the attention to detail and the knowledge involved are fascinating: How To Judge Quality In Clothing.
And a counterfactual rant about how little women’s fashion actually cares about their consumers comfort (not to talk about the workers): 15 Infuriating Things We All Hate About Women’s Clothing. You would have thought that after all the memes about pockets, the industry would have got the message. Here, I made a little Pinterest board of them, you are welcome! For example, part of Sanjukta’s business is to put pockets on your garment for 10€. Résistance forever!
When somebody decides to translate the message into action, it becomes news: New University Rules Encourage Scientists to Avoid Air Travel. Here you have my bits on the topic: My Sustainability Fails in March and then trying to take some action in June – Train Travel Long Distance in Europe.
What I was writing about a year ago: The Future of Riga Capsule.
What I was wearing a year ago (see how many items coincide!): #whatiwore 2017w32 + Sunday links.
Another old post you might enjoy: The Minimalist Wardrobe Masterpost: What Do People Do and Why?
My crumply top season is still on, survival is still the priority and wearing any garments feels awful… How is your summer going? Ready for some cardigans and blanket scarves? Already making Pinterest wishboards full of skiing sweaters?
Also, my first KonMari consulting client ‘graduated’, so I have some free time on my hands. Get in touch if you are interested in some life changing magic of tidying up!
Reading has been an important part of my life since I understood the superpowers it conferred and proceeded to read through the whole local children’s library in the 1990s. And since I got hooked on minimalism and sustainability in 2014, great part of my readings have been around these topics, both on-line and off.
The Art of Discarding: How to Get Rid of Clutter and Find Joy (Hachette Books 2005 ) by Nagisa Tatsumi has a weird history of being edited in English only after being mentioned in the gospel according to Kondo as a suboptimal tidying method. The synopsis starts with “Practical and inspiring, The Art of Discarding (the book that originally inspired a young Marie Kondo to start cleaning up her closets) offers hands-on advice and easy-to-follow guidelines to help readers learn how to finally let go of stuff that is holding them back as well as sage advice on acquiring less in the first place”. It doesn’t reveal the whole story about Kondo passing out in exhaustion after a throw-away frenzy and then regaining consciousness with an insight how the focus has to be on ‘does it spark joy?’ instead of ‘could I just throw it away?’
Tatsumi is less sophisticated than Kondo in her method. There are no magical questions and promises of everlasting piece if only you would fold your knickers right. This is a method without fluff – as most of the ‘get rid of your shit’ tidying literature is – based on the single premise that, if you would just look around critically, you would realize that most of your stuff can go. The quote I’ve chosen for the title pic is the basic truth that only very rarely something consciously thrown out will be sorely missed and hardly replaceable. The true treasures and items that have ‘this passport is the property of the State of’ printed on them will never be in your maybe pile.
(I do have a heartbreakingly stupid counterfactual to that, though. At my big tidying spree of my last childhood room before giving it back to my parents I donated a hot pink transparent plastic triangle ruler with assorted diameter circles inside it, like a love child between this and this but in my all-time favorite color for plastic. Despite my undying love for all thing hot transparent pink, I decided that such thing should be easy enough to replace if need be. Little did I know! I ended up wanting to work with little circles right after that, obviously, and went to all physical shops in Rīga I could think about… Nope. No circles. Not in any color. And in no shape. Now I have that circle stencil sheet linked above from Spanish Amazon and still think of the other one. It wasn’t a birth certificate, of course, just a proof that our replaceability calculus is very wrong sometimes.)
Most of Tatsumi’s book is straightforward advice like setting limits and not exceeding them (along the lines of ‘if my clothing does not fit in my wardrobe, I should get rid of some’) and establishing a number of something actually needed (tableware, sets of bed linen), pruning out the rest and gradually replacing the old ones with new when you see them wearing out. She doesn’t propose a once-off tidying festival or a minimalist game. Instead her premise is that most people bring in their homes much more items than they discard, so the capacity of getting rid of has to be strengthened. And she is empathic, too. So Kondo’s falling becoming a ‘discarding machine’, according to herself, might tell more about Kondo than about the ‘art of discarding’ Tatsumi proposes:
My favorite few sentences of the book that Tatsumi uses just to sell her more individualistic approach (in comparison with more direct ‘this is the right way’ approach apparently present in Japanese tidying culture) sends me into a spin every time a think about professional organizing. This is the great inherent conflict in professional organizing, the selection bias that were also very clear during the KonMari Consultant seminar. The selection bias are very clear and there is tension between a tidying coach and the client because of one’s ability to do exactly that thing on her own and enjoy it, and other’s realization that some assistance would be very nice… Of course, it is softened by the fact that tidying or minimalist lifestyle is not a clinically proven prescription (although for last few years lifestyle magazines would make you think that it is) but a choice. This, the obvious statement that all tidying has to be a personalized solution (and that the ‘experts’ have to be very aware that they are not very normal to begin with):
Here come a couple of mind tricks I think might be useful, apart from the – critical and conscious – limit setting mentioned before:
1. Your possessions are not somebody’s gifts anymore! Kondo also says the same, don’t know if borrowing or is it some third party wisdom… “Discard once they’ve served their purpose. […] Gifts are all about the act of giving. So as soon as they’ve been given/received, we could say that their function has been fulfilled.”
Gifts fill us with guilt, so at least trying to do this reframing once the object is yours might help to disassociate it from the giver and value it on its own merits. Very hard, I know, we’ve been taught all our lives to do it the opposite way…
2. The doubt takes mental energy. “When we’re troubled by a sense of waste, delay seems to make disposal easier. But if you’re going to get rid of something anyway, you may as well do so straight away. […] If you stop delaying disposal, you’ll also stop diluting your sense of waste. Keeping a keen sense of waste – guilt at throwing things away – can have a very positive effect […]”
Repeat after me: my home is not a storage unit, my home is not a dumpster… It is true, though, that some people benefit from a cooling off period of making deals with yourself, like ‘if I don’t touch this box in three months, it’s going away’, or just a maybe pile to get tired of and toss away. It is thrilling to give oneself the permission to let go!
(I had one of these moments a couple of weeks ago at work. Sounding like a Kondo case, I had a fat pack of papers from a software course I took last summer. I kept telling myself that to truly master the contents I should just take a week off and go through all those materials again. For more than a year I kept moving that pile from desktop to drawers and back. Before leaving the office for vacations I finally tossed it all in the paper bin knowing that I do not want to do that at all and have enough productivity anxiety inducing to-dos already. Felt really good.)
3. Develop a notion of ‘used-enough’. “The belief that things should be used until their potential is exhausted is a powerful one. People seem to think that if they keep something, there’ll be the opportunity at some point for this potential to be used. (The reason some people like passing things on to second-hand shops is the idea that somebody else will take over this potential.) But it’s better not to bother about whether you use things to their full potential. […] Or you could go a bit further and say,”It’s done what I bought it to do, so that’s that. I’ve used it to the full.” […] In other words, by fulfilling your purpose, its potential has, in fact, been exhausted. […] With the “I’ve-used-it-once-so-I-can-get-rid-of-it” mindset a lot of things are easier to discard. Depending on the item, it may be a question of ”once” or “this much”, but either way this attitude will stop you worrying about being wasteful.”
Another type of deal, ‘I’ll wear it once, remember why I hated it, and will be able to let go finally’.
4. Little victories! “Choose a compact area – a table top, a kitchen shelf, or a washstand, say – and decide you will definitely not put anything there. Then keep your resolution. […] It’s easier to feel the impact it you’re dealing with a place you can see. The first thing you’ll notice is how many unnecessary things you have around you, and how they increase in number by day. As this begins to bother you, you’ll want to do something about it. By following this strategy you’ll also develop the habit of disposal – of reducing the number of unnecessary things you have. Instead of picking redundant things up and putting them back, you’ll pick them up and dispose of them. This is why it’s important to start with a compact place. If the job is too onerous, you’ll get fed up before discarding becomes habit.”
A strategy I really like is the empty or half-empty storage spaces. Empty surfaces are aesthetic, of course, and easy to clean, but there is something truly mischievous about and empty cupboard.
5. Mindful second-handing, please. “[Reselling] is a very good solution for people whose sense of waste won’t let them throw things away. If this kind of recycling becomes part of our society’s system, it will mean that things can circulate. This circulation will prevent things from accumulating in people’s homes, so that there will be less stuff in society as a whole. […] At worst, the desire to see things reused can lead to the simplistic thought that someone will use it eventually… This way of thinking allows people to buy things that are unnecessary in the belief that there’s no waste – if they don’t want it, someone else will. This leads to a vicious cycle of purchase and disposal: things accumulate, you pass them on, then more things accumulate. And what you believe to be a waste-free method of disposal often ends up with somebody else simply throwing things away on your behalf.”
I do think that there is a strength in accepting that I create a heap of garbage that is not going anywhere nice, that’s the modern living. Nobody is innocent. Yes, even the zero-wasters, as they happily tell you they ‘refuse’ the airplane food… That refusal is so naive it’s endearing! So, be realistic about your wallapop and freecycle aspirations, as with all sustainability delusions (1, 2).
Got some tidying inspiration? This type of books really get me wishing to revise the whatever few junk nest there might still be in our flat… Talk about those selection bias! What fun books have you read lately? Anything life-changing I should be aware about?
A random update: As you might guess by the crumply texture of my blouse on Friday, it’s August in Barcelona and I’m almost past caring. Getting dressed – as in wearing *anything* – is an everyday struggle. I reassess my life choices every time I have to put on a bra. I try to walk in shade, move slowly, avoid chub rub and heat stroke, plan my day according to AC availability… and I’m exhausted already on 5th of August.
I’ll be working from home next two weeks, because even my university closes for two weeks in August, so next week’s #wiw post will probably consist of the bare minimum needed to dash out for more watermelon and trips to the swimming pool two blocks down.
Now find the coolest spot available and feed the brain:
You think that fashion is somehow getting ugly? Well, you are not alone: Fanny packs. Prairie dresses. Luxury shower shoes: Is fashion trolling us or what? And it’s not the first time either: Plug Ugly (1996).
The n-th reminder of what’s wrong with fashion industry and how raw denim revival is a thing now: In a disposable age, luxury is something old, worn, and beautiful + what an expert review looks like: Japanese Denim for $68. Too Good to Be True? + how all this ‘break it in and make your own fades’ outlook makes denim a niche for sustainability interest (and how it is possible to clean up the denim manufacturing if one wants to): You Buy Free Range-Eggs. So Why Are You Still Wearing Dirty Denim?
How Can You Tell When A Fashion Brand Is Greenwashing? Well, a good indication is a fluffy language with no facts… Telling about how the products will make you feel instead of how and where they are made, for example.
How I feel about millionaires making their own space programmes, yuck: Narcissists in Space.
Although I’m formally a millennial, there are still internet things I had no idea existed (and what weird things those usually are, too): The nightmare videos of childrens’ YouTube — and what’s wrong with the internet today.
What I was writing about a year ago: My take on “formal” and dressing up out of a capsule.
What I was wearing a year ago (see how many items coincide!): #whatiwore 2017w31 + Sunday links.
Another old post you might enjoy: Let it go, let go (of non-serving restrictions).
Are you getting any extreme weather that precludes all other style desires? I’ve also noticed that the heat activates my body dysmorphia… Not because it’s the bikini season (my work is by the beach, so I see not only the beautiful, bronzed and breezy but also the burnt, exhausted and disheveled) but because how it feels to inhabit this body in heat. It feels too abundant, too fleshy, too wet and not contained properly… I’ll have to go back to my own advice about body kindness. How about you?
My sustainability votes, according to some…
Welcome to another summer rant, closely linked to the previous one. Decision fatigue is a real thing, especially popular among the capsule wardrobe preachers, but lurking around all of us, especially if many frequent and complex decisions are to be taken. Obviously, the more concerned about the quality of your decisions you are, the more tiring it gets. When a happily oblivious person is hungry after work, she pops in the supermarket, asks herself what of things that she can afford appeals to her (that’s probably a decision interacting taste and convenience), grabs it and goes home to eat it. When a conscious consumer gets hungry, it can be a decision-making disaster…
There are many choices to make and – having assimilated that € = votes and that each meal is an opportunity to change the world – it feels important to get it just right. Following a tradition of long, anxiety induced lists of shoulds, here are the questions I’m frying my brain when making a shopping list:
Is it safe to eat? (Yeah, dumpster diving is not my forte.)
Is it vegan? Or shall I make an exception again?
Is it in season?
Is it km0? But really? Or do I just like to think like that for Canary bananas? That’s ~2500km in a straight-ish line, btw.
What are the conditions of production? Is it basically slavery, although on EU ground? Looking at you, Andalusian greenhouses!
What’s the packaging? Is it wrapped in plastic or other unnecessary waste?
Is it nutritious?
Is it organic? Or has it been laced with pesticides that will kill me in 50 years?
Is it easily attainable or am I supposed to go across the city for those bulk goods?
Is is an establishment worth supporting?
Is it something I want to eat?
Already suffering from a time squeeze, being an urbanite, and having left the CSA cooperative because it was hassle, nothing I eat ticks all the boxes. Boom! And that’s where the haggling starts… which restrictions shall I relax? I’ll walk you through some of my staples whom I have somehow deemed to be good enough just to share my 1st world struggles:
Soy yogurt. I’ve eaten liters of this particular one this summer since I discovered that it makes for the perfect tzatziki-ranch-mayo style sauce for all my salad and dipping fantasies. Organic non-GMO French soy, no added sugar… also two pieces of plastic, one of cardboard (although these people at least make the cardboard easily separable from plastic) and 2.02 € for 400 grams of yogurt. That’s a lot of garbage and a high price to pay for a bit of fermented soy milk. Considering myself a person who can resist most of the bullshit vegan products, I find it very annoying that I finally have one I’m craving and raving about. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.
Huelva strawberries. Ugh. This one is annoying, because I don’t even like the taste once I’ve fallen for them in March – after a season with only citruses – and brought them home, but it happens. These huge strawberry monsters are not really strawberries, it’s a frankenstein derivative that looks good, smells enticing but tastes like a bad cucumber most of the time. It took me 10 years of disappointment with Spanish strawberries until I tried Catalan mountain strawberries. Those do taste like the Northern strawberries I grew up with! But concerns about taste, pesticides and the distances traveled is only half of the reasons to avoid these sweet-smelling abominations of fruit. Most intensive work in the Spanish agricultural industry is done my seasonal migrants from Morocco and the stories that come out of Huelva’s strawberry fields, when they come because there is a lot of opacity in the industry, are heartbreaking. It’s all discrimination, abuse, sexual assault, labor fraud, horrible working conditions, etc. Fails at: eat local, think about the worker, chose organic ethos.
Cooked chickpeas. Yeah, I can buy my bulk Spanish chickpeas and then boil them for several hours on the stove top. And time by time, especially in winter when the whole pot becomes a stew afterwards, we do. But a (vegan) girl has to eat, and soaking and boiling takes planning, time and fuel. I’m terrified of pressure cookers and we don’t have a slow cooker (and I don’t want to invest in another gadget). And I’m not that sure that 4 liters of water and chickpeas cooking on a gas stove top for several hours consumes significantly less energy than the industrial production. I expect those people to be more efficient than I am! Even more, taking into account the summer temperatures and year-round humidity, home cooking legumes messes with our quality of life by increasing already unbearable temperatures and humidity in summer and helping the fucking mold in winter. So I’m left with glass jars, metal lids and a couple of ingredients that my home-cooked chickpeas wouldn’t have, namely, calcium disodium EDTA and sodium metabisulfite. And hummus. And chickpeas for my salads. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.
One of the reasons why I prefer swaps and hand-me-downs so much is that the decision fatigue so often becomes unbearable when a bigger purchase has to be made, and I’m so anxious to make the right choice.
A sports bra. My current fast-sport-fashion wonder from Karrimor – a desperate 2015 slip-up when I really needed one – needs replacing. It has been so much wears, both for yoga and casual, that it needed replacement a year ago but I just haven’t got myself to do so. Also, almost nobody sees it, so there is no social pressure… And I’ve already had enough failures in this field to know that the right breast garment isn’t necessarily easy to find. Examples: (a) I had a Nike top with built-in breast support from 2013 till 2017 that I used actively, despite the straps never being perfectly comfortable, even after several alterations; (b) I bought a basic Nike sports bra together with the Karrimor one in 2015 (oh, that was a shopping spree, I also got my athletic swimsuit then), but that one was so uncomfortable and itchy at the neck I just could not wear it; (c) my mom handed me down a top with breast support in January, but it was too big and awkwardly made… (d) and my yoga short fail still eats my heart, you would have thought that shorts were easy! Since I started to publish my swap wish lists, people are really helpful in offering anything sports bra-looking that comes around, but I know that my chances are very slim.
Internets do not make my life easier to get a new one. There was a Patagonia sports bra that, according to their homepage, ‘left Patagonia.com and joined a heavy metal band’. And another one. These people who wouldn’t disclose the no-name material described as ‘moisture wicking and breathable fabric’. Or these that wouldn’t reveal the country their stuff is produced in. And the merino wonders that had me ready to ditch the vegan prerequisite – it is true that all the synthetic athletic wear is stinky alright – but I couldn’t get their wares in Europe and then they discontinued the style I wanted…
Am I really asking that much? Is a basic comfy sports bra made for women with breasts produced in a Western country that much? And I’m not even looking at the prices…
What are your sources of sustainability decision fatigue? Is it more about the little everyday things or about bigger purchases? What are your routine compromises just to overcome the decision paralysis?
A random update: I’m finally reviving and migrating my photo blog into this space, so there is a bit of reorganization going on in the Categories section and, if you are a WordPress or RSS subscriber, you have received a couple of posts that don’t look much like my usual content. Photo posts won’t be part of blog’s main section and have their special section instead, but feeds pick up all new posts and I haven’t found a way of filtering them. If they are not your cup of tea while my regular content is, I suggest you drop the feeds and follow my Facebook page or Instagram instead.
What better reason to stay someplace air conditioned than to claim that your brain needs food?
If you have been anywhere near progressive media, you’ll know that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is our new darling. Hey, she even got George exited: A Revolution Has Begun. Meanwhile, if you want a couple of reminders about about what
was is so great about Bernie (and how socialism is nothing new for US), here Bernie Sanders and the History of American Socialism and Why Bernie Sanders’s History of Racial Justice Activism Matters.
Ditch the tea bags! Or at least make the burn test of those baggies, because at least most conventional ones not only make your tea taste worse but also aren’t compostable: (in Spanish) ¿Hay plástico en las bolsitas de té? Unless you enjoy infusions of plastic and bleach…
In case you do festivals (I know, a bit too late maybe; rethink our festival waste and make a to-do list for next summer), How To Do Music Festivals Ethically and Sustainably and How to be Zero Waste at Music Festivals. As always, it comes to down to questioning what is really needed and not purchasing stuff for only one occasion. As with cheap airlines, read the rules carefully as the whole reason of existence of big festivals seem to be making you throw away your homemade sandwich so you can go buy theirs for 10€! The same goes for water, alcohol, etc. And I don’t think many European festivals will let you in with a glass container you can easily kill somebody onstage if you are a good thrower.
Very relevant for the ethical shopper easily lured into ‘get this fashion trend made by disadvantaged women in…’ and everybody who has ever had fantasies about ‘building a school in Africa’: The White-Savior Industrial Complex.
And in the to-do list of skills to be acquired goes Radical Listening: A Manifesto.
What I was writing about a year ago: How to survive summer heat in Barcelona.
Another old post you might enjoy: Heirlooms in the age of fast fashion: Do they still make any?
The migration of the photo blog and making space for it on this site was also very useful for me to get in touch with my limits. I tried to do it all on my own, had to do recur to backups several times, and got to a point when the site was actually down for a couple of hours yesterday morning and I wasn’t able to do restore the backup on my own. Well, the helpful people at SiteGround did their job and everything is back to where it has to be, but the conceptual doubt remains: is it better to look for experts immediately or trying on your own first? What do you do? If you are on my camp with a ‘but of course I should be able to do this on my own’ attitude, power to you but make sure you have a good backup service in place before you start tinkering.
Welcome to the second installment of guest posts on Un Armario Verde. You read about Marina’s experience with wardrobe tracking in March, now you have Liliana’s post on how she got to the point of organizing clothes’ swaps in Mexicali. This post is part of our post exchange. I wrote a post – in Spanish! – on how to organize a community swap for Liliana’s blog. You can read it here: He organizado seis intercambios de ropa y ésto es lo que he aprendido.
Liliana was a swap regular since the very first edition back in October 2016 and is now doing an amazing job in creating the change she wants back in Mexicali, both organizing community events and teaching aspiring renewables engineers how there is more to sustainability than they thought, and on the internets by blogging and filling her Facebook page with cool memes and info. Go, follow her! And now you have her story about the switch towards more sustainable fashion practices.
I was born and raised in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, on the border with California, United States. The textile culture that surrounds me is basically materialist: the proliferation of Outlet Plazas, Malls and Internet commerce are part of normality. Second-hand sales are aimed at an underprivileged sectors of the population and since just five years ago swaps and vintage boutiques are becoming popular in this city. Circular economy initiatives are just emerging. These initiatives are accompanied and driven in part by the environmental movement, the economic crisis and the new youth styles (and others not so young).
Mexicali is a difficult city: in the dog days we have reached 52 degrees Celsius. At the moment of writing this, it’s 47℃ on the street. There is sun all year, it rains a little and the winter is hard. It is necessary to have clothes of light, clear fabrics, and to avoid that which accumulates sweat. The irony? I love black and autumnal clothes, so I had to create a balance, for my survival!
I always say that minimalism and textile sustainability came to me, but I also looked for them. When I moved from my parents home to live alone, when I went to study in Barcelona, when I had other moves, travels, change the North American lifestyle to the Mediterranean… all that motivated to simplify my life, to keep my belongings organized and to be more selective. I stopped spending so much on clothes if it was not something that I really loved or needed, so I can say that the first step is to open up to oneself and connect with the intuition (or develop it in any case).
I got tired of having clothes that were not useful, that ended in gigantic boxes to donate or sell second-hand. Here is a picture of my closet:
I can’t believe that before I had it full and at the same time so empty. All the clothes that you can see are for spring and summer. I know I still have a lot to learn, but that’s what this is all about.
In 2010 I earned only a few bucks, so I made a reduction of everything that was not important in my life. I did not suffer in this process, on the contrary, it freed me a lot even though sometimes I did not make ends meet. The times of scarcity teach us many things.
We already know that it is not necessary to buy so many clothes, we know it, but marketing and advertising strategies bombard us so much, and it has stayed so programmed in our minds that we can not see beyond the non-purchase. In my city there are certain fashionista aspirations and even popular sayings, as when you repeat a garment it is said that “you look like a portrait”. I know people who spend more than 40% of their income on clothes and shoes.
In my case, the relationship with clothes has always been changing, but it maintains a constant: I give priority to comfort, this since I was a baby. I refused to use disposable diapers and against technological super modernity I used cloth diapers.
I do not like to wear heels or clothes that sacrifice practicality for style. With the use of the bicycle this conviction was accentuated: I love the real pockets —not the decorative ones—, and I love the fabrics that let you perspire. This is one of the things I learned the most with my cycling friends, to live sustainability and to go lighter… and happier.
To go to work I have stopped “disguising myself” and I try to be casual or semi-formal. I am a teacher-researcher, and fortunately in the institution where I work there is no dress code. I love dresses, and I like to play with them, that is, having a versatile dress that can be used formally, informally or in a more classy way is a jewel for me. The dresses make you look like you’ve worked hard to look good, but they are actually the easiest thing to do (and my gynecologist has recommended me to wear dresses instead of jeans), so there will always be one or two dresses in my closet that have been washed more than 50 times. I try to use the same clothes in different seasons, as you can see at the beginning of the post. This is one of my favorite dresses, it’s a Lauren Conrad’s, I bought it secondhand, although unworn, and you can see how it is possible to carry it through the all four seasons.
Approximately in 2010 I also started to exchange clothes with my friends and family: fortunately my friends, aunts, my mother and I used similar sizes, so we started having fun when we used a dress for eight different weddings, instead of having bought one. With my friends we started to exchange a little more: casual clothes, books, and some accessories. It took away many of the attachments I had with my clothes, and I chose to be pragmatic.
In this time I had some health problems that made me gain 12 kilos (26 pounds) in a few months. Here I went through several conflicts with clothes, for accepting in my mind that I was no longer size 3, or 5 … and that to stop using the style of clothes that I like would not make me feel better. Now I am very well, although I did not lose all the weight I wanted, I am healthy and more in peace with my body.
In 2013, when I arrived in Barcelona, I was delighted with the Flea Market: I found more valuable and original items than the new clothes from H&M and the disposable clothes from C&A. The sterile environment of a Fast Fashion store can never be like the atmosphere of a Mediterranean market. Well, now I have my opinion with respect to those who now organize the Flea in Barna, but that’s another story… Anyway, it was very nice to also appreciate the stories of each garment, give them a new life and, above all, keep my scholarship in my pocket. In Mexicali I swapped with my beautiful friends Laura and Berenice (now they help organizing swaps with me), in Barcelona I made clothes exchanges with my new and sweet friends: Camille, Paola and Tessie, a French girl and two Mexicans from whom I had a lot of support throughout that period.
In 2016 I attended the first swap of Un Armario Verde: The Vermutet & Warderobe Restart Autumn 2016. I found it on Facebook. Here Zuckerberg’s algorithms did work, because I usually did not get something so specific for my taste in the newsfeed. I read the description and at that moment I put my hands to work in my closet. I was very excited, and I tried to go with an open mind to allow for a surprise.
I arrived at the site alone, with a small suitcase. I was a little shy and there I met Luīze. I remember her with a tea in her hand, and with a relaxed face, she said to me: “Bienvenida, tú misma acomoda y coge lo que te guste” (Welcome, you arrange yourself and take what you like). We talked a little about the event and since then I have approached the subject with great joy. From then on I went to all the “wardrobe restarts” that Un Armario Verde made each season and I took some friends to experience the dynamics.
In the event of September 30, 2017, she and I talked about my return to Mexico. I told her it was going to be hard not to have Un Armario Verde, and that I would miss her. She proposed that I adapt the idea to my city and, of course, I said yes! In December of 2017 I returned to Mexicali, and left to Luīze the clothes that did not fit in the suitcase for the next event. With a little advice and motivation from a distance, on February 17 I organized my first swap: “Cafecito & Un Armario Verde”. So it was as if I had been in both events, in some way. My event, considering that it was experimental version with little promotion, was a success!
This encouraged me to open a fanpage and a blog of my own, chose an original name and organize the second event, with more strength and asking for the support of my friends. I was thinking about the name for several hours, as I wanted something inspired by Fight Club and The Breakfast Club. I thought of Fight Fast Fashion Club, but that’s very long…
That’s how the Green Swap Club was born, like a little baby from Un Armario Verde. In the end I put it in English, for practical issues, but the event continues with the Cafecito (Swap & Cafecito!). Especially because it reminds me of the Vermutet of Luīze (vermouth in Catalan) and because I love coffee, especially in diminutive, since that is how we say things with love and because they always mean something more: a space to share. Sometimes, instead of coffee, it may be cervecita, tecito, vinito, etc. ☺
I am using everything I learned about sustainability in my postgraduate studies and communication tools to “preach” Slow Fashion with love and joy, trying not to be heavy or aggressive. Because there is already a lot of that on the Internet.
For the same reason, I think we need to make more community… I like to make funny memes about Fast Fashion, and also share reflections and articles. And I would like to learn how to fix my clothes, as well as organize a workshop for other people to learn how to do it.
I have been invited to talk about Slow Fashion on the Radio and in the press: it fills me with joy! It has been unexpected to capture the attention and get a lot of people to be punctual to an event and leave so happy, without spending a single peso or dollar and without polluting the planet. What’s next? I am starting a new job as a professor and I would like to explore the topic of Fashion and Circular Economy in social and cultural research. Although it is an idea that I am still resting on, it continues to brew. I’ll tell you, if you wish, more about it. Meanwhile, I invite you to a coffee… and in the process we do something for the environment.
Text: Liliana López León. Images by Carlos Cruz. Printscreens from Green Swap Club.
Thank you so much, Liliana! Looking forward to your next sustainability adventures… What has been your sustainable fashion journey so far, dear reader? Do you share any sustainability triggers with Liliana: emancipation from the parental home, moves (especially transcontinental), travel? What did that thought you?
Because anger is better than apathy, feed the brain:
On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs: A Work Rant by David Graeber – “This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment.”
+ an additional interview with him on the same topic, The Rise of Bullshit Jobs: “Most work isn’t about producing things, it’s about keeping them the same, it’s about maintaining them, taking care of them, but also taking care of people, taking care of plants and animals. […] You realize that even a lot of these classic working-class jobs are really caring labor, they’re about taking care of people.”
A tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the Kübler-Ross model to accepting the perversity of fast fashion and breaking up with it – 5 Stages of Grief: Breaking Up with an Unethical Brand. Might be especially useful if you have an identity attachment to a brand, i.e. if you are their exact target audience aesthetically.
While the intention of the author seems to just chide the ethical consumption movement for their shortsightedness instead of proposing solutions, it is a good read to remind ourselves that (a) the typical contemporary supply chains are really complex and hard to control even if the brand wants to, unless they go off-grid and start producing in-house which raises prices, of course; (b) the forms of protest and resistance have to evolve when the target changes; and (c) it is bigger political and economic policies that set the playing field for the economic actors, those are political powers (or lack of them) that allow the corporations to do whatever they want: The Myth of the Ethical Shopper.
And the weekly reminder about haw horrific it is to work for that typical supply chain – #MeToo in the Supply Chain: Violence is a “Daily Reality” for Female Garment Workers.
What I was writing about a year ago: Lessons learnt from the Fashion Revolution MOOC.
Another old post you might enjoy: Persuasion or #fuckfastfashion, but gently.
Which fast fashion crimes anger you the most? What was the trigger for you to start looking around for alternatives? What fast fashion perks – low prices, constant novelty, retail therapy – are you willing to give up in order to improve this? Which ones have been the hardest ones to give up?
#100wears is the most beloved garment section where I show off the longevity of items I’ve worn at least 100 times and urge to elevate the rather low #30wears aspiration. Basically, a love song, a poem, a “there are some garments so good I can’t stop wearing them”… My Veja Arcade sneakers have reached the magic threshold a while ago – it’s now 140 – so here comes the love song.
I was chunky sneaker-curious for a while and, after having reaffirmed that Veja Taua would be my lifelong love, I decided to spice it up a bit and got a pair of vegan Arcade in April 2017 (money reports 1 and 2). They came pristine and perfect, of course, but that didn’t last very long as I took them with me for all the big 2017 trips.
To Granada and Sevilla in April:
To Philadelphia in May:
To Cape Town in November where I managed to touch a bit of Atlantic ocean while wearing them:
And just back and forth in Barcelona:
They are chunky and casual alright, though. Last June I put my mother in a desperate bind as my only two available options for my grandma’s 70th birthday were a pair of worn out floral Taua and still a pretty fresh Arcade. She insisted on Taua as for her Arcade looked too much like a hiking boot. I also still have moments of doubt about pulling of the chunky sneaker looks, specially with midi skirts. At times it just looks weird. Oh well… As on normal days my sneakers only serve as a commute shoe, it’s fine. I just feel cool instead of looking the part.
Similar to Arcopedico wedges, these shoes have reached the #100wears for practical reasons instead of undying love. I have ten pairs of footwear altogether, but between those that do not touch street (winter slippers, pool slippers, KonMari consulting espadrilles) and those for specific occasions (rain, winter, formal) sneakers do the bulk of the work, so for me footwear is the easiest #100category. Here, this is how the drawer looks:
Arcade were a bit hard to break in and cannot be worn without a sock, but they are much better for lots of walking and soak slower than the canvas sneakers. I haven’t washed them and, while not being that pristine anymore, the gray color scheme is incorporating wear very nicely. They are by no means waterproof, but the elevation, recycled plastic and thicker built make them very nice for Barcelona winter while not that appealing in summer. So there they are in my wardrobe, waiting for October.
Is there a type of garment that you have kept wearing throughout the years? What pieces easily reach #100wears in your wardrobe? Which garments do you end up wearing more, the beloved ones or the practical ones?
A random update: By the end of this week I was so fed up with my hair, the heat, the PhD and life in general that recurring to a feminine classic of going to a hairdresser seemed like a very good idea. I showed her this 2012 photo (July 17, btw, 6 years ago almost to a day):
There is wisdom in folk clichés, indeed. The hairdresser did this and I couldn’t be happier:
And now some material to chill your brain with incoming info:
George Monbiot on how memory bias and changing baselines – among other obstacles – prevent us from grasping climate change and mass extinctions: In Memoriam.
Has it been a week or so since you added a new item it your list of environmental worries? Ha, here you have a new one: low hanging ozone. Yes, we love it when it’s in the stratosphere but – turns out! – not so much in the troposphere. And I had already put ozone under my very short list of ‘environmental fuckups humans actually reverted‘… while that is still true, it’s not the end of the story of us and ozone.
Is Online or In-Store Shopping More Eco-Friendly? based mainly in this paper by Dimitri Weideli: Environmental Analysis of US Online Shopping… Main message? It depends! Jen focuses on the driving associated with in-store shopping vs. deliveries which – isolated from everything else and assuming that the person doesn’t move their car to browse previously or to do sth else instead – are more efficient in route planning. However, there are so many other issues that are hard to assess (and Weideli tries to estimate it): which mode uses more packaging (because the store wares did came wrapped in something to the store but probably less than when they package one item for shipping), which one has a better carbon footprint (things have been already shipped in bulk to your high street or the super special lip balm from New Zealand; but what about if it’s responsibly made in New Zealand and the high street stuff is much worse in their production practices)?
Here is his break-down of CO2 emissions assuming that it is either online or in-store and not the person who went through all the stores in their city (by car!) and then ordered online, and that the product is the same (which in sustainable fashion niches it tends *not* to be):
So, if you like the in-store experience, don’t drive there! If you like shopping on-line, don’t ask for a speedy shipping and insist on the least packaging possible. And they better make it recyclable if not compostable. Or, even better, just stop shopping!
What I was writing about a year ago: Garment makers and fixers, I salute you.
Another old post you might enjoy: Vision-building for your wardrobe.
Do you ever struggle with shopping decisions due to multiple considerations: aesthetics, ethics, CO2, distance? Which of those seal the deal for you?
This is a bit more complex than the first big spreadsheet report three months ago, because now I’ve covered winter and spring weather up to the beggining of the hot-hot summer. It’s cumulative instead of capsule-ish (but the capsule is dead) and garments appropriate for milder weather are bound to have more wears in total. Yet it still is a clear reflection of the functionality of my wardrobe (and of babysteps towards #100wears). The astonishing part even for me is that in these six months I have worn it all at least once! Boom. The ~40 garment wardrobe (~50 including shoes) works and might be the optimal one!
So here you have the wardrobe heroes by categories in 2018 so far with the number of wears in parenthesis:
Most worn: Julie’s cardigan (45).
Never wore: Wore them all.
Wore the least: The floral courduroy bolero (2) – it’s fancy and in Rīga, works very well (although takes it slightly over the top) with the HnM sweetheart dress, but not casual enough for every day even by my very lax standards.
Most worn: The second-hand kaftan (16).
Runner-ups: My mom’s dark blue silk dress (15) and my aunt’s hand-me-down PhD dress (15).
Never wore: Wore them all.
Wore the least: The HnM sweetheart dress (3) – again, it’s a party garment and lives in Rīga so that I would have a mainstay for all family celebrations and opera. Feels like a bit of a waste but I’ve had it since 2008, so it has to be somewhere in vicinity of those #30wears. Also, this February I finally found a nice way to dress it down a bit, this.
Most worn: The demon t-shirt still wins (40). This is weird, because I don’t have a feeling that I’ve worn it that much. Here, a proof that my memory and perception of frequency of wear cannot be trusted!
Runner-ups: The swap Forever 21 t-shirt (26) and my mom’s lace undershirt (23).
Never wore: Wore them all.
Wore the least: The WAG top (5) – Throughout these months I still hadn’t finished the beige skirt, so the only combination was with the set skirt which is (I finally have to admit it) very uncomfortable. Here, finally I have a combination issue! I have a top that can be worn only with (now) two bottoms which themselves are not that easy to wear, and that clearly doesn’t help to boost their wears. Ugh. At the end I should probably admit that the African set was a rather stupid impulse buy…
Most worn: ZIB black leave leggings (42), still.
Runner-ups: Liisa’s velvet skater skirt (32) and Amoralle leggings (30).
Never wore: Wore them all.
Wore the least: Blanco paisley pants (1) – they live in Rīga and mostly serve as lounge wear decent enough to also head out in them. I had them in Barcelona last summer and didn’t enjoy them that much either. If I’d be spending any summer time in Rīga this year, they’d probably get their wears, but that’s not happening, not in 2018.
Most worn: Arcopedico wedges (78) still, obviously.
Runner-ups: Veja Wata (43) and Veja Arcade (41).
Never wore: Wore them all.
Wore the least: Nokian Hai wellingtons (1) – they live in Rīga and are rainboots. I keep wondering if bringing them to Barcelona could be a good idea…
Most worn: Jēkabs necklace (24). It had been in my heirlom stash for years and I decided to give it a spin. Turns out I really like it!
Runner-ups: The red wooden necklace (18) and the bird and flower headband (12).
Never wore: Wore them all.
Wore the least: The flower ball headband (6) – I rescued it from the Rīga wardrobe and we had a great time together in London, but then in Barcelona I find it hard to wear. And the bicycle-headband incompatibility (the wind!) doesn’t help.
Have has your wardrobe fared in these first six months of 2018? Do you think you have worn all that you have? Have you tried any kind of wardrobe tracking? Are you anywhere close the optimal wardrobe?