2011: A Year In My Ethical Wardrobe
Another year has come to an end, which means I have another year worth of fashion buys to share with you. It’s over three years now and to be honest, sometimes it feels like it is getting harder. I suppose more things are running out such as underwear, and tights, and having bought so much less over the past three years, I start to notice myself getting bored of what I have but then I forget about it and get on with my life with the beautiful wardrobe that I have. I try and avoid the high street at all costs, as when I am there the pang of desire to shop comes out. But the funny thing is, most of the time it doesn’t occur to me. I really can’t imagine buying a piece of unethical clothing for the sake of it. When I think I want something new, I spend time researching the right thing. For example, I have decided it is time for a pesticide free bed and am working on finding the right organic cotton bed linen, rather than just going to the shops to see what takes my fancy. It’s harder but the rewards are greater.
I started shopping like this for my clothes in 2008, although 2010 was the first year that I shared what I bought with you in this way. At the end of last year, I wrote some resolutions for you to try, which became my Rules To Dress By. I have been sharing these far and wide through talks that I have done throughout 2011, and this year I am taking it a step further and sharing the rules with a special checklist to help us all keep better track of what we buy.
I noticed priorities shifting this year and I changed my mind on a few things, for example, I was not buying leather. But I have decided that leather shoes in some instances last longer and are more comfortable than plastic based alternatives, or are better to run around town in, and so have been making some decisions based on longevity and use as well as ethical production and materials. My wish list for 2012 includes a very cool shoe and bag brand that uses responsibly sourced leather, ethical production and is in my price range! But I think as what you wear and what you buy are such personal decisions, we each have to decide for ourselves in which ways we want to be responsible and stylish consumers, which is why I always say rules are made to be broken. But having these as a guideline against everything I buy, and having the target of 20 things a year has certainly made a difference to my wardrobe and my consuming. So what did I buy in 2011?
Totals: Clothing = 18 , Shoes = 7 , Accessories = 4, Bags = 0
My first purchase of 2011, was unethical. I was in a small town up north, and desperately needed some new leggings as the ones I had taken with me to visit my parents had ripped far beyond repair. I went to look for something that was at least a little sustainable, and couldn’t find anything, showing how much easier it is to shop ethically if you are in a big city or if you have time to buy online. After a bit of a debate on twitter, I was convinced not to be a marter and to buy the leggings, I think they were £3. I wore then for about a week, before they started to fall apart and had to be put in a TRAID bank!
My first real purchase of 2011 was this Royal Blue Satin Sweetheart dress from Tara Starlet, the vintage inspired but ethically made label ran by one of my favourite ladies in the industry Tara Scott.
In need of a few basics, I turned to Liv, where I bought three things are 100% organic cotton and fairly traded cotton. A pair of ribbed black leggings, a black and a grey wrap cardigan. (photos coming soon)
In March 2011, there was the first ever Climate Week, and I wanted to support the work of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) by buying a couple of t-shirts, including the Climate Week one which from which profits were donated to their Climate Refugees campaign. In addition I wanted to buy a Katharine Hamnett t-shirt, so chose the ‘NO MORE FASHION VICTIMS’ one that was celebrating 20 years of organic cotton.
April started with a visit to Ms Wanda’sethical fashion pop up shop, where I got this brilliant Jetson style vintage dress.
As I was a spokesperson for the Yes Campaign, and with the referendum on May 6th, I got the chance to wear a lot of purple in April. This photo below shows the Beautiful Soul Cape and Junky Styling Dress that I borrowed for this press conference, that I am wearing with the purple lace up Beyond Skin Shoes that I bought. This Junky Styling dress is on my wishlist for 2012!
I bought a pair of purple TOMS as they were doing a limited edition purple shoe with Office.
I borrowed this From Somewhere perfect little black dress, and this vintage inspired Tara Starlet, both of which I was very grateful to be given, as well as this shirt from Ada Zanditon that I since bought in her sample sale. Another borrow was this very cool dress by Henrietta Ludgate.
In May, I have to confess to diving into Marks and Spencer’s who have a very cool ethical policy Plan A, but do not use sustainable fabrics in the way that the ethical designers do. I can’t remember how many things I bought, I think I wanted to shop again and experience that moment in a shop! I bought some spanx as my friends had been telling me that everyone wears it now (it’s so uncomfortable) some tights, and a slip. I can’t remember how many pairs of tights I bought, I think it was around five…
In addition this month, I was given some lovely Ethletic fairtrade trainers!
On the day after referendum, I went to Brixton Village Market where I was taking part in an event. I popped into Saloon 97, where this vintage dress was hanging on the wall. It fitted me perfectly, so I had to buy it!
I saw this Lowie Military Cardigan at the Forward PR press day, and added to my wishlist. I bought it and it has been one of the most worn items in my wardrobe since.
I met Susie Stone earlier in the year, and loved her work, and so decided to invest in a couture dress made by her. I choose this design and silk from a UK mill. This is a piece to keep forever, and was incredible having something made just for me, like with my Junky Styling coat from 2009.
June was the month of my cousin’s wedding in New York. As you can imagine an Indian Wedding requires a lot of clothes, and most people use it as an excuse to go out and buy a whole new range of beautiful clothes. I have some Indian clothes and don’t get the chance to wear them that often, and so decided that I wouldn’t buy anything new for the wedding. I instead adjusted some of my older clothes to make them fit, adjusted the blouse from one of my mum’s sari’s and borrowed a couple of things and lots of bangles from my other cousins. I was also given a sari by the bride to wear as a sort of bridesmaid dress for one of the functions. It certainly would have been easier to go out and buy new things, but I had a brilliant time and proved that there was no need in this situation.
Whilst in New York, I was out shopping with my mum, and she was buying shoes. I ended up buying a pair of black heeled sandals. They seemed comfortable and were made of vegan leather, but they aren’t comfortable and hence haven’t been worn much. Bad impulse buy!
July was a shopping free month for me. I did however go and raid my mum’s old wardrobe, finding some lovely things such as this skirt which I am wearing as a dress, and some lovely big winter jumpers.
In August I took part in the Eco-Age Frugal challenge where I shared what i wore every day for seven days including a day of fancy dress as a bee at a music festival! You can see all the pictures here, sadly the links to Eco-Age on the photos don’t work now as Eco-Age have since re-designed their website, but not made the older content available.
The other thing that I bought this month, was another fun festival buy. A purple tail from social enterprise Festival Tails.
I had a little flutter on ASOS, buying some pieces from their Green Room. I bought some black People Tree leggings, and two dresses from the ASOS Africa collection. I love ASOS Africa, it is made by my friend and old colleague Jo Maiden in her fairtrade production unit in Kenya, Soko.
(photos of ASOS Africa pieces will be added at a later date)
In addition to this I went to Bestival and bought myself some new wellington boots as the last ones I had were from 2005 and had seen better days. I got some Hunter wellies, for their quality and because it is supporting a UK brand. Whilst at the festival, my friends at Pants To Poverty were breaking another Guinness World Record, so I bought a pair of their pants to take part in their pant flash.
In October I was presenting the film for a conference called Influencer, and so borrowed some great ethical pieces to wear. I bought some modal tights from Accessorize, impressed that they were selling the eco-fabric, and some ribbon lace up pumps with from American Apparel. I borrowed a black dress from Outsider for one of the days, and then for the other, a dress from Partimi. The print on this dress was a photograph of algae that has grown for hundreds of years on the bench in the family home of designer Eleanor Dorrien-Smith. I wore this dress with a stunning up-cycled head piece from designer Michelle Lowe-Holder.
London’s Potassium boutique is a lifestyle concept store, that curates ethical fashion and homeware. I found this amazing dress there by Danish label, Bitte Kai Rand. (better photo coming soon!)
I wanted to buy some new heeled shoes, I have some old injuries on my knees, and older shoes were not proving comfortable to walk in. I wanted some really comfortable but chic shoes that would age well, so I went to award winning boutique Spice in Primrose Hill, to get an expert opinion on wear and style. I settled on some beautiful handmade shoes by T + F Slack with a purple heel, made exclusively for Spice in their Notting Hill workshop, and then some purple shoes also designed by the same design couple for their diffusion Audley.
In addition to this, I bought a Vivienne Westwood vintage suit from the Redlight Campaign Charity Auction (picture coming soon).As I was speaking at this event, I turned to my friend Ada Zanditon for something eco-fabulous to wear, and borrowed this stunning dress.
Earlier in the year, my New York ethical fashion friends Bahar Sharpar and Tara St James were raising money for their school at GUILDED. I contributed to their crowdfund, and as a perk of supporting them, was sent this very cool 4 way dress from Tara’s label Study NY.
My love of great shoes carried on into December, when I bought some Chie Mihara shoes, another label that I learnt about at Spice. The designer has studied the back, and although they are high, they are very comfortable as she has built in support for the back and knees into the shoe.
In December I took part in a sample sale, selling my jewellery with Lu Flux, Ada Zanditon and Goodone. I bought the Ada Zanditon shirt that I had worn earlier in the year. I couldn’t resist buying this gorgeous jumper from Goodone and this very cool skirt from Lu Flux.
And there we have it, another year in my wardrobe. After last year’s reactions, I want to re-iterate that I am not saying that this is the most ethical wardrobe possible. In fact, if I had an unlimited budget and a full time stylist and could spend all my time putting together the perfect wardrobe, than what I am presenting might be quite different. This is just what I bought, in my life, with the time to look and resources that I had to meet my needs. I can tell you that I thought deeply about everything that I bought this year and asked a series of questions about where each item came from and how useful it would be in my wardrobe before I bought it. I think the most important thing that we can do in this moment of time is be conscious about what we buy and what we wear, and this is what I try to do.
If you want to come with me on this journey in 2012, Download and Print my 12 Rules To Dress By Poster and Wardrobe Shopping Checklist.