Es­sen­tials of style

Buy less, choose well

Esquire (Singapore) - - Contents -

Now here is a tale of two cities. In Sin­ga­pore, if you are keen to be in the know re­gard­ing the lat­est colour trends in menswear, you can do a quick search on your smart­phone and you are sorted. For any­body who is liv­ing down­stream of a tex­tile fac­tory in In­dia, they get that in­for­ma­tion from the colour of the river wa­ter that is tainted by the chem­i­cal run-offs.

The fash­ion in­dus­try is one of the world’s big­gest pol­luters, partly due to the rise of the fast fash­ion sec­tor and its mas­sive out­put of clothes on the cheap. But it’s not all bleak in the world of fash­ion as in­dus­try lead­ers are do­ing their part to turn things around.

British de­signer Stella Mc­Cart­ney has al­ways been ahead of the curve at mak­ing sure her la­bel is sus­tain­able, while Tom Ford, who has been im­ple­ment­ing eth­i­cal pro­duc­tion prac­tices, was awarded the Green Car­pet Fash­ion Award for Best In­ter­na­tional De­signer Sup­port­ing ‘Made in Italy’ in 2017. Even Vir­gil Abloh is tak­ing a stand, tak­ing on a role at Evian as creative ad­viser for sus­tain­able de­signer. Last but not least, Dame Vivi­enne West­wood, whose fa­mous quote of “buy less, choose well, make it last” has al­ways cham­pi­oned sus­tain­able prac­tices. Case in point: her re­cent col­lab­o­ra­tion with Burberry part­ners with Cool Earth, a non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that aims to stop de­for­esta­tion.

With that in mind, you need not go full tree-hug­ger, or only pur­chase from sus­tain­able la­bels to do your part for the en­vi­ron­ment. Here is a guide for some prac­tices to help you buy less and buy bet­ter.

DE CLUT­TER AN­DRE-OR­GAN I SE Take a good hard look at the pieces in your wardrobe and start fil­ter­ing out clothes that you haven’t worn in months. You might be sur­prised at the per­cent­age of clothes that you ac­tu­ally wear. We’ve all heard of the story of how Steve Jobs and Mark Zucker­berg have bro­ken down dress­ing in the morn­ing into a rou­tine, pre­fer­ring to stick to a uni­form. While wear­ing the same look ev­ery sin­gle day is a tad ex­treme (for those who de­fer, send me an email about how happy you were dur­ing your Na­tional Ser­vice when you had to wear the same army uni­form for five days a week), the ethos of re­duc­ing de­ci­sion fa­tigue is one that we should em­u­late.

Break down your wardrobe into sec­tions and de­cide on a uni­form code. Put any gar­ment that doesn’t make the cut into the re­cy­cling pile. And if you’re telling your­self that you are keep­ing that leop­ard print vest for oc­ca­sions when you feel a tad dressier, but haven’t worn it in a year, then put that into the re­cy­cling pile too.

IN­VEST IN QUAL­ITY BA­SICS A good wardrobe is built on a solid foun­da­tion of qual­ity ba­sics. In­vest in pieces that are easy to wear, flat­ter your form and are well made. You don’t need to break the bank to ac­quire these qual­ity ba­sics. A favourite of mine is Uniqlo’s white ox­ford shirt that I pur­chased in 2014. It sur­vived four years of the an­nual wardrobe purge, for the sim­ple fact that it has never turned yel­low and still fits me great. Find a brand that works for you and stick to it.

CON­SIDER THE COST PER WEAR Sus­tain­abil­ity and style doesn’t have to be mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. The idea is to have clothes that fit your life­style and max­imise the cost per wear of each pur­chase. For ex­am­ple, that beau­ti­ful leather trench from Ber­luti might cost a pretty penny, but it’s a wor­thy in­vest­ment for the glo­be­trot­ter who is go­ing to use it on a con­sis­tent ba­sis.

GIVE NEW LIFE TO OLD CLOTHES Here is a cue that we can take from the Ja­panese. As any fash­ion­savvy trav­eller will know, Ja­pan has a vi­brant sec­ond­hand mar­ket, where it is not un­com­mon to find holy grail pieces from your favourite de­sign­ers at a frac­tion of the price. The mar­ket is pow­ered by a de­sire to keep ahead of trends while keep­ing within the spirit of sus­tain­abil­ity. It’s al­most like a rental sys­tem, where fash­ion afi­ciona­dos will pur­chase key pieces of the sea­son, wear them for six months, then re­sell those that don’t make it into the archive to the sec­ond­hand stores. The money they get back is then used to fund the next sea­sonal pur­chase.

It’s a prac­tice that gives gar­ments a sec­ond life, de­clut­ters the wardrobe, and ul­ti­mately, de­liv­ers more style for your buck. While there aren’t such sec­ond­hand stores in Sin­ga­pore, you can con­sider re­sale sites like Ves­ti­aire Col­lec­tive and Grailed.

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