Novelty, Unlocked in the Form of Hand-Me-Downs

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Last weekend, K and I were de-cluttering our possessions, as usual, continuing our slow, constant progress towards living a life of less. It’s amazing to discover that you can keep going on this path for so long. While I am not adding much of anything at all back into my life, I am finding hidden, forgotten about gems constantly in the backs of closets, nooks of cabinets, underneath piles of more oft used stuff. I came downstairs for a quick swig of water after lightening my closet for what feels like the thousandth time, just as K was coming up the stairs, carrying her favorite purple North Face jacket (a similar one here).  I must have seen K wear this jacket multiple times as one of her go-to pieces in her closet, so I was surprised when she extended her arm and offered the jacket to me. She voiced that she was ready to let it go, and she asked if I wanted her hand-me-down. I laughed because I had just de-cluttered my own closet upstairs and just finished contemplating how in the world I end up with so much stuff. Funnily, I did want to take the hand-me-down too, because I could use a more muted fleece jacket for the everyday, instead of my bright red one (see, minimalist doesn’t mean owning nothing, or deprivation!). Really though, I was hesitant that this was yet another thing that I would have to de-clutter in the future. But then I thought about it, and decided to hold on to the jacket, and I am glad I did!

If anything, I am prolonging the life of the article of clothing. K mentioned how she did not know where to donate the stuff she is constantly decluttering, and I have also come across this problem numerous times. The amount of clothes that are being removed from homes is extremely large, mostly thanks to the fast fashion industry which is bent on creating 52 seasons in one year. Companies that used to take and re-sell lightly used clothes are becoming more and more critical, and are accepting only a small percent of what comes through their doors, because there is just not enough room. Donations to other charities are also overflowing, and most are sent to third world countries for processing, where the overflow sometimes, ultimately, end up in landfill. A lot of people who don’t want to deal with the inconveniences of finding their old clothes a home simply send them straight to the landfill anyway. So K asked me to take it and I thought to myself, “keep it out of the landfill.”

I haven’t had a hand-me-down since my sister, Dee, and I started fitting into different sizes in college. Only a year apart, the first twenty years of our lives were constantly filled with, “Can I borrow this?” or “I’ll trade you this article of clothing for that!” It used to be such a fun game, frantically looking through my closet for a piece I knew she would want, whenever I wanted to borrow or have anything she had. We were very good about striking deals and bargains, and because of our system, our closets were technically twice the size. Sometimes, we would trade back the pieces we originally had, and it was like new. I was surprised to relearn all of this with the simple act of accepting K’s gift.

I have worn K’s jacket everyday this week, since she gave it to me. The jacket has brought me so much joy and excitement. It’s been a bit cloudy in the mornings (the sun has been slow in waking up this past week) and the office is always cold, so it’s proved useful despite the fact that it’s already June in California. Yesterday, Mike and I were at the beach watching the sunset, and I commented on how I have worn the jacket every day this week, as I was zipping it up to ward off the cooling temperatures. He responded with, “You’re excited to wear it because it’s new.” Which got me thinking. Sure, it isn’t brand new, but in my life, it IS new to me.

Research shows that we are not necessarily constantly searching for newness, but rather, novelty. Advertisement companies and social media understands this human need for novelty greatly, and they use it to their advantage. They sell products as novel experiences to the general population. Buy said product, find happiness. Buy this trip, find peace. Buy this workshop, find creativity. They package novelty as something you need to buy, and time and time again, I have proven that concept wrong through slow living. The truth of the matter is, “buying happiness” is a temporary fix, leaving people feeling empty, and wallets feeling emptier. Creating novel experiences is much easier, leaving people feeling fuller, because it did not come at a cost. Hand-me-downs are a great way to create this novelty. Accepting K’s jacket reminded me of a truth that Dee and I knew as children. Newness does not necessarily mean physical newness. It only requires a sense of newness to us. One day, I will write more about ways I create novel experiences in my life, without spending a penny, and how that is contributing to the observation that I live a happier life than some of my peers. But today, I just wanted to share this story, in hopes to maybe convince more people to creating a hand-me-down system among family and friends. Share, borrow, trade, it’s all fun. See how it makes you feel. Who knows. You may unlock a secret that only kids once knew.

For those interested in finding a place for their used clothes, why not support companies that have programs dedicated to repurposing used goods? Eileen Fisher has a Renew Program which accepts used EF clothes. Depending on the condition, they resell them, refurbish them, or break them down into scraps to make a one-of-a-kind. Nisolo has a Shoe Reclamation Program that accepts used shoes, creating a market for shoemakers in less fortunate communities who can then refurbish the soles and resell the “new” shoes to their communities in need.

Curating Closets: How A Capsule Wardrobe For Work Saves Me Money AND Time

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

A bit too often, I hear people say the following statement: “I need to buy clothes for work.” While we all want to look professional (try convincing patients you’re a doctor whilst being cursed with a teenage girl’s body), there is no actual need for a recurring shopping spree for work clothes in most careers. Spend your efforts impressing your colleagues with your hard-work, your moral character, your drive, and your knowledge, rather than your suit. That’s what I say, anyway.

So what do I do? I have a capsule wardrobe for work. In short, a capsule wardrobe consists of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of style and can be minimally updated or altered seasonally. It is important to note that in Southern California, the “seasonally” part matters very little. Also, my work is indoors, so even though I may don outerwear in between the car and the office, there really isn’t much need for it outside of those parameters.

I work at two dental offices. In the first office, I work 2 days a week, every other week. We are allowed to wear scrubs which simplifies the equation. When I started dental school, we were required to purchase 7 pairs of scrubs. Before leaving dental school, I sold 5 of those pairs of scrubs to students who felt the need to have more than 7. I kept two pairs of scrubs, and they have proved useful. I only wear those two same pairs of scrubs (7 years later!) to work. If it’s particularly cold, I have one green sweater that I wear over the scrub top. I wear the exact same sweater every time.

At my second office, I work 3 to 4 days a week, on alternating weeks. We are required to dress business casual. I cycle through three pairs of pants, the exact same brand, and the exact same style, purchased at the exact same time. The pants are in black, dark navy, and cream.They’re ankle-length, and made of a stretch material, which makes them very versatile and comfortable. I cycle through only four sleeveless silk camisoles. (A side note on silk camisoles. They are my secret go-to weapon, no matter the season. They look dressed up because of the material, but can also be worn casually with jeans and not feel too stuffy. They are comfortable under thick knits, and just as breezy in desert heat.) The types I own are similar to these (actually, two of them are this exact shell). I have four of them, three of which are in black, and one is a dark charcoal grey. All of them pair with the pants nicely. If it’s cold in the office, I have 2 cardigans and a three sweaters that I always turn to. As mentioned previously, outerwear only gets me in between the car and the office door.

As for shoes, I wear the same pair of shoes every day for work, and have been ever since my first day, a year and a half ago. I invested in a pair of leather shoes, these Oliver Oxfords from Nisolo, and regardless of whether I am wearing scrubs or business casual, these are the shoes I wear. I do not wear these shoes on other occasions outside of work, to have it last longer. I also do not wear other shoes to work, for the same exact reason. Rheostats are not very friendly to nice shoes.

As for jewelry, if I wear any, I will typically wear my giving key that says “Create” on it, and my wedding ring. I tote the same bag every day, to work and outside of work, and that’s my Sseko bucket bag. I carry the same lunch pail, and the same water bottle to work too. Since I am digging in people’s mouths all day in my glamorous job, my hair is always in a ponytail.

I have not purchased clothes “for work” since I started. It is important to note that investing in good quality clothing that is timeless is important in creating a capsule wardrobe. I do not plan to shop (well, for the rest of the year, but specifically…) for work clothes in the near and moderate future. It has been a year and a half since I graduated dental school and started working. I have yet to have someone comment on the repetitiveness of my outfits, or to tell me that I need to look more professional.

Getting ready for work has never been easier. It takes me five minutes to get myself ready, partly thanks to my minimalist make-up routine. I am never standing in front of the closet debating about what to wear today. In my early to mid-twenties, it seemed like that’s all I did. I remember the angst of whether my clothes looked right for the particular occasion or whether I felt too short in them or too skinny or too fat. Cue up the insecurities that comes hand in hand with the paradox of choice.

For those looking to simplify their attire, I recommend checking out The System by Eileen Fisher. High-quality, ethically made, eco-conscious clothing that could be everything you need to get through the work day, for years to come. Currently, the Oliver Oxfords from Nisolo are on sale, along with all their other oxfords.

How about you? Care to share your capsule wardrobe?

Curating Closets: Special Occasions + Up to 40% off Nisolo Shoes

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Curating closets for special occasions can be a bit of a tricky thing. For one practicing minimalism, it is fairly easy to determine which clothes can be used on repeat, day after day, but anything that categorizes into the minimalist camp can fall into something short of, well, special. What of weddings and other such occasions where a basic tee and denim jeans just won’t cut it? The magic is not in the noteworthiness of daily garments , but in the versatility of special occasion attire, shoes included.

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A wedding, in particular, is the one social event that most people partake in. It is probably the best example of a special occasion there is, and the peak of the season is right around the corner, so it is here that we focus our attention. Leading up to the event, everyone from the bride and groom, to the wedding party, to the guests, are concerned about one common thing: what to wear. We are not going to probe into whether our concerns should be focused on other, less vain things, because the truth of the matter is, that’s what people are obsessing about, socially constructed or not. Today, I just want to answer the question: “How would a curated closet hold up to a social occasion?”

When I got married, I wore two pairs of shoes. The first was a pair of very old wedges that I had purchased 5 years prior, where the fake pleather (redundant?) was peeling off of the sole and edges. I decided to wear these for the sole reason that they were 5-inches tall and got me just a tad bit closer to my 6-foot-3-inches soon-to-be-husband. But the practicality of these shoes were close to none, so I also had a plan B, which was to switch into my second pair of shoes once the pictures were over with. My second pair was a pair of Keds sneakers.

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Old, reliable wedges, for photo-taking.
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Sneakers, for dancing.

The point is that both of these shoes had purposes other than looking pretty on my wedding day. One was very old with a well-used past, and one was new but had potential for a well-used future. On the contrary, my mom has her wedding shoes still kept in a box. I am not sure if she wore it any time else other than on her wedding day. I know for some, the sentimentalities of wedding shoes and dresses are strong, but those simply do not line up with a minimalist or practical lifestyle.

I would implement this same thinking when it comes to dressing up the rest of yourself for these events. I have a handful of dresses that I would be equally as willing to wear on a warm summer day or a cool winter evening. Never mind that the material is a bit nicer than cotton and linen. What’s the point of having clothes if you never wear them? No one cares how pretty it looks drooping from a hanger in a neglected section of a dark closet. These practical reasoning are what will guide you towards building an intentional and minimal collection.

Taking it a step further, same goes for jewelry. There are three necklaces I rotate every day. I would feel comfortable wearing those to any occasion. I used to like these over-the-top gaudy bits and baubles, the type where you’re blinded the minute you step out into the sun. Or these heavy chains back when rock-star-metal-meets-delicate-dresses was “in”. If you missed the fad, you didn’t miss a thing. Nowadays, I would rather go without. I’m more comfortable with myself that way anyway, eliminating the constant worry about whether I chose the appropriate accessory or not. I’ll opt for the simpler life that lends to a more peaceful state of mind.

So to answer my question, a curated closet will hold up quite well to special occasions, if it is appropriately curated. It isn’t to say, categorize all the fancy schmancy stuff under “useless”. Rather, verify that the fancy schamncy stuff is not so over-the-top that it fails to be somewhat useful. Also, maybe change perspective about whether a party dress can be worn in the fields on a summer day. Let go a bit of the sentimentality of things, and understand that they are just things, which, if not enjoyed, will lose purpose. Be fond of only attire that makes you comfortable on all occasions. And lastly, sometimes, just do without the special. The word itself implies the singularity of an item, the fact that it can only fall under one occasion. Instead, work with what you’ve got. That’s the advice we told our wedding party. Mismatched? Newsflash: No one on the dance floor even notices.

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On that note, Nisolo releases a Party Collection today, which in actuality is nothing but a curated gathering of their already-existing everyday footwear. Sounds a bit like my routine! If you have a hankering to outfit the entire wedding party with practical wear, up to 40% off their shoes. Women, this way. Men, over here. But honestly, just enjoy the party!

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Curating Closets: Reliable, Ethical Shoes with Nisolo + a 20% discount!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

When it comes to curating closets, the process is simplified when there are particular brands that you trust. Ones that would have your back, or in this case, support your feet. For shoes, I undoubtedly have a single preference, and that would be Nisolo. Nisolo means “not alone”. Founded on the longing to foster the interdependencies of relationships between consumers and producers, Nisolo has since its foundation expanded to encompass not only social impact, but environmental sustainability and social good as well. One only needs to look at their impact report to understand why it is that we need to support companies such as these. The report opens with their unique vision:

“To push the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction— where success is based on more than just offering the cheapest price—a direction that not only values exceptional design, but the original producer and the planet just as much as the end consumer.”

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While the above images are simply highlights of what the report details, it summarizes what the sixty-plus page report says. Additionally, some things to note.

Certified B corporation

B Corp certification is similar to fair trade, but determines environmental and social impact beyond product attributes or production processes. Rather, the assessment takes a deep look into a company’s leadership, governance, suppliers, employees, communities, etc. in order to determine (and ultimately score) the social and  environmental impact an organization has on all of its stakeholders.

Environmental sustainability

To minimize their carbon footprint, the majority of Nisolo’s raw materials are intentionally sourced and processed in close proximity of their production facilities. Third party suppliers to the factories are frequently visited, and encouraged to use environmentally friendly practices. When possible, they purchase from tanneries that have received certification from The Leather Working Group, the most well regarded third party certification in leather processing.

All Nisolo jewelry is made from upcycled materials in Nairobi, Kenya, and their first venture into vegetable tanned leather, a much more sustainable and environmentally friendly tanning process, has come via their new partner factories. Unlike most tanning methods that use chrome and other chemicals (which can create a severe impact on the environment if not properly disposed), vegetable tanning uses natural oils from bark or plant tannins, which reduce the product’s environmental impact. 

Defying Gender Norms

Nisolo has a female co-founder, as well as an executive team that consists of  40% female. Of the current staff, over 69% are female.

Education

Nearly all of the Peruvian workers had ended their education early due to a financial situation. To help combat this, Nisolo works with two universities in Trujillo to offer their producers discounted rates and opportunities to attend school at nights and during the weekend. 

They are proud to share that 100% of their producer’s children are attending school, and of the students in the university, 100% will be first generation graduates.

With that being said, I am proud to be an affiliate for a company that I so whole-heartedly believe in and support. To learn more about the ways in which Nisolo is pushing the fashion forward to a better future, read the entire impact report here.

The Shoes Themselves

Company ethics aside, what of the shoes? It is important to note that I have graduated (happily) from that stage in my life where I thought uncomfortable shoes were pretty. In fact, when curating my closet, comfort sits quite high on the list of boxes to check off. Additionally, shoes must be simple and versatile. I want them to match multiple outfits so that I could make use of them as much as possible. Shoes are meant to be worn. There was a time when I used to own over fifty pairs of shoes. Blame it on a pair of feet that never grew since the eight grade, but really, it was just a disgusting habit of over-consumption of very cheap products that were so trend-specific that they were essentially useless, most of the time. There was a neglecting of forty of those pairs, because they matched only one or two outfits in my closet, at most. However, simplicity does not mean plain. The shoes that I look for still have to be stylish and in line with my taste. Also, what I love about Nisolo shoes is that they are affordable, especially for the high-quality material and attention to detail that you get. A factory-produced Nike shoes is comparable in price to a pair of environmentally-conscious leather shoes that support an artisan who otherwise would have no access to a market. To me, the choice is very easy. Lastly, I want them to be timeless, and I want them to last. These two must go hand-in-hand, for timelessness explains the longevity of the style and the latter explains the longevity of the physical product. Without the other, the shoe would enter a landfill way too soon. I would like to confirm that Nisolo has definitely passed all of these requirements with flying colors, time and time again, which is why I keep coming back.

Below are some of the shoes I own from Nisolo’s Women Collection. They just recently released a curated Mother’s Day collection that features some products perfect for mothers at a 10% off rate. Also, subscribers will receive 20% off their first order, so do head over using the link above, scroll to the bottom of the page, and subscribe with your email to enjoy this awesome discount.

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With summer just around the corner, this is going to be my go-to shoe for the upcoming season. It was last year and it will be again this year. There is something so traditional and timeless about a pair of Huaraches. Excited to announce that new colors have been recently released!

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This is undeniably my most worn shoe outside of work. The Sophia Slip On is so versatile, that I have half a mind to also purchase the Sophia Slip On in brandy as well, which happens to be on sale right now. It’s easy to put on, very comfortable, but also sleek and elevates any outfit.

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These Ava Ballerina flats are easy to dress up or down, and are probably my most versatile shoe. I can see toe-cleavage-haters extremely disliking this shoe, but personally, I’ve got no problems.

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These are my favorite boots. They are Nisolo’s chukkas from 2016, although for 2018, they have their Isa Chukka Boot in the light oak, an updated version that looks pretty similar.

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The Oliver Oxfords are so comfortable that these are actually my every day work shoes. Which means I wear these five days a week and am able to run from room to room, maneuver a foot pedal, and still get compliments on my footwear. If you prefer a more modern style, check out the James Oxfords or the Emma D’orsay Oxfords.

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I get people asking me about these flip flops all the time! Which just goes to show that the simplest of silhouettes can be extremely attractive. These Isla Slides are fantastic, and new versions are soon to be released! Stay tuned!

These are just some of the Nisolo shoes I own, and I absolutely enjoy every single one of them. Mike as well is very fond of Nisolo’s Men’s Collection, so much so that he donned Nisolo shoes for our New Year’s Eve Wedding.

How about you guys? Reliable shoes?

Curating Closets: Meet the Makers, with Known Supply

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

For Fashion Revolution 2018, millions of people are encouraged to ask companies the question, “Who made my clothes?”, with the goal of increasing transparency in the supply chain. The more people who ask #whomademyclothes, the more brands will listen. There are many ways to get involved, all of which are detailed on their website.

It’s easy to forget that human hands are behind the production of much of our clothing, still. Unfortunately, with the spike in frequency of fashion trends, the environments in which people are working have become less human. Unethical practices have seeped into unsafe work environments and constitute the new norm.

This past weekend, I was hanging out with a group of friends at the pool. My discarded shirt lay over a reclined chair as I tried to escape the heat in the cool waters. As we were getting ready to leave and gathering our stuff, a friend noticed that my shirt had a signature sewn into it as he picked it up. Inquiringly, he asked about the name. I told him of Krochet Kids, now known as Known Supply, and told him that the signature was of the person who made it. To which he asked, “A kid?” To immediately come to the conclusion that children make our clothes has become natural, in a very horrible way. I pointed out that, actually, that’s the opposite from what we want, and he was shocked at his own conclusion. I don’t want that to be such a normal response. So please, let’s change the future of the fashion industry, by asking, “Who?” (Also “Where”, “How”, and “Why”.)

Below are a  few of the faces behind my basic tees made by Known Supply. As in, these people were the specific makers of the shirts that I wear every day! Each maker of Known Supply signs the products that they make, and consumers can go online and read their story, as well as send them Thank You notes for the work that they have done.

 Apiyo-NancyApiyo Nancy – Uganda

Nancy joined KNOWN SUPPLY to make a positive and hopeful step for herself and her life. She rose above the challenges brought into her life by war and poverty, she brings a positive attitude with her into everything she does. Nancy dreams of being a powerful businesswoman in the market by capitalizing on her interest and experience in selling produce.

WHAT CHANGE DO YOU HOPE TO SEE
“I hope to help my husband by sharing the responsibility of supporting our family.”

DREAMS FOR YOUR FAMILY
“Mostly I just want to educate my children so they can get good jobs.”

LOVE DEFINED
“To me LOVE is happiness.”

KS_Peru_Rosmery-ShupingahuaRosmery Shupingahua – Peru
A bit of a homebody, Rosmery is easy to relate to. She loves watching TV and would pick spending cozy time at home with her family over going out any day. Rosmery is organized – she used to clean and cook for a living, and she still considers both to be hobbies. Rosmery hopes to learn new skills that will help her provide a better life for herself and her family. She wants to see her daughters get a good education and grow into content, successful women.

DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE
“Study and start my own business. I’d also like to buy land in the forest one day because it is quieter there.”

LOVE DEFINED
“I feel love in my heart for my daughters every day. I will do anything to give them the best life possible. I am here to care for them and protect them no matter what.”

Martiza-ChavezMaritza Chavez – Peru
Meet Peru’s future Project Runway star. Maritza is hard at work achieving her dreams. She is using her time in the program to master her design and production skills so she can start her own clothing business after graduating. Her determination to change her future is fueling her progress.

MESSAGE TO THOSE WHO PURCHASED YOUR PRODUCT
“These products are made with dedication and a lot of love.”

DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE
“I plan on becoming a fashion designer. I also want to have a child and a wonderful family someday.”

KS_Peru_Lesly-CastilloLesly Castilla – Peru
Before we met Lesly, she earned her income through doing door-to-door sales. Her smile is infectious, and she is quick to become friends with her fellow workers and staff members. Now that she is earning a more consistent income she is able to save money and she is getting closer to achieving her dream of going back to school. Her goal is to get the education she needs to secure a job as a secretary after the program.

WHAT PARTICIPATING IN KNOWN SUPPLY MEANS TO YOU
“I feel like these people are my family. I feel supported.”

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY
“Going to the zoo with my family.”

LOVE DEFINED
“Respect. Honesty.”

Now it’s your turn to find the faces behind the clothes you wear!

Curating Closets: The Unwanteds

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

It’s been five years since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh killed 1,138 people and injured thousands more, thus opening the eyes [of some] to the horrors that a fast-fashion industry has led to. It has been two years since my own eyes have been opened and I have made quite the effort to cater my consumer choices so as to avoid contributing anything that would harm people and the planet. It all started with a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, whence my love for de-cluttering began. After which, I was made painfully aware of the trash I was creating and the people I was affecting, simply because I was buying into the world the fast-fashion industry (and largely, consumer culture as a whole) has created. The question, “Who made all these clothes?” triggered a Rube Goldberg machine consisting of subsequent questions, the answers of which toppled my world view like an aisle of dominoes. In the process of de-cluttering, I was left with Home Depot boxes, of the large variety, with nowhere to go. I was lost, and guilty, and very, very sad about my contribution to the crisis. Ultimately, I made a decision to never get to that point again.

I decided to write this post detailing how exactly we can curb the insane amount of trash that is stockpiling rather quickly at our landfills by prolonging the lifespan of our clothes past de-cluttering, in honor of the hard labor that went into their making. Specifically, what to do with de-cluttered goods, and how to make the de-cluttering process a bit easier for the future.

Choose Clothing Made from Natural Materials

De-cluttering can lead to a whole slew of newly created questions, namely, “Where will this all go?” While we recycle and donate our goods to reputable companies whose mission is to give our unwanteds a brand new home, it isn’t enough. It’s easy to unload a box at a local drop-off zone for used goods, and then forget about them all together but out of sight should not equate to out of mind. Unfortunately, there is no magic fairy dust that really makes these things disappear. Maybe a few will find homes, but some are left neglected, just as they have been when with you. Like the foods in your grocery store, there is a shelf life, and it is short. Once your items also become unwanted by the company you’ve offered them up to, they will end up at the landfill. And a majority of these things are not 100% recyclable. So, more effort is needed to make sure that the choices we make from here on out involve materials that are natural, which increases their ability to be recycled, or even better, composted back to where they once came from. This requires research, initially in order to learn which materials are actually sustainable, and afterwards, to discover the exact makeup of your clothing purchases.

Share with Friends and Family

When we were young, we were taught to share. As we got older, we were taught that having our own is more covetable than contributing to a communal pool. I think it is imperative to be okay with sharing and borrowing. Especially for one-time events, such as weddings and holiday parties, it does not hurt to trade and exchange and borrow, rather than buying a formal dress that you cannot realistically wear on a day-to-day basis without getting a few stares. I remember when my sister and I were in high school, we loved borrowing each other’s clothes. It would feel like we had something new and exciting to wear, without having to spend the money we didn’t have. Little did I know then that it also starves the demand in an industry determined to continually produce more.

De-clutter to friends and family, first. 

On that note, when it comes to de-cluttering, sometimes the best thing to do is to call up loved ones and offer your items to them. I have had my mom and sister rifle through our “donations” box plenty of times, and they usually find something that they love. I know that those items will definitely be put to use, a feeling I prefer over the dread of the unknown that settles in every time I drop off a box at a Goodwill. Will this ever go to anyone else after me? When my mother and sister are not around, I ask my high school best friend, whose daughter is now my size, and quickly outgrowing me at that! If there is a lot of interest in your stuff, perhaps a barter and trade system with loved ones works well too. Consider a party?

Be Particular About the Particulars

The chances of your clothes being wanted by another are significantly increased when the category fits the foundation. In other words, a business suit is more likely to be purchased when dropped off with Dress for Success. One thing that I personally do is drop off my formal dresses (saved up from high school dances and wedding events) to Yesenia’s Dream Dress Drive, an organization in Santa Ana that gives high-school girls who aren’t able to buy prom dresses a selection of FREE prom dresses to choose from. In donating your goods tp very specific stores, you will be targeting a group of people who are already coming to these stores with that type of purchase in mind. To increase the chances even more, make sure that the clothes are in the nicest condition possible. As in, laundered, ironed, and wrinke-free.

Re-Purpose

There are many ways we can re-purpose unwanted clothes. For example, re-purposing old tees for kitchen rags does just the trick.

In time, Be Okay with Less

I have a feeling that a majority of people in the United States have more than enough. What constitutes as enough is different for every person. I’ve also learned that we can change what we consider to be enough for us. Passed basic needs such as a roof over our heads and food for the table, there is little happiness garnered from having more stuff. So how to convince yourself that you have enough? All it requires is a slight shift in perspective. Looking at the world from a place of gratitude, for example, for all the clothes you already own, makes a huge difference in the way we view what more we need. From gratefulness comes plentitude.

Getting to Know: Mandy Kordal of Kordal Studio

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Mandy Kordal is the founder of Kordal Studio, whose mission is to create garments in an ethical manner by paying their workers a fair wage, designing garments that are not trend-focused, and using natural and organic textiles. Their products are focused on knitwear made by experienced knitters based in both Lima, Peru & NYC. They create our garments using both handloom and Shima Seki whole garment knitting machines. Both processes create a fully fashioned product, meaning each piece is knit to the exact shape and there are no left over materials. All of their cut & sew wovens are produced in NYC and dyed at a local dye house in New Jersey. 

How did you start in the fashion industry? What inflection point inspired you to start a sustainable company?

​I studied fashion design at the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program. During the course of the program, you are in school for half of the year and working in the industry for the other half. So, every summer and winter, I was traveling to a new city and working for fashion companies like Gap, Trovata, Hannah Marshall, etc. This was so helpful because I learned early on that I really loved working for smaller companies. After graduating I worked for a two years as an assistant designer, one year with Betsey Johnson and another year at Doori.
I don’t know if there was a specific point or moment that marked when I was inspired to start a sustainable company. I guess I approached starting my company the way I would begin any relationship. I wanted to treat the people I worked with well and with respect, to consider the impact on the environment, and to create beautiful quality clothing. Along the way, I worked freelance design jobs for larger companies to supplement my income and became very aware of the impact the fashion industry was having on the environment. The amount of over-sampling and textile waste alone was horrifying! In the end, I guess it was a combination of wanting to create a company that embodied my values and learning about the real impact this industry has on the environment, having our company be as sustainable as possible was the only option.

How did you find the courage to start?

I think any amount of courage came from my friends and family, who have been my champions since the beginning and I honestly couldn’t have started without their support and encouragement. But also, I was 25 when I started the company. Previously I had been working as an assistant designer making 30k a year in NYC, so I didn’t have much to lose! I was extremely lucky to not have student loans, I knew how to live in the city on very little money already, I didn’t have a family to support, etc. Those factors helped a lot! Not to say that is the only way, but it made the decision to start a little less scary.

What is Kordal’s mission statement? What do you hope to accomplish with your company, in terms of changing the way the fashion industry works?

​Our mission is to create garments in an ethical manner by paying our workers a fair wage, designing garments that are not trend-focused, and using natural and organic textiles. Our hope is that our existence as an alternative to fast-fashion, along with many of the other sustainable brands out there, provides customers with a choice. We have the power to change things through our purchases. We saw it with the food industry! Even Walmart now carries organic products because more and more customers purchased it. If all of these smaller brands can prove that investing in sustainable fashion is not only important but also profitable, then we can shift the thinking of the larger companies as well. At least that’s the hope!

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What requirements do you have to ensure a sustainable and slow fashion model?

My personal requirements are that all of our employees, vendors, makers are all paid a fair wage. That all of our fabrications and yarns are natural fibers that will eventually bio-degrade back into the earth, and as much as possible we are working with Organic Certified materials. We are also committed to reducing the amount of plastic use in our shipping and receiving, we recently made a switch to mesh reusable bags for all of our garments vs. working with poly bags.

In a very demanding industry such as fashion, how do you resist the pressure of creating for 52 seasons? How do you keep you and your brand grounded?

​Ha! Oh man, creating just two seasons is already insane at times! Are there really 52 seasons? I think we’ve been lucky to work with boutiques that share the same values as we do. We don’t work with large department stores for example, so we’re able set our own pace, more or less. I also think we’ve been able to stay grounded becaus​e we don’t have investors or external influences pushing us to produce more things faster It’s been self funded from the beginning, which means our growth has been slow and steady.
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How do you source fabric ethically? What other ways do you ensure ethical practices for your company?

​We are lucky to have a great community of sustainable designers here in NY, so when I’m trying to source a new denim fabrication, for example, I don’t have to start from square one. I can reach out to friends in this group to help begin my research. For designers starting out, I would recommend the BF+DA sourcing library. They’ve created a great sourcing library for all sustainable fabric and yarn vendors! Other ways to ensure ethical practices is to look for certifications from your vendors, such as Fair Trade or GOT.

In what ways can consumer’s contribute towards making a change away from fast fashion?

​Supporting smaller brands, asking the larger companies difficult questions, like “Who made my clothes?”, buying second-hand or vintage, and staying away from synthetic fabrics (they will stay in landfills for hundreds of years, just like plastic!).
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What governmental policies do you feel could go into effect that could improve the fashion industry?

​Import-Based Tax – I think if there was an tax on imported goods that would help level the playing field for domestic manufacturing. ​

Are there any particular podcasts or books about fashion that you could recommend to readers?

​Yes!
Conscious Chatter, this episode is really awesome!​
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast ​Fashion
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
The True Cost (documentary)
River Blue (documentary)

Getting to Know: Julia Ahrens from Miakoda New York

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Julia Ahrens and Laura Ahrens are the sister duo that started Miakoda New York. Julia is a fashion designer who turned vegan and had a new-found interest in creating a company that treats animals, people, and the planet equally well. Her yogi instructor sis Laura inspired her, and together, they co-founded Miakoda. 

What was the inspiration for starting Miakoda?

After going vegan, I no longer wanted to wear or create clothing that exploited animals and used animal fabrics/skins/fibers. I worked in the industry and felt so conflicted when asked to work with these materials. I tried to look for a company that I felt comfortable supporting and designing for, but there were so few 100%-vegan-companies and they weren’t hiring (and most were pretty small!). This was my initial reason for starting Miakoda. As I thought about what vegan fashion meant for me, I realized it goes beyond animals and includes the planet and other humans. I really wanted to work for a company that made me feel like I was making a difference by our planet in a meaningful way. I love fashion and I love designing, but design without purpose and reason felt extremely lack-luster to me and I really wanted to create something that felt meaningful and purposeful to me.

 

What values do you want to portray most in your company?

It is so important to us to portray the idea that humans, animals, and our planet are ALL important and it’s our responsibility to treat ALL of them well. With that message, we also want to encourage that NO positive action is too small. We value when consumers make a conscious decision. Whether you have learned to shop ethically and make sustainable choices, or if shopping with us is the first time you’ve ever heard of clothing made from bamboo… you’re making a difference and we value that!

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What are ways in which Miakoda practices ethics and sustainability?

All of our garments are made from organic and sustainable plant based materials. No animals are harmed [a.k.a. no wool, no silk, no fur, no leather, etc] and no toxic chemicals are used to grow our fibers [only organic cotton here!]. We choose to only work with fabric suppliers who are equally as committed to monitoring their supply chain, providing safe work environments, and paying fair wages. We cut and sew our garments in an ethical NYC factory that we visit regularly. We truly believe that happy fibers sewn by happy workers create happy customers!

 

Name  one thing that you love most about your work? What is the hardest thing about your job?

The thing I love most about my work is seeing people wearing and enjoying the clothing we create. It is so rewarding to create something that I am passionate about and seeing other people enjoy it! The hardest thing is reaching new customers and to make our mission reach more people.

 

How do you decide which factories you work with and how do you ensure that they are producing fairly?

We have worked with a bunch of factories in NYC. Before I work with them, I always visit the factory and check out what they’re all about. We are lucky to be based in NY, which is one of the safest garment centers in the world. Fair labor is hardly enforced overseas and there have even been instances of sweatshops and slave labor in California. We talk to the factory owner about labor and what they do to support the workers they employ. There a bunch of sure signs that a factory isn’t what they claim to be— when they don’t let you watch your garments be sewn [out-sourcing to cheaper factories while pretending to be making your garments is a real thing!], when you’re only allowed to stop in when the owner is there, and when they don’t welcome random visits to check-in.  It’s important to talk to the factory owner, talk to the garment workers, and to keep your eyes open to make sure what you’re being told is actually what’s going on.

What are some challenges that you see in the fashion industry and how does Miakoda try to improve the industry?

There are so many challenges in the fashion industry at this point in time. We are so much based in a fast-fashion model which focuses on how much can we get and how cheap can we get it for. Garment workers are paid cents per garment sewn and consumers expect garments to cost dollars. Miakoda’s effort is to educate why this is horrible—not only for the workers slaving away to make the clothing, but for the planet as well! Our workers are paid a fair living wage, work normal hours, and are treated with kindness and compassion in a safe work environment. Our materials are high quality… grown with love and compassion for the planet as well as the workers harvesting them and the workers knitting them. We believe in quality not quantity—and quality doesn’t just refer to the craftsmanship of the garment, but to the lives of the workers involved in bringing the garment to life.

 

Do you believe purchasing power goes a long way with changing the way the fashion industry currently is, or is there something else that you would like to see happen in the future that can facilitate the change away from unsustainable and unethical practices?

I totally believe that purchasing power goes a long way! We’ve seen how the dairy industry has been deeply hurt by consumers purchasing more dairy alternatives and plant-based milks. Supply and demand is very real—companies can’t afford to make something that people aren’t buying. The goal isn’t to put these unethical and unsustainably companies out of business [per say] but to show them that people WANT sustainable and ethical clothing so that they can shift what they are doing to create a better future for our planet.

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Why the focus on staple pieces and athleisure wear?

Whenever I bought specialty pieces in the past I saved them for ‘that special occasion’ or wore them a few times before my style changed and no longer loved them the way I did when I purchased them. Staple pieces can be loved for years and years no matter how your style changes. We choose to focus on athleisure because comfy clothes are the best clothing. I personally hate the feeling of getting dressed in the morning, leaving for the day, and an hour or so into the day feeling majorly uncomfortable in the outfit I picked. In the past I would look forward to going home so I could change into something comfy and take off my tight jeans, constricting t-shirt, itchy sweater, etc. I find that I am in SUCH a better mood when I wear comfy clothing—I feel more confident in myself and less irritable. Our goal is to make compassionate clothing, and personally, I don’t feel I can be the most compassionate human being that I can be when I’m super uncomfy in my clothing.

 

If you had to choose one word to describe your design style, what would it be?

Comfortable! 100% definitely. If it’s not comfortable I don’t want to design it or make it or wear it.

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Miakoda is one of the few companies I have seen promote body positivity in their advertising. I think that is awesome! What started this idea and how do you try to create a good example of confidence for women everywhere?

Thank you so much! I really think it’s so incredibly important for humans of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities to be represented in media. From a consumer’s point of view, I personally hate when I’m trying to buy a garment and I can’t even tell what it will look like on my body type. I think it’s so helpful for customers to see the garment on a bunch of bodies to be able to envision it on themselves. From a personal point of view—I am SO sick of black and white thinking that’s perpetuated in the media. The idea that only one body type is beautiful, or that only one hair color is beautiful, or that only one type of intelligence makes you intelligent, or that one lifestyle makes you successful. It’s simply not true and we don’t want to be another company falling into this mindset that you aren’t enough and perfect as you are! I’ve heard so many women say that they hate shopping online because looking at models makes them feel horrible about their appearance. Whether it brings up feelings of not being thin enough or not being toned enough or having smooth shiny hair or acne free soft skin… whatever it is, the thought that a beautiful, intelligent, kind human can look at the images we put out into the world and feel bad about themselves is horrifying to me [seriously!]. All of our models are beautiful… and not just because they’re “pretty” and because they’re “models” but because they are really wonderful humans [*disclaimer: we have been so lucky to work with really awesome models who are absolutely amazing!].

 

When do you feel most beautiful?

I feel most beautiful when I’m having a conversation with someone I love where I am just constantly laughing and so engaged in the conversation and enjoyment that it doesn’t matter if my eyeliner is running down my face from the tears in my eyes, if I’m making the “ugliest” laughing face, if my entire face is red from hardly being able to catch my breathe. It sounds corny, but it’s so true. The days I’ve felt the “ugliest” are the days when I try to make my outward appearance look the best. I can easily say that every time I’ve ever gotten my hair and make up professionally done and dressed up for a fancy event, I’ve felt horrible in my skin the entire day.

 

If you could teach a whole generation of younger girls one thing about the meaning of beauty, what would it be?

Beauty is immeasurable. It’s not black and white. It’s not a number. It’s not a color. It comes from being a good person. You can change your make-up, your body shape will change as you get older, you can cut your hair differently, but the way you talk to yourself and treat yourself and talk to others and treat others will make you feel more beautiful than anything else. I promise.

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What is your current definition of success?

This is such a tough question. I hate to think of success as a monetary accomplishment, so I’ll say my current definition is how much of a positive impact are you having. Do you practice mindfulness and implement sustainable practices in your daily life? And do you treat yourself and those around you kindly? Money is important to live a comfortable life, but living a life you can feel proud of and that can impact others in a positive way will leave a much more lasting impression. I’ve never been to a funeral where someone boasted “We will miss XYZ person because they had a great career and made a lot of money.” It’s definitely more common to hear “This person always made us smile”, “This person had a great sense of humor”, “This person always thought about others”, etc., etc.

 

What are your top favorite books, articles, or documentaries that shaped your lifestyle or way of viewing the world?

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and The True Cost take the cake for most influential shapers of my lifestyle.

 

What legacy would you like to leave behind?

I want Miakoda to be my legacy…. to be remembered for  making an impact on this world and on an industry [fashion industry] that so desperately needs reshaping.