Building my own ethical closet

Once I decided to enter the path to a more sustainable life one of the first steps involved my beloved wardrobe. Or better: my way of looking at fashion and consuming it. Fashion and I were in love ever since I was a little child. I used to spent hours admiring the latest fashion in magazines and drawing mannequins with self-designed clothes and accessories. Back then I wanted my outfits to underline the wearers character and natural beauty. In my opinion everyone could look and feel special if only they wore the right clothes! Later in life, when I started working in fashion PR, renewing my wardrobe constantly with the newest catwalk trends seemed a professional must. But that was only as long as I ignored the way the production of clothing affects not only our environment, but also the workers involved in the process and in the end: me wearing a particular garment. I didn`t want be part of senseless fashion over-consumption any more. I refused to drain natural resources, pollute rivers with dyes and stuff landfills and my closet with vast amounts of unwanted clothing. This is why I decided to build up my very own ethical closet – while being fashionable all the way.

Here are my 5 steps to your very own ethical closet:

1st step Declutter! Value and take good care of your existing clothes !

You have clothes! A closet full of them. From the point you purchase a piece of clothing it is your responsibility. It was created for you and it´s yours to wear now, to care for and to dispose of at some point. You have to decide whether this relationship will be worth what it cost you – not only money-wise but also in terms of its environmental impact. It´s time to take a deeper look! Declutter the pieces you definitely won`t wear anymore and give them either to charity or a 2nd hand shop. Take a look at the clothes and accessories you might be able to fix. Yes, repairing instead of replacing! A tailor can help you with a new zip or a shorter hemline, a cobbler can attach new soles or a broken string to your old and new favorite bag.

Fixing something we might otherwise throw away is almost inconceivable to many in the heyday of fast fashion and rapidly advancing technology, but the impact is enormous.” Rose Marcario, CEO Patagonia

Washing Advice: Make sure you only wash your clothes when they actually need cleaning, because they are stained or evil-smelling. Wash them in cold water if possible and let them air dry to further reduce the impact.

2nd step Fall back in love with your wardrobe!

Take a weekend to play fashion stylist. Have a look at all your lovely clothes and find new ways to mix and match them. If you like you can find inspiration of the latest fashion trends in magazines, on pinterest – or even on the streets. Take those inspirations and try to rebuild the looks you love with the clothes you own. I am sure you will come pretty close by just mixing and matching up new combinations! Sometimes a pair of scissors can help too!

3rd step Buy vintage, second-hand or throw swap-parties!

A garment`s footprint doesn`t just come from making it. Washing it and especially drying it in a dryer uses a lot of energy over time (also see 1st step). Still, that footprint decreases with the garment`s longevity. This is why buying vintage and second-hand clothes makes total sense while acting in an ethical framework. Moreover, vintage and second-hand pieces add that personal note to your wardrobe, because it´s nothing everyone else can buy on the high street – and is probably wearing by now. Swap parties are another cool option to get cheap new clothes on a regular basis. Why not organize a swap party with a couple of friends?

4th step Shop less, but better!

If you decide you need something new and off the rag anyways make sure to invest in high quality, timeless pieces you will wear for a long time to come. Support ethical brands and only buy pieces you love 100%. In the long run you will not regret splurges but picking the cheaper version instead of the item you really wanted in the first place. As a safeguard against overconsumption ask yourself the following questions: Do I really need this garment? How much will I wear it? How long will it last me? One way to determine the “real” price for a piece of clothing is to consider a metric called “cost per wear” (total amount paid for the item / the number of times you wear it). This may give you a new perspective on the price tag.

5th step Curate a capsule wardrobe!

Sometimes less really is more. A capsule wardrobe refers to a small collection of seasonally appropriate, mix and match clothes. Here we go again: mix and match definitely is key to an ethical closet! Let`s play fashion stylist again and curate 30-40 pieces which can be combined infinitely for a defined period of time. In my opinion it makes sense to update your capsule wardrobe every 3 months as seasons change. This way you will end up having four capsule wardrobes: one for spring, summer, autumn and winter. It makes total sense though to use some pieces like t-shirts or jeans all year long as you can basically wear them every season.

Here comes some professional advice from designer Michael Kors while in the process of curating your capsule wardrobe: 70% of your wardrobe should be bread and potatoes, or the main items you return to over and over while only 30% should be dessert: the sparkly top for going out or those brightly coloured pants that only match two of your shirts. If we get the proportions wrong we end up not being able to get dressed in the morning. A phenomenon a lot of women will know! So, to prevent us from frequent hysteria in front of the closet: try all of the above. It´s fun, I promise! Plus you will learn a lot about your personal and unique style along the way, because with a limited amount of clothing at hand you will only wear absolute favourites from now on.

Well guys, I am gone. Time now to create my summer capsule wardrobe! Cheers!

Further reading: – Mind Blog über Minimalismus aus Berlin

Quartz Media –

„Minimal Fashion“ by Juliana Holtzheimer & Anna Bronowski