Do you really have nothing to wear? Let's consider how to be stylish while caring for the planet at the same time. Yes, it's possible!
Raise your hand if you often find yourself peering into the wardrobe in despair, thinking: “I have nothing to wear!” Yeah, well, you’re not alone. But knowing the cost of fast fashion on the environment, you’d also know that buying new clothes is not the solution. So, what works instead? For help, we reached out to three fashionistas who are actively engaging in creative and sustainable ways to look fabulous while being kind to the Earth.
Learn to be sustainably stylish with Sheryl Bolden
Meet Sheryl Bolden, founder of Make My Wardrobe Work, a platform that isn’t just about styling or shopping, but rethinking your relationship with clothes. After spending decades in the fast fashion industry, Sheryl began to revaluate and reconstruct retail fashion for herself. Eventually, Sheryl started to offer the bespoke service of helping clients curate a wardrobe consisting of clothes they loved to wear – and had already owned.
Challenges faced by the second-hand fashion industry: Sheryl’s POV
Recently, Sheryl has published her first book: Sustainably Stylish – A guide to curating a guilt-free wardrobe. From repurposing to tailoring to restyling clothes, Sheryl shares all her learnings and reflections in this book in order to help others do the same. While readers get to discover everyday tips and tricks to having a more sustainable wardrobe, they will also learn about the challenges that the fashion industry is facing.
Some of the difficulties that Sheryl has observed include: convincing people to buy clothes that they really love, rather than just for the sake of wanting something new to wear; wearing their clothes for longer, and not just throwing the items away once they are tired of them. But, there is hope! Sheryl notes that some belonging to the younger generations, in particular millennials and Gen Z, are becoming more aware of wasteful consumption and are now leading the charge in the second-hand market.
Sheryl’s quick tips to becoming sustainably stylish
- The most sustainable items are the ones we already own! So, try to mix and match your clothes in new and innovative ways.
- Only invest in high-quality items that are both classic and will last a lifetime.
- Get something second-hand either from Redress pop-ups or Green Ladies – or both!
- When deciding to buy or keep something, revert to this trusty five-point plan:
– Do you love it?
– Does it fit?
– Can you wear it in three different ways?
– Can you afford it?
– How is the quality?
- Remember: as a consumer, you have more power than you think. So, if you’re unable to find something second-hand, look for sustainable fashion brands that echo your ethos; spend your money, where possible, with companies whose values align with your own.
Another sustainably stylish guru, Norbyah Nolasco (@imanorbyah)
And here’s another trendsetter in the sustainable fashion scene: Norbyah Nolasco, more widely known as I’m a Norbyah (@imanorbyah) on Instagram. Raised in Malaysia, Norbyah was first thrust into the second-hand fashion world by her teacher parents due to affordability and convenience. Eventually, she began exploring surplus fashion outlets, hand-me-downs, and second-hand shops herself. Upon moving to Hong Kong and connecting with the local creative community, including fashion bloggers and sustainability pioneers, Norbyah was hooked! Since then, she has been making more conscious choices in how she engages with clothes or looks at her own wardrobe, and posting her journey on her blog and Instagram.
Norbyah draws inspiration from fashion icons across the globe, such as Iris Apfel, Harry Styles, as well as thrifting-influencers-turned-friends like B. Jones Style and Faye De Lanty. Her result is a vintage, playful look and, in her own words, a “maximalist” style. Whether you’re browsing their #OOTDs, DIYs, thrift hauls, or fashion challenges, you can be sure to find innovative, colourful, and stunning clothing on their feed – and, of course, lots of inspiration to take to your own closet!
Norbyah’s quick tips to becoming sustainably stylish
- Make your closet and clothes look pretty! If everything is visible and easy to locate, you’ll be able to find your outfits and style them more easily.
- Your change doesn’t need to be immediate. You probably can’t go cold turkey from fast fashion; instead, the change is about being more conscious of how you wear your clothes. If you love something, you will wear it, no matter where it’s from.
- Try clothing challenges. There are a tonne of people on the internet being creative with their clothes, so join in on the fun! For instance, Anna A (@annazzon) and Norbyah are running a #TrendsInYourCloset challenge to encourage viewers to find Spring 2022 trends in their closet, and to also restyle them.
- Make surplus stores your go-to, such as Sun & Moon Fashion in Stanley and the various Mee & Gee outlets across Hong Kong.
- If you’re looking for something in particular, Hula has incredible pre-loved designer and vintage options. Still stuck? Take a look at these other vintage clothing stores in Hong Kong.
Dress sustainably and stylishly by swapping clothes at JupYeah (執嘢)
And finally, if you are really struggling with your own closet, why not look at a friend’s? That was the idea behind JupYeah, a clothing swap charity started by three friends: Samathy Woo, Kodi Wan, and Ren Wan. We had the chance to speak to Samathy and learn more about their journey.
Having worked in finance, Samathy had shopped extensively to keep up with the trends, but she was still not satisfied with her closet. So when her friends recommended swapping clothes with each other, they were excited to find this new prospect: new clothes at no cost – to themselves and to the environment! Given their own success, the trio decided to hold a Christmas swap party, inviting attendees to bring clothes and anything that was unused, such as cups and notebooks, to the event; all they had to pay was $20 at the door! The party was a resounding success with around 80 people showing up. Thus began JupYeah and its friendly community of ‘Juppers’.
Since then, JupYeah has grown leaps and bounds. Not only has the team caught the attention of business giants (thus earning sponsorship), but it has also managed to attract over 2,000 people to some of its events. Moreover, the trio host seminars to educate employees and communities about the impact of fast fashion on the environment, plus how second-hand fashion can help reduce waste and solve issues such as overconsumption.
Challenges faced by the second-hand fashion industry: Samathy’s POV
Like Sheryl, Samathy has also noticed various obstacles when promoting the sustainable fashion scene in Hong Kong. For instance, there is a cultural fixation on the ‘new’, especially during Chinese New Year, as it is part of the tradition to wear new things from head to toe. Moreover, there is a preconceived notion that something must be wrong with an item (e.g. it is dirty or damaged) if it comes cheaply or for free – though, actually, the clothes at retail chains are likely to be even dirtier with the number of people having tried them on! That being said, Samathy and her team have also seen a gradual change in attitude over the years, with larger turnout in events due to greater awareness; familiar faces are also eventually becoming volunteers and advocates.
Samathy’s quick tips to becoming sustainably stylish
- Take everything out of your closet and try it on, so that you know exactly what you have right now, and how you can wear it in the future.
- If the quality of an item is good, it is worth the investment – even when the price tag gives you a bit of a shock. This way, you’ll be more willing to protect and wear the clothing, as opposed to buying something cheap just to wear it once before throwing it out.
- Make the occasion to dress up. If you have something sitting in your closet that feels too fancy, or you’re saving it for a ‘special day’, simply organise an event – meet up with the gang for brunch, arrange a date night, or take your parents out for dinner. All your clothes deserve to shine – as do you!
- In addition to your closet, you can ‘shop’ at JupYeah’s events, as there are often cute and high-quality items for you to add to your collection.