Minimalism, Sustainability

Updating my wardrobe

Image source

Over the past six years, I’ve pared down my wardrobe considerably. I keep track of what items of clothing I wear daily via Airtable, and at the end of every month, I take stock of what I wore and how often. This process allows me to decide which items I need to weed based on use. I see no point in holding onto clothes that I rarely wear. I highly recommend tracking your clothing wear, as the results can be very eye opening.

I normally buy very few items of clothing in a calendar year, as I have a one-in, one-out policy. I did need to refresh my wardrobe more than usual in the past twelve months for two reasons: some of my clothes were getting worn out after several years of wear, and I wanted to re-introduce trousers to my collection. I have worn dresses and skirts almost exclusively over the past six years, but I have missed wearing trousers.

When I decide to bring in a new-to-me item of clothing to my wardrobe, I first see if I can find something in a consignment store. I prefer consignment stores to thrift shops, as the quality of clothing is generally higher in the former. If I can’t find anything in a local consignment store, I will try Poshmark. I’ve had good luck with Poshmark, although I’ve learned to do my research, as I’ve caught a few vendors being less than honest about the original prices of the items being sold; as an example, I came across a vendor who was selling a pair of Burberry sunglasses and quoting the original price at twice what they actually cost (I have the same pair that I bought from a physical Burberry store), and a selling price of what these sunglasses actually retail for. If I don’t have any luck with consignment stores, I will turn to a retailer that meets my ideal criteria, if at all possible:

  • Canadian owned and operated
  • Independent
  • Uses sustainable fabrics and production practices
  • Items are made in Canada
  • B-certified

It is very difficult to find retailers in Halifax that meet all these criteria. Because of this, my purchases have been done online:

  • A shawl-collar navy cardigan and a brown tweed blazer (both second hand) from Poshmark.
  • A brown cardigan from Elsie’s a local consignment store.
  • Handmade linen tops: One each from BriaBLifestyle and Eloise and Lily (from whom I bought a linen bath towel, as well). I wear linen year-round. The top from Eloise and Lily is shown in the image above, only mine is in chocolate brown.
  • Two pairs of trousers from Helene Clarkson. I should note that this company produces travel-resistant business clothing in a polyester jersey. Synthetic fabric lasts a long time, so there is that element to consider, as keeping clothes for a long time contributes to less waste. I bought the Aro trousers, which are reversible (one side is black and the other is navy), and the Juniper wide-legged trousers.
  • One long-sleeve and one short-sleeve t-shirt from The Sleep Shirt. I buy my sleepwear from this company as well; it’s expensive, but of extremely high quality.  
  • A bamboo wrap dress from Miik.

Most of my clothes can be work year-round, so at this point, I don’t intend to add any more items to my wardrobe; in fact, I will be decluttering further based on the results of my Airtable tracking.


My favourite sustainable Canadian clothing brands


This article from the Guardian discusses the potential impact of Generation Z (18-24) buying behaviour on fast fashion: If generation Z’s habits are adopted by the population as a whole there could be a shift to consumers with a “divided wardrobe” – featuring rented items and others bought from resale vendors – becoming the new normalThis emphasis on sustainability, non mass-produced goods and uniqueness mirrors the consumer values of the younger generation whose attitude towards fashion has been shaped by the “Blue Planet effect.”

The picture above is taken from an Australian article that suggests that the fast fashion industry accounts for 10 per cent of global pollution. Dr Kirsi Niinimäki, from Aalto University, has done a lot of research into the fashion industry; her latest publication, Sustainable Fashion In A Circular Economy, is on my reading list for this summer. The CBC documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, discusses that garment, apparel production, is one of the top five polluters globally…we are producing over 100 billion new garments from new fibres every single year, and the planet cannot sustain that. This page, from the Fashion Takes Action website, provides some sobering statistics about the environmental impact of the fashion industry, perhaps the most startling of which – because it is so personal – is that 37 kg of textile waste per person ends up in Canadian landfills each year.

I won’t spend too much time on the environmental impact of fast fashion, as this has been done far better by experts in the field. I want to focus instead on some sustainable Canadian clothing brands that provide some better options. This list is not exhaustive and reflects only the companies from which I have purchased. I don’t tend to wear casual clothes, so sustainable Canadian brands like Tentree are not included in this post.

The most important thing we can do to reduce textile waste, of course, is to simply stop buying so many clothes, and to keep what we have for longer periods. Fast fashion is often poorly made, so clothing doesn’t last as long, so buying better quality is always a good idea. Secondhand shopping is a good alternative, although I’ve noticed that people often tend to overbuy from thrift stores because the clothing is cheaper there, which will still result in a lot of textile waste. No solution is perfect, of course, but at least the companies below are doing what they can to produce clothing in more sustainable ways.

Lights of All: We are vegan, sustainable and ethical; we value all life on this planet and do whatever we can to honour those lives in the product we make. Everything is made in house using only the best materials for the environment, people and animals. The company is owned and run by one woman, Katia Hagen, who designs and makes all the clothing. Katia outlines the ecocentric philosophy of her company here.

Korinne Vader: Our goal is to only use natural fibres in production … Many of the suppliers that we work with are STANDARD 100. The STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® is a worldwide consistent, independent testing & certification system that tests for harmful substances used during all stages of production (raw materials, intermediate, and end product). Korinne Vader creates unique handmade goods that reflect the beautiful imperfection of nature and humankind.

Encircled: Encircled’s name originated from the dream that fashion can benefit everyone – it can be stylish, sustainable and responsibly-made. It’s about feeling proud of the clothing. hanging in your closet, and investing in quality over quantity. The company’s code of ethics may be found here.

Frank And Oak: The devastating impact of climate change has made us conscious that we all have an active role to play in our collective future. Today, we are more than ever committed to fighting for our planet and will continue to set an example as best we can by offering better sustainable products. The company’s sustainable goals may be found here.

Kotn: By working directly with cotton farming families in Egypt, we want to rebuild the industry from the inside. We make our own fabrics from raw cotton bought direct from farmers at guaranteed prices. Like farm-to-table, but for your clothes. commitment to sustainability may be found here.

Hoi Bo: Hoi Bo was born from a desire to create a truly sustainable brand that would offer a unique balance of beauty, design, craft and functionality.


Dressing vegan

In my previous posts, I focused mostly on household and personal-care products that are earth and animal friendly. One of the challenges of vegan living is finding clothing, shoes, and handbags that are animal friendly and of good quality.  Any type of animal skin is clearly off limits.  I don’t wear silk, since most silk products are produced by killing silkworms. I avoid wool whenever possible.  Although wool-bearing animals are not killed for their wool, the practice of mulesing bothers me enormously. You can buy wool that is not the product of mulesing, of course, but I prefer to not consume or wear products that are the result of the commercialization of animals.

I don’t go to places where animals are held captive or made to perform tricks.  I must admit to a moral dilemma when it comes to zoos.  It is often argued that zoos help maintain endangered species that might otherwise die if left in the wild, and that zoos may help raise people’s awareness of the plight of some of these animals.  Fair enough, but I struggle with the thought of preserving a species at the expense of the dignity of animals.  Should we condemn animals to live their lives in captivity for the sake of preserving the species? My instinct is to allow animals to live as long as they can in a dignified state in their natural environment; if they are to die off, at least they do so on their own terms.  On the other hand, do we not have an obligation to help preserve these species?  All I know is that I cannot stand the look in the eyes of animals in cages, no matter how large those cages might be.  As for circuses, marine parks, and the like, I cannot abide the thought of beautiful, sentient, and dignified creatures performing inane and degrading tricks for the amusement of humans.

I try to buy clothing made from sustainable products whenever possible; unfortunately, I must often resort to online shopping for these items, since there are not many local retailers that carry them.  Online shopping is always a last resort because of the large carbon footprint it causes. Many sustainable clothing options are a little too casual for most of my daily needs, as they often consist of yoga-type apparel, which I refuse to wear outside the house unless I’m going to the gym. Green Cricket, based in Etobicoke, Ontario, sells casual apparel made of bamboo and organic cotton. Hornet Mountain, based in Hornet Mountain, BC, sells clothing made from soy and organic cotton.  Rawganique, based in Denman Island BC, has a lovely collection of hemp-based clothing and linens. Bamboo Clothes does not indicate its geographic location, but appears to be Canadian. Viva Vegan, which is likely based in Quebec, given the French-language copyright notice, sells eco-friendly clothing from the U.S.-based Herbivore Clothing. Karmavore, based in New Westminster, BC, sells clothing that is too casual for my taste (mostly message shirts), but it is a good overall vegan store.  There are US options for online shopping, of course, but my focus is always on Canadian products.

Buying vegan shoes can be an adventure.  I avoid buying shoes online, since fit can be challenging.  Some local retailers do sell non-leather shoes, but the quality is often cheap, so I do need to a lot of window shopping; it’s a good thing I love retail therapy.  For online options, Karmavore offers a limited selection of vegan shoes. Nice Shoes, based in Vancouver, BC, has a very good selection of shoes for all occasions. The famous Canadian John Fluevog has a limited selection of vegan shoes; fortunately, this selection is growing, albeit too slowly for my taste, but it’s still a positive sign.

I have a love (OK, a passion) of handbags.  It’s easier to find non-leather options from local retailers, many of which carry the Canadian Espe and Lug brands. My favourite line of vegan bags is made by the Montreal-based Matt & Nat, whose bags are stylish and beautiful.