If you follow me on Instagram (@saschacamilli), you are guaranteed to have seen at least a couple of photos of me in a black winter coat from Zara, with a mile-long caption going on about how I’ve had this coat for ages and how great it still is after all these years. That coat, which will celebrate its ninth birthday this winter, might be the poster child of my increasingly ancient wardrobe, but it’s one of many years-ago purchases that are still going strong: the starry Converse that I bought in Milan in 2011, the H&M dress I wore to my sister’s high school graduation (she is now 26), the Jill Milan bag I got five years ago, and many more.
I like to refer to myself as an “old-clothes activist” in the sense that I’m a huge proponent of loving what you already own and getting creative about repurposing what’s already in your wardrobe instead of succumbing to the throwaway culture of constant shopping. In the UK, shoppers own an incredible £10bn worth of clothes that they don’t end up wearing. And it’s costing us: apparently, fashion is responsbile for more greenhouse-gas emissions than international shipping and aviation combined. That’s absolutely devastating – and preventable.
While shopping ethically is definitely a worthwhile pursuit (and one that we champion here at Vilda) due to issues such as workers’ rights, it’s shopping less that will truly make a difference to the environment. The sheer volume of items we produce is taking its toll and the way to reduce the impact is, in my opinion, to learn to love your old clothes. Or someone else’s old clothes – charity shops and second-hand shopping are great ways to get your shopping fix without the environmental strain of new clothing.
How I shop
When buying something, I like to try it on with more than one different look that’s already in my wardrobe (online shopping is great for that!) to see how the newcomer item will adapt to what I already have and how it will enrich my style. I also try to realistically imagine how long this item will last and the likelihood of having to throw it away because it will become unwearable (this is not always determined by price, as many people seem to think. I have £20 dresses that I have literally worn for a decade, whereas more expensive options, often in real silk – in my pre-vegan days – have fallen to pieces much quicker). So don’t assume that just because you are paying a lot, you will get your money’s worth). I also really assess whether this is a seasonal item or if it could work as a trans-seasonal – meaning that I could easily transition it from summer to winter. Of course, some pieces of clothing are only meant to be worn during certain times of the year, there’s no escaping that – I wouldn’t wear my faux-leather trousers in July, for example – but generally I try to keep my items as transitionable as I can.
I also try to stay away from styles that I am likely to get tired of. You know which ones I mean – the statement pieces. The ones you buy for one specific event or occasion, and have no idea when you will ever wear them again. In my view, there is only one occasion when that is acceptable: your wedding dress. And even that you can often sell on for someone else to use and enjoy. So try to choose pieces that you know will stand the test of time, not only quality-wise, but also in the sense that you will actually want to wear them for years.
Where I shop
And this is the fun bit!
What I’m going for when shopping is that elusive combination of something timeless that I will cherish for years, minimal environmental impact, and low price. The one thing that I will never compromise on is that it has to be vegan-friendly. So keeping that in mind, second-hand shopping is often a winner with me. Ebay, Depop and Vestiaire Collective are all gold mines when it comes to scouring amazing pre-loved pieces for a bargain. I’m also a huge fan of charity shops – I visit the ones closest to me at least a few times a week, and one of my proudest moments was when I found my Matt and Nat bag there, for £15. This is not only due to blind luck – most of it is, but you have to be prepared to do some digging to enjoy charity-shop success. Visit frequently. Go out of your way to see shops that you wouldn’t come across on your regular paths. And once you find something you like, grab it, even if it’s what you came for. Trust me, it won’t still be there tomorrow. This isn’t Zara! I recently found a marvellous faux-leather dress in my local Oxfam and told myself I would come back for it, but of course it wasn’t there anymore when I did. Lesson learned.
Word of warning: some charity shops raise funds for medical charities that engage in and promote animal testing. So if your charity shop is supporting a health charity, take a look at what their stance on animal testing is.
For occasional splurges, I love brands like ByBlanch, Beyond Skin, Jill Milan and other vegan-friendly fashion labels that offer beautiful designs that will still look amazing years from now. What’s unique about these brands is that they are combining a sense of style and a strong focus on trend with an environmental conscience. That is the fashion of the future, and I’m sure that the items I own from these brands will last me all the way until then.
How I keep things exciting
The international Fashion Weeks just ended – and I spent them glued to my computer and phone screens, looking through every streetstyle photo. Streestyle is so much more exciting to me than what’s actually on the catwalk. I get so much inspiration from seeing what people choose to wear and how they experiment with their clothing. I have endless Pinterest boards and Instagram collections dedicated to streetstyle, and I often note down inspiring ways to wear certain things and then try to emulate that with my own clothes. This has garnered me more than one new outfit – I’ve discovered new ways to wear most of the things in my wardrobe. The key is not to get stuck with the same outfit formulas but to try and shake things up every once in a while. Set yourself a challenge to see how many different outfits you can get from one piece of clothing.
From new to old, with love
I recently bought my first pair of vegan Dr Martens, and I’m sure that I will still wear them in ten years. They will become beloved oldies that will follow me through the years. And they were only £75. Investments don’t have to cost the Earth – and if you choose to love your old clothes, and stretch as much wear out of them as you can, your wardrobe certainly won’t cost the Earth either.
This month I am reading….This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein
This month I am listening to…Atlas Underground, the new album from one of my favourite musicians and huge personal inspiration, Tom Morello. Out 12 October.
This month I am watching…Maniac, the new Netflix show with Jonah Hill and Emma Stone.
This month I am planning...my talk on How to Create an Ethical Vegan Wardrobe at VegFest London! Get your tickets here.
Please vote for us as Best Vegan Magazine in the 2018 VegFest UK Awards!
Photos by Pinho and Lauren Fleischmann via Unsplash