Styling and Conscious Consumerism: A Guide and Discussion

What is Styling?

It’s simple. 

Selecting and organising clothing, hair and makeup to present a stylish version of yourself to the world. And in this article, we’ll be discussing something unique – styling that can help save us from, if not at least repair, the irreparable damage of the fashion industry on the environment and our mental health. 

Why Styling, you may ask?

Before anything else, fashion is a creative outlet to build a personal style, express yourself and create a theme around it. It’s a significant tool that builds your confidence and at times, helps you achieve your dreams. Historically, fashion was used by the youth to express political, social, and economic desires, to be revolutionaries. So how then, does it relate to sustainability?

Because if you break down how to consciously and simply build a stylish yet less damaging wardrobe, you can be part of the next fashion revolution. 

Gender Fluid Styling and Sustainability

When it comes to gender-neutral clothing, as the name suggests, lets anyone wear anything. There is no gender. While society restricts us from doing this, it’s fair to note that clothing was in fact, interchanged between genders in history. And the rules existing today are questionable. 

Clothing also played a significant role in the first and second wave feminism, when women decided to wear trousers and other male workwear – so that they could bring about change and be considered figures of authority. Today, we see young people being assertive about showing their authentic selves. And just like it has before, clothing plays a huge role in helping them do so. 

Looking at this from a sustainable perspective, hand-me-downs are the first example that come to mind. Children grow out of clothing sooner than adults and the money spent on these clothes is incredible. Once a child has grown out of an outfit, it tends to be treated as waste. However, if we could hand down clothing regardless of gender, these items can be used until their functionality is intact. 

It needs a new wave in production, non-judgmental styling and store management, too. Young adults don’t have to search through separate racks for clothing, and can find what they’re looking for without being too anxious. 

Key Takeaway: Clothes have no gender and can be used for styling, irrespective of societal norms. 

Source: KiRu India

Source: KiRu India

Here are some things we can do

Let’s take a look at some easy steps to being more kind and conscious when it comes to styling. 

Step 1: Be conscious of what you already own

An article by Peppermint magazine stated that “on average, people wear an article of clothing only seven times before throwing it away. Because of this high turnover in fashion, textiles are now one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world.”

Source: Unsplash

So then, how can you make the most of that one dress you bought for a vacation and never wore again? The answer lies in building the right foundation. 

Owning several items of clothing may seem fun and necessary in the zoomer age. But the first problem is to tackle what’s already there. 

Exhibit A: 

You have a dark printed, button down, full-sleeve dress you purchased when you were in school. You wore it just once because it was unique and special to you. Fast forward to ten years later, you still have the dress. But how can you use it now?

  1. Since it’s a button down, you can wear it as an outer layer over another basic dress. 
  2.  You still fit into it so you can wear it to work over trousers, and to parties by itself. 
  3. Share it with a friend or family member! 

Important factors that help me do this are – pairing it with basics that go with everything. Maybe a black trousers or a white tee. Simple enough for the dress to be a cover-up? Absolutely. 

Source: Unsplash

Now, if we think about it, all the fun in fashion is lost. If you’re not following trends, how can you be truly fashionable? But you know what’s timeless?

Self-expression. 

What it means is, you have the power to change things. Following trends may be uncomplicated. But it also doesn’t hold significance for everyone. 

Step 2: Find your aesthetic

The best part about finding an aesthetic is you can follow your own style to the T, no matter what the trend. While it could be a visual concept, it could also be a lifestyle. 

An aesthetic will help you experiment, find new hobbies and reduce desires for material things. But you may say that you don’t like to do one thing for too long. I get it, I’d feel the same. 

Fear not. There are several ways to keep changing up your style. 

Blood and Water

Beg, borrow, but don’t steal. Adding an external element can make any look more exclusive and versatile. Try out your father’s blazer or your mother’s old scarf. Or even better, switch up some of your items with your best friend occasionally for a completely new style statement. 

Ignore the style shaming on social media. Nobody in real life cares so much. 

Incorporate micro-trends in your styling. Match a print, change up your silhouette or go the easiest route – hair and makeup. It’s way simpler to change up your hair for a new look rather than buying a completely new wardrobe. 

When buying something new, ask yourself if your style will evolve in the next five years. Will the piece fit into your wardrobe then? If the answer is yes, reuse it and don’t dump it.

You set your own trends. Go find that niche style that you think only you can pull off and develop. Don’t give up and you might be the next Komal Pandey or Siddharth Batra. 

The Masala Box

In an Indian household, the masala box is an essential for everyday cooking. Consider turmeric and chilli powder as your one basic bottom and one basic top. Now, use them to compliment everything else you have. 

That’s all cool you may say…

While platforms like Instagram and the ‘app that shall not be named’ are fantastic to get your creative juices flowing, they’re also spaces where it’s easy to spread hate anonymously and promote overconsumption. 

We see so many styling challenges on these apps. And several people love to participate. But remember, more content = the want to buy more. These challenges can encourage people to be more innovative, but the stigma of ‘repeating outfits’ compels us to believe we need more – just to be cool and influential on social media. 

Previously, a trend cycle would last 20-30 years. With the onset of celebrity culture and fast fashion, these cycles have become extremely shorter. Plus, the boom of social media has led people to see more and more of the same products often. There’s no time for the trend to trickly down, becoming obsolete before it’s

even taken off. The thought – why should I wear it when it’s ‘old news’ or ‘cheugy’ – sets in. The speed with which these products are produced, they can be worn by the likes of Kylie Jenner,  and you and me at the same time! 

The changes in trend cycles are as shown below:

Source: Amiko Simonetti

These short cycles have also given rise to the devaluation of labour. Based on a video I watched recently, Shein gets its products from the drawing board to production to live online in as little as 3 days. Compared to that, a normal fashion cycle takes as much as 6 months – from design, purchasing fabrics, printing, making samples, creating the garment, surface ornamentation to stores.

Let that sink in for a moment.

 Impact of fast fashion: A Shein ‘haul’ showing customers buying several products at one time

Purchasing Q&A

It’s easy to preach about a minimalist life and be non-materialistic, but not all are built that way. So, to be mindful of your new purchases, here are a few questions you can ask yourself when buying a new item.

  1. Can I use this garment for multiple occasions?
  2. What are some pieces in my wardrobe that could pair well with this?
  3. Can I use this in the next 5 years?
  4. What can I do with this after I’m bored of wearing it?

Answering these questions can help you decide if you really need that new garment or just want it at the moment.

Wrapping it up

The most significant learning that we’d like you to take away from this article is finding a personal moral compass. 

We’re imperfect, too. But how can we be more mindful and make informed choices to become good and kind people in the world – is the question that needs answering. 

Climate change is the biggest concern of our time, and various people are urging us to make changes. But there are a few who continue abusing their purchasing power for the wrong things. 

An example would be this year’s trend ‘I gave my sibling a large sum of money to shop.’ In Kritika Khurana’s video (@thatbohogirl), she pays her sister’s Zara bill. And we hear her say:

“I don’t like the collection right now”

“I’m thinking even if I wear it once, I’m going to buy it”

“I don’t usually buy such silly things, but it’s cheap”

All of the above comments devalue labour and encourage overspending plus excess consumerism of use and throw products (made mainly from polyester in unethical sweatshops). 

While we do encourage people to switch from fast fashion to sustainable options, by no means do we expect those who depend on the low prices of fast fashion to buy products they can’t afford. What we don’t need is people, with the privilege, to influence young minds to develop such habits. 

It’s our responsibility to take small steps at an individual level.

As David Brower once said, “We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”

Let’s learn and change every step of the way, so we can pay back the debt responsibly. 

Credits

Author

Ru Bhat is an artist, creative curator and co-founder of newly launched fashion and lifestyle label, KiRu. She’s enthusiastic about films and TV shows (specifically the Korean kind) and draws inspiration from BTS and their work. She is a styling fanatic and loves to experiment and express herself through fashion.

KiRu expands to Kindness is ’round us. They are a sustainable, artisanal, gender-fluid homegrown clothing and lifestyle brand. They work is geared towards influencing young consumers to switch from fast to slow, conscious fashion. They also wish to spread the message of kindness towards living beings, the planet, and our resources. As a conscious, craft-centric brand, they keep their audience well-informed about their processes and how KiRu is growing along with them.

Editor

Ayesha Tari

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