Living with less clothes and gaining so much more
If we could describe the beginning of 2015 in one word, it’d be: intense. We were experiencing growth from the demand for our products to the projects offered. We were constantly bustling, running back-to-back classes all while orders were pouring in on top of the fact that we were moving to the new studio in April.
The new studio had more space for our work but it also added more commute time. Mornings were unlike the kinds we have today where we can slowly start with a warm cup of green tea. There were usually 8am prepping for classes and production or 9am meetings with clients that determine the outfit we put on in the morning. We’ll then regret what we wore throughout the various activities and events that unfold later in the day. It may sound frivolous but the feelings of discomfort and discontent with what you wear can take up a lot of headspace.
Steve Jobs famously wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers every day as a way to reserve his decision-making capacity for what really matters — in his case was working on revolutionary Apple products that have simplified the lives of millions all over the world. Life can present many challenges but to Steve Jobs, getting dressed in the morning doesn’t have to be one of them.
We don’t wear the same outfit every day but for the past year, we’ve been wearing the same small set of clothes. Some would call it a capsule wardrobe, we call it our daily uniform. We wear them to get things done, to meetings, to go out sourcing, to get groceries, to hang out with our little nieces and meet up with friends.
We not only feel great about what we wear today, we really don't think about what we wear.
An effortless rotation of clothes that truly serves our lifestyle and the Singapore climate — which is hot and humid 90% of the time.
Just a few minutes from where we live (Hani and I live 10 minutes away from each other), there are 3 shopping malls that house some of the biggest clothing retailers in the world and one of them is an outlet mall so things are on sale all the time. But here we are fully content with not buying any clothing until there’s an actual need to, not because it’s convenient or cheap.
Clothes offer a way for you to reflect your personality, a chance to publicly, yet subtly present your creative self. That it’s reasonable to think that having a daily uniform and not “changing things up” is boring or rather silly.
But to us, having a daily uniform, one that we intentionally put together, that serves the way we live and the environment we live in, brings so much ease and makes total sense.
What doesn’t make sense to us is the ridiculous pressure to uphold an appearance, to have a celebrity or fashion authority to legitimatise one’s choice of clothing in order it to be truly accepted.
As a result, many people walk around not knowing why they feel uncomfortable in their clothes, why their clothes fall apart so quickly, why they fall out of love with clothes they bought just a month or week ago, why they’re constantly spending money on clothes, why there’s always clothes they don’t really wear in the wardrobe and why they have to waste countless hours thinking:
What am I going to wear today?
Turns out, most clothes don’t feel comfortable because they’re not made of the right material, often cheap, fabrics made of plastic. Most clothes fall apart quickly because they’re not made well, by the hands of lowly-paid garment workers pressured to make more in less time, so these clothes won’t last long and you’ll look forward to buying the next new collection. It used to be 2 to 4 seasons, clothes for the warm weather, clothes for the cooler months but now new collection of clothes are released weekly or even daily, convincing you that your wardrobe needs a constant update.
For something that’s meant to reflect our personalities, to make a choice and supposedly be in control of, many of us are trapped in the vicious cycle that funds a multi-billion industry.
Apart from the frustration we felt in 2015, it’s hard not to question our wardrobe with all the research and experience as textile designers on textile-related production at various stages and their effects on the environment that have made it clear on how we don't want to run our studio practice.
We released the Linen Wrap the same year as a personal project.
A challenge we put on ourselves to create a piece of clothing without the negative effects that come with most clothes of today. Overproduction, cutting corners, poor quality fabrics, unethical labour, textile waste being some of them. Instead of just being a piece of clothing designed for comfort and to be worn for years, made without an inch of fabric waste by our own hands using 100% natural materials that will eventually return to dirt, the Linen Wrap became an impetus for deep, reflective conversations on the clothes we wear every day (we invited the first owners of the Linen Wrap to the studio for a screening of True Cost.)
It’s not meant to be a solution for the problems that stem from our clothes, in fact, no product will ever be.
The solution lies in the everyday practice of choosing fewer, better clothes.
Wearing them often and making them last for years by taking care of them.
Refreshing them, handing them down, doing whatever it takes to keep them away from landfills.
Because these landfills around the world are clogged with textile waste made up of unwanted clothes from wardrobes and charity organisations, overproduced clothes and unsold materials from factories, all of which can be minimised if we’re all more intentional about the clothes we buy and wear.
If we let our wardrobes be functional and easy.
If we let our clothes serve the way we live and the environment we live in.
If we let our clothes be enough.
Go on a clothing fast
Having less clothes doesn’t mean you should start getting rid of them. Your wardrobe and shopping habits won’t change overnight just by getting rid of old jeans and ill-fitting blouses. Your goal is to radically enhance your wardrobe so pause and get some introspection. A clothing fast helps you to take a closer look at what you have and you’ll start to really notice the little things that make certain clothes your favourite while others are simply taking up space.
Helpful tips for a clothing fast:
Find someone to do it with you. Share this post with a friend or sister and make it something you embark on together. Our clothing fast was and still is an experience we share as sisters. If there isn’t someone you know who’s interested, we’d be happy to be the ones you lean on. Write to us at email@example.com or send us a DM on Instagram.
Unsubscribe from newsletters. Clothing retailers tend to send several emails in a week that will urge you to buy clothes you don’t really need. Discounts, winning prizes, new collections are some of the common ways to lure you in. Once you’ve unsubscribe from their emails, you may choose to mute them on social media so that you’d only check on them when you want to. These are touch points that leave you feeling insufficient and as a result, you’d be tempted to buy more.
Reward yourself. This is a tricky one but can be helpful if you’re used to leisurely scroll through clothes online on a regular basis. If looking at clothes brings you joy or it feels almost like an addiction, this is the time to find an alternative dopamine, a chemical your brain releases to make you feel good. Exchange the habit of browsing through clothes with spending quality time with your loved ones, watch an episode of The Big Bang Theory or go for a run. When you recognise that this inclination towards having more clothes is nothing but a chemical reaction, you can reward yourself in more positive ways.
Edit your wardrobe
This is when the konmari method comes in handy. Editing your wardrobe isn’t just about making it visually appealing, it’s for you to analyse what truly works for your lifestyle and living environment. It’s coming to terms with your impulse purchases, non-essentials and learn from them so that you can make smarter decisions in the future. While you sort through the clothes to keep, sell or donate, pay attention to the reasons why. From the material, form to colour, these micro-considerations will lead you to a wardrobe you love.
Questions to ask when finding clothes that bring you joy:
How often do I wear this?
Does this work for my lifestyle?
Is it comfortable?
Does it feel as good as the first time I wore it?
Can it go with most of my other clothes?
Get creative with rotation
As part of the clothing fast, you’re reinvesting in your wardrobe and making it work harder. Getting more outfits from your existing clothes is a chance to engage your creativity, which is also a dopamine alternative. It can be daunting at first but it gets easier as you progress. You’ll be surprised at how much more your clothes can do for you than you’ve allowed them to all these years. Keep going and soon enough, you’ll have an effortless rotation.
If you’re a little bit stumped, here’s a look at our wardrobe that can help you get started:
Define your personal style
We must emphasise that what you see here work really well for our lifestyle and living environment. By no means are we suggesting that you ditch your personal style to match with ours. You don’t have to stick to neutrals, you can still have bright colours, patterns and prints. The idea is to find clarity, taking the time to really define what your personal style is. Instead of browsing through Pinterest, you’re pinning ideas from your own lifestyle.
Many of us are cut off from a lot of wisdom that lives in our day-to-day because we’re busy looking at how others are doing it. We implore you to pay attention to what you truly need and create a checklist for the kind of clothes that help you get through the day in comfort and contentment.
Create a wishlist checklist
The wisdom you gain from going through the clothing fast, editing your wardrobe, rotating your clothes and defining your personal style can be synthesised into a checklist for the clothes you want to welcome into your life. We call it Wardrobe Worthy Checklist and it’s a handy criteria that we refer to when it’s time for us to buy new clothes. The criteria can change as your lifestyle, body or environment changes but this checklist is what keeps you on track.
This checklist can be comforting when you ignore sales and promotions. It can be the single thing that jolt you back when you’re about to make an impulse purchase. It reminds you why you started this journey and why it’s important to keep going. And once you practice intentional buying over a period of time, you won’t need to refer to the checklist anymore, it becomes part of who you are.
That’s when you’re no longer trapped in the vicious cycle that funds a multi-billion industry, you call the shots. You’re putting on clothes every single day and simplifying your wardrobe can help you reclaim so much more than just time and money. When you work on your relationship with clothes, you’ll notice that other aspects of your life starts to improve too.