Just like that, another year is drawing to a close. For me, the end of a year always feels like a time for reflection, celebration, and intention setting as we all make space to welcome a new chapter.
Whether you believe in New Year’s resolutions or not, it is always a good idea to start a new year with a sense of intention, because it helps you stay committed to yourself and the movements that you care about.
So, in the spirit of looking back on the year past, and setting intentions for the year to come, we thought we’d share a few ideas to keep in the back of your head as you enter another year of your conscious style journey.
These resolutions are not about prescribing how your slow fashion journey should look. Rather, this list illustrates that slow fashion looks different for everyone, which is something we should celebrate.
1. Do a closet audit
The start of a new year is the perfect time to deep dive into your closet, reorganize, and take stock of the clothing you already have by doing a closet audit. This can also help you rediscover pieces that may have been tucked away for a while. While you are reorganizing your closet, try to arrange it seasonally, so that when you come back the next season, it really feels like you are discovering something new. Doing a closet audit will also help you be more intentional in your purchases since you have a clearer idea of what you have and what you may still want to add to your wardrobe. You can use this very helpful guide, created by Alyssa Beltempo, to help you get started with your closet audit.
2. Try a ‘no new clothes’ challenge
Challenge yourself to not buy anything new for a set amount of time. Some people do it for a year, but it could also be shorter. By removing yourself from the endless cycle of consumption that defines the fast fashion industry, you can take a step back and heal your relationship with fashion while redefining what “enough” means to you, getting creative with what you already have, and saving time and money!
3. Shop your closet
You know how the saying goes: The most sustainable garments are the ones you already own. Challenge yourself to get creative and make new outfit combinations using clothing you already own. This also helps you gain a deeper understanding of your personal style. To get started, you can channel sustainable wardrobe stylist, Alyssa Beltempo’s, ethos of ‘more creativity, less consumption’ and check out her YouTube channel for inspiration on how you can incorporate this into your own life. You can even try using an app, like Whering or the Stylebook, to help you create new looks from your old wardrobe.
4. Keep wearing (and loving) your old fast fashion pieces
Actively working through your eco-guilt by continuing to wear – and love! – the fast fashion pieces you bought in the past is an important step in your slow fashion journey. Everybody has old fast fashion pieces in their closet. Getting rid of them creates unnecessary waste and perpetuates the idea that slow fashion has to look a specific way. The best thing you can do is keep them, find ways to love them, wear them, mend them, and make them last as long as you possibly can.
5. Become a proud outfit repeater
Despite what social media will have us believe, there is so much joy in outfit repeating! Normalizing outfit repeating is so important for changing the mentality that we always need to be wearing something new. So, repeat the outfits that make you feel good and wear them with pride. This doesn’t mean that you have to wear the same outfit every day, but maybe you can play around with different ways of styling your garments and accessories. If you want to find some inspiration, follow the hashtags #proudoutfitrepeater, #rewearthat, and #reweardontcare.
6. Normalize borrowing clothing from friends and family
If you are going to an event or have been eyeing that dress in your friend’s closet every time they wear it, why not ask if you can borrow it for a little bit? You can even offer to return the favor and ask them if there is anything in your wardrobe that they have been eyeing. You’re saving money, keeping impulse buys at bay, and it really does give you the same rush as trying on a brand-new garment.
7. Swap before you shop
Clothing swaps are a form of circular fashion because they allow us to extend the lifespans of clothing that is already in circulation while satisfying our desire for novelty. Swapping allows you to switch up your wardrobe, without buying anything new, and it’s usually very cost-effective. If you are looking for a few tips for attending a clothing swap, or for how to host a swap of your own, check out this article. If you’d like to give online swapping a try, take a look at Swap Society (US), Nuw (UK), or The Fashion Pulpit (Singapore).
8. Shop secondhand
If you are looking to add some new-to-you pieces to your wardrobe, consider shopping secondhand. Buying secondhand clothing, instead of new pieces, extends the lifespan of that garment and saves it from going to waste, which is an important aspect of circular fashion. Have a browse through your local secondhand markets, thrift stores, or consignment shops. If you’d prefer to browse online, there are loads of online secondhand stores where you can shop – and sell – preloved fashion.
9. Give rental a try
Special occasions often lead to impulse buys that are worn once or twice and then end up collecting dust in the back of the closet or going to waste. If you are looking for an outfit for a special occasion or event, and nothing in your wardrobe is inspiring you, you can give clothing rental a try. Generally, peer-to-peer rental platforms are more sustainable models. A few platforms to look into include ByRotation, Tulerie, and Wardrobe.
10. Learn to mend and repair
Whether you are into visible or invisible mending, learning to mend and repair are slow fashion skills that allow us to define ourselves as more than just consumers and help us wear our loved clothes for longer. If you want to learn to mend, there are some insightful channels on YouTube with tutorials that go right back to the basics, such as The Essentials Club and Repair What You Wear. Another useful resource is The Fixing Fashion Academy by Fixing Fashion, which is a free, open-source platform with tutorials on how to repair and upcycle clothes. Or, if you don’t have the time to learn, you can consider making use of a local, small mending or tailoring business that can repair your clothes for you.
11. Start a DIY project
This could be anything from beading a necklace or learning how to use natural dyes, to figuring out how to crochet or making a scrunchie. Working with your hands is not only a great way to practice mindfulness, but it also brings you closer to the process of making and fosters a greater sense of appreciation for the effort and energy that goes into making the clothes and accessories that we wear. When you pour love and care into making something of your own, it starts to undo the culture of disposability that we have all been encouraged to take on.
12. Learn how to take care of your clothing, sustainably
Caring for your clothes properly will make them last longer, which is such a win! Firstly, take the time to read the care labels on your clothing to make sure that you are properly taking care of them. But also, learn how to adjust your clothing care routine so that it is as sustainable as possible. This includes washing your clothes less, at lower temperatures, and trying to use eco-friendly detergents. If you are feeling a little bit lost about where to start, check out this Conscious Life & Style guide on how to take care of your clothes sustainably.
13. Unsubscribe from fast fashion newsletters and unfollow accounts
This one should only take a few minutes to act on, but it is such an important step on your journey of hopping off the hamster wheel of fast fashion and overconsumption. We are constantly being bombarded with adverts and marketing campaigns that are trying their very best to convince us to buy more and more, at every turn – even in our email inboxes and social media. So, take some time to reassess the accounts you follow and go through your email inbox, and click unsubscribe on all those newsletters and promotional content that does not align with your values.
14. Follow the ethos of ‘fewer better things’
If you are shopping less, by prioritizing practices like swapping, borrowing, mending, and getting creative with what you already have, it means that you can choose to save up and invest in conscious fashion brands that are leading by example and showing us what a more just future of fashion could look like. If you are looking for inspiration on brands to support and invest in, take a look at Conscious Fashion Collective’s directory of brands and Conscious Life & Style’s ultimate ethical brand list.
15. Invest in BIPOC-owned businesses
We should all be making a conscious effort to invest in, celebrate, and support BIPOC-owned businesses. Investing in BIPOC-owned businesses supports the dreams, joy, and livelihoods of these business owners and everyone involved in their supply chain, and is one simple way of extending your activism offline. Check out this Conscious Life & Style list of over 100 Black-owned, sustainable, and ethical fashion home, and beauty brands. You can also take a look at this Conscious Fashion Collective list of sustainable and ethical BIPOC-owned brands.
16. Become a fashion activist
Learning about ways to extend your slow fashion advocacy beyond just the clothes you wear is a powerful step, because it allows you to participate in collective action and larger reform in the fashion industry. Signing a petition, emailing a brand, posting on social media, or getting involved in a support advocacy group are a few great ways to extend your impact and become a fashion activist. If you want to learn more about how to start your journey as a fashion activist, check out this article.
17. Support or join a grassroots organization
Working towards a more just, sustainable, and inclusive fashion industry means that we need to support organizations who are doing amazing work, on the ground, to create systemic change. A few nonprofits advocating for a better fashion future include Remake, The OR Foundation, Fashion Revolution, and Fibershed. If you have the capacity, you can look into ways to support the work of these organizations in financial and non-financial ways.
18. Continue to educate yourself
Life is one continuous learning journey, and this applies to the slow fashion space too. The issues – and solutions – in the fashion industry are complex and nuanced, so there is always something to learn or something we can dive deeper into. Continuing to educate yourself will make you feel more committed to your slow fashion journey and allow you to share your learnings with others too. If you are unsure about where to start, check out this compilation of free educational resources to learn about sustainable fashion – it includes everything from courses and podcasts, to YouTube channels, and newsletters.
The hope is that we will all continue to 2024 heal our relationship with fashion, work on creating more meaningful connections with our clothes, support organizations and brands that are using fashion as a force for good, and advocate for a fashion future that is premised on justice, inclusivity, and intersectional sustainability.
Wishing you a gentle new year that starts with ease and in conscious style!
About the Author
Stella Hertantyo is a slow fashion and slow living enthusiast based in Cape Town, South Africa. Stella finds solace in words as a medium for sharing ideas and encouraging a cultural shift that welcomes systems change and deepens our collective connection to the world around us. She is passionate about encouraging an approach to sustainability, and social and environmental justice, that is inclusive, intersectional, accessible, and fun.
Stella holds a B.A. Multimedia Journalism from the University of Cape Town, and a PGDip in Sustainable Development from the Sustainability Institute. She currently works as a writer, editor, and social media manager. When she is not in front of her laptop, a dip in the ocean, or a walk in the mountains, are the two things that bring her the most peace.