The beginning of a new year seems like the perfect time to start making changes. But sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start. I think most people would like to live, and dress, with minimal negative impact on the environment, but aside from the basics we learn about in school, it’s hard to know how to take it a step further. Even harder to put those changes into action.
My guest on the podcast this week is Vin, of eponymous label Vin + Omi. Vin was a director of public art before becoming a fashion designer (with no previous sewing experience). Since the brand’s conception in 2004, Vin + Omi have focused on sustainable processes, thinking up new, unique ways to produce ethical textiles.
Vin + Omi’s Stop F***ing the Planet recycled plastic collection and campaign encourages consumers to consider the environment when updating their style. Confronted by January sales, it may seem difficult to resist a thoughtless purchase, but for Vin, it’s important to pay more attention to our wardrobes: what we put in, what we take out, and how we take care of what we have.
It’s scary but it’s true. Microfibres are tiny (smaller that 5mm) plastic threads, often thinner than a human hair, which escape into our waterways, and ultimately our seas, when we wash our clothes. They often form part of a sludge collected at water treatment plants which is then sprayed onto soils as fertiliser. To combat this, Vin suggests we wash our clothes in a microfibre catcher bag, and instead of throwing away the fibres, use them to stuff a cushion. For more information about microfibres, I recommend visiting Friends of the Earth.
Plastic Waste is a hot topic at the moment. Blue Planet demonstrated just how much plastic ends up in our oceans and the show’s popularity means its now on lots of people’s radar. According to Vin, when it comes to plastic, it’s all about being conscious. “Question everything you buy wrapped in plastic or made of plastic,” he says. “Do you really need it?” For a deep dive into plastic waste, I recommend reading Lucy Siegle’s Turning the Tide on Plastic.
Say No To Fur
A simple way to immediately make a positive change is to boycott fur. Vin recommends looking for sustainable alternatives to achieve the same look. Back in October, I was fascinated to read Bel Jacobs’ Is the the end for real fur? on the BBC, which highlighted just how problematic faux fur can be. Sometimes, it seems as though we have to choose between animals, and the environment. Of course, it’s ideal to ‘do right’ by both concerns, but in my opinion, when it comes to fur, animals take my priority. I’ll try to find sustainable faux fur, but until I do, it’s easy for me to simply pick a different coat.
Made In England
Finally, Vin advises buying Made in England, and from small, independent brands where possible. Again, this comes alongside shopping more mindfully – examining the provenance of what we buy can help us make more informed decisions. Buying Made in England, means supporting the remaining local garment industry which has not yet been outsourced abroad in search of cheaper labour. If we don’t support local independent business, we may not have any left.
For Vin, it’s important to evaluate our potential purchases. At this time of year, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a mindless evening browse, turning into a mindless evening spree. But before we click “checkout” it’s useful to think about when, and how, we might actually wear what we’re about to buy. Eco Age has a fantastic 30 Wears campaign, which is worth taking note of if you find yourself with a wardrobe full of nothing to wear.