Eco Habits: Repairing Clothes

I had an a-ha moment at the car wash last week.

I was sitting at a counter, flipping through a recent issue of Lucky magazine (it was a light reading kind of day, you see) when I came across journalist Kayleen Schaefer’s personal essay, “Does a Perfect Wardrobe Equate to a Perfect Life?”

The piece chronicles her obsession with having the contents of her wardrobe repaired—a habit that has her running from her tailor to her shoe repair place (actually, she “rotate[s] between a few shoe guys for resoling and de-scuffing”), as well as to her jewelry polisher, dry cleaner and even a reweaver.

“At all times, I have a list on my phone titled ‘to fix,’” she writes. “I spend at least $100 with my repair crew every month.”

It’s an honest and dizzying account of behavior that borders on obsessive compulsive (see: “I believe, somehow, that if my clothes are perfect, my life will be too”). But I took something important away from it that I don’t believe the writer intended. In her story, I spotted a gaping hole in my eco-friendliness: I’m too lazy to take items to be repaired. After shamefully lengthy periods of wearing ripped, scuffed or otherwise battered clothes, I give them away or retire them as rags. As for clothes that never fit right in the first place, they languish in my closet, unworn reminders of what could have been.

I’m far from the perfectionist Kayleen Schaefer is, nor do I want to be so bound to the cycle of tiny adjustments at the tailor and the buffing of every scuff on my shoes. But she’s on to something that I now realize I should grow up and embrace. Because why waste a garment when it can be fixed? Why replace it with another item that will also fall apart someday instead of making the small trek to the tailor? 

It all ties into another aspect of green wardrobes that I’ve been pondering lately: investment pieces. Schaefer writes that she keeps a fairly minimal closet comprised mostly of timeless investment pieces. It makes sense to repair expensive items that you’ll still want to wear (and that will still be stylish) 10 years from now. When it comes to investment pieces, a bigger upfront cost in the present means a bigger payoff in the future—and less waste. As I advocate for moving away from “fast fashion” (cheap, poorly made clothes that we use up and toss out like a cup of coffee), well-made clothes that will last longer—thus slowing the waste cycle and diminishing our closet’s environmental footprint—are a sensible replacement. And to help these items last well into the future, we can take a page from Schaefer’s story and visit our local repair shops. Not as often, perhaps, but that’s probably for the best.

Eco-Fashion Report: Mata Traders' Spring Collection



The Penny Rose readers may remember Mata Traders, the “fair trade fashion” company that we spotlighted last May. (The chunky yellow necklace featured in my last post was another Mata Traders treasure—one that I am now happy to say I own.) I was excited to recently discover Mata Traders’ Spring 2014 Collection, and recommend checking it out. The new lineup (a few items from which are spotlighted above) is characterized by cheery, simple, feminine dresses and more stylish statement jewelry. The designs are even more impressive when you take into account the production limitations the company operates within—all of its items are made by women’s cooperatives in India and Nepal. If the concept of female-led ethical fashion enterprises piques your interest, give this recent Forbes article, titled “Ethical Chic: How Women Can Change The Fashion Industry,” a read. 

Conscious Shopping: Roozt

 Roozt Finds

Trying to wrap one’s head around the many problems associated with fashion consumption—environmental costs, poor labor standards, etc.—can feel overwhelming, especially when attempting to figure out which brands and items to steer clear of and which to embrace. Luckily, there are websites like Roozt. This online portal aggregates fashion from responsible companies that are having a positive impact, whether it’s through sustainable production, fair labor practices, community giving, or other avenues. Just signing up for a free Roozt membership does a little good: for each membership, the site donates a meal to a hungry American through Feeding America. The site hosts an impressive array of stylish and unique finds, and I loved how many new, fascinating brands I was introduced to. A few of my favorite discoveries so far are pictured above.

The Drape & Flare Racerback tank, Vintage Tribe Bag and Solar Cuff are from a company called 4 All Humanity, whose apparel is made at a cooperative in Uganda and whose accessories are made with recycled materials in cooperatives in India, Thailand, Mexico and South Africa. The Macy Clark earrings—made with reclaimed brass chains—are by eco-jewelry company Hovey Lee. The Dusty Purple Square Scarf was handwoven by women in Ethiopia for Ugandan-based ethical fashion brand Sseko Designs. Lur Apparel, an environmentally and sustainably responsible American company, is behind the comfy and funky Lodgepole Pants.

Eco-Fashion Pick: Faherty Brand Swimsuits

Untitled #48

All natural sunscreen? Check. Hat, book, towel, stainless steel water bottle? Check, check, check and check. Eco-friendly bathing suit? That’s a trickier item to cross off my list of beach-bum musts. Which is why I was so intrigued to hear that Faherty Brand is, literally, rolling into town this week. Faherty Brand, an above-par men and women’s swimwear company helmed by a pair of beach-loving twins, features “clothing made from premium materials, both ethically sourced and environmentally sound, with a focus on unwavering craftsmanship, specifically made for life’s great moments at the beach and all the times you wish you were there,” according to their website,

As part of a “Never Ending Summer” road trip, the eco-ethical swimsuit makers will set up their mobile shop in front of Verve Coffee Roasters (816 41st Ave., Santa Cruz) from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Thursday, June 27. Made with rich colors and dainty patterns, their suits look adorable and, for those of us who steer clear of string bikinis (which they offer, as well), the line boasts gorgeous designs that cater to all body types, including trendy one pieces and sturdier two pieces. I’m eyeing the cami-style underwire top and high-waisted “hipster bottom,” myself.