Am I doing eco-friendly Fashion?
I've decided to keep one of the upcycled butcher trousers for myself.
This wasn't done in the spirit of "paying myself first", something every entrepreneur must do according to the personal development literature teaching us how to be rich.
My entrepreneurial decision was to keep them so I could develop them further - which also relates to how I can create a sustainable brand, outside the scope of brownish sack dresses or lacklustre shoes in pleather.
Green? Vegan? Compostable?
The more I dig into the sustainability topic, the more doubts I have: am I green enough? Vegan? Plastic-free? Waste-free? Harmful chemicals-free?
Ideally, I'd be using organic cotton for all of my pieces (not just the crewneck and long sleeves t-shirts) - which gets up to 10x more expensive to buy in the small quantities I need, and impossible to buy from most mills in Portugal, as they start talking business at 100 m per fabric per colour.
Ok, 100% cotton is already good enough...right? Until you learn how the intensive use of water for cotton production's drying out massive water bodies, such as the Aral Sea.
And it's not even compostable, since I'm doing digital printing, which uses inks similar to ink jet printers, so probably a mix of synthetic pygments in a base of linseed or soybean oil, or a heavy petroleum distillate used as the solvent.
Plus I'm using regular sewing threads, in 100% Polyester.And speaking of Polyester: that's basically plastic, if you don't know.
Not only will it take hundreds of years to decompose, it'll first release microplastic particles at every wash, that'll go on to pollute the oceans, poison marine life and end up in your seafood dish.
Fashion may not be the second most polluting industry on Earth (come on, more than aviation, oil and gas, or mining?) but clothing production isn't all that innocent.
Definitely not so harmless that we're on the clear to keep consuming apparel the way we're currently doing.
Upcycled couture realness
I really believe we have to stop living like we can have anything we want, anytime we want, as long as we believe; as long as we commit/ hustle/ make dat money - save dat money - invest dat money; as long as we find our passion, as long as we heal, work on ourselves, step into our power.
There's a never-ending list keeping us in consumer mode, so I wanted to tell a different story and shine a light on the good ol' Make do and Mend culture.
A.k.a. upcycling, to use the contemporary buzz word.
I put in many hours into trying to find vintage pieces or deadstock whatever when I first landed in Portugal, and was still in an Airbnb where I couldn't make my own patterns from scratch or cut and sew samples, but I still didn't have the kind of insider knowledge or the network to guide me on where to go to find what and in enough quantities to make a small production of upcycled pieces.
I still can't say I do.
My lucky break was finding the 3 almost identical pairs of white workwear trousers at a vintage store for €3 each, that I unpicked, tailored, added appliqués made of scrap fabric, then hand-painted.
All that labour would make those trousers cost as much as vintage Maison Martin Margiela Artisanal, if I were to charge for all the hours I spent on each one.
How could I charge thousands of euros with the current street cred of my infant label?
What sustainability even means
Even if I had a research fund to study how to build a perfectly green business model, that's not my thing: I'd rather not get paralysed by the complexity of the environmental issues we have on our plate today, and notice where the eco-unfriendly practices are as I build my brand.
For example, I've already noticed how wasteful placement digital printing can be, so next on the list is trying to use those scraps.
For now, I'm applying my basic philosophy for Things I own to the Things I'm releasing into the world: I want to make very few pieces, I want you to hit the buy button because you absolutely love them, and I want to honour your devotion to my designs by making them last.
So I'll have to test my own garments extensively, even if that means keeping a one-of-a-kind piece.
Expect a cooler design, even comfier and more functional for the next collections.