Sustainable Closets: Ilhaam

Sustainable Closets and Slow Fashion – you may have heard these terms around (especially of late, given the impact we have had on the environment, one the major impacts being fast fashion).

Some of you may be wondering if slow fashion is just a trend, is it really for you and how do you go about changing your shopping habits and wardrobe to accommodate this lifestyle change.

I decided to talk to my sister, Ilhaam, about her current experience with capsule wardrobes and the world of sustainable fashion.

1. What does sustainability, with regards to fashion, mean to you?

To me sustainable fashion, or at least a sustainable closet, finds a balance between being environmentally, socially and economically responsible. That being said, there is also not a one-size-fits-all solution to obtaining a sustainable closet. Depending on your circumstances, financial or other, and your access to resources, your closet may look very different to the next person’s closet. To me personally a sustainable closet = buying less, which is why a capsule wardrobe really appeals to me. I’ve come across many infographics on this topic, but my favourite is Canadian artist Sarah Lazarovic’s “Buyerarchy of Needs”. This pretty much sums up my approach.


2. How did you get started with adjusting from the more “conventional” way of shopping?

I don’t think I’ve ever bought any used or vintage items before. I think some of my favourite items are hand me downs and second hand finds from clothing swaps, but my previous approach was essentially to buy less and buy quality items. To be completely honest I only started buying used and vintage items since I’ve been in the U.S. A good friend I met quite early on recommended several consignment stores in our area, for snow gear I think it was. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of the clothing they stocked, which is when I started reading up about online consignment stores since I don’t have a car and I quite like shopping from the comfort of my couch, with a cup of tea in hand. And now there’s no turning back!

3. Do you think that your style has evolved since you started this process?

​I think so, I’m definitely a lot more mindful of what I buy. The process of developing the capsule wardrobe has definitely provided me with a better idea of what I like and what works for me, and more importantly, what would work cohesively in my wardrobe. I like the idea that, in a capsule wardrobe, your clothing really works for you and not the other way around. I also like that you don’t have to think too hard about what to wear because everything, by design, works well together.

4. How would you describe your style?

Being a full time mom and also having moved between continents, my current style is pretty much relaxed, casual and minimal all rolled into one. I would say that previously, I was a lot more adventurous with my style, which was more semi-corporate, classic and feminine (at work) and edgy meets clean (at home and socially). I enjoy playing around with fashion, but just haven’t had the time to really engage with it, so essentially I very briefly engaged on an event by event basis, not really thinking holistically. As a result, my wardrobe was very mixed and not necessarily made up of items that compliment one another. I think that my wardrobe is more streamlined now with classic, minimalist pieces that are complimentary, but also include some fun and interesting pieces.

5. Do you have a specific colour palette for this season?

​I do, since we tried as far as possible to​ incorporate what I have or at least what I brought with me for winter-ing in Pittsburgh, it is a lot darker than if I had started from scratch.
Neutrals and nearly-neutrals: black, grays, white, navy, wine and blush;
Statement colour: with gold and teal; and
Patterns + textures: stripes, gingham, floral.

6. What are some of the tips you have picked up for second hand shopping, specifically online?

I feel like I’m still quite new at this, but with second hand shopping in general you need to act fast. I’ve missed quite a few good deals because I wanted to sleep on it! And then in terms of online shopping, as with all online shopping, know your sizes and/or dimensions and make sure you double check this before you hit that “checkout” button. For online platforms like Poshmark, where individuals can buy and sell from each other’s “closets”, ask for further information if necessary or request additional photographs so you’re not left with any unwanted surprises! Oh and the final tip is to be patient, they don’t call it slow fashion for nothing.

I’m not really into brands, but if you are shopping high end brands, protect yourself from counterfeit products. Unfortunately this is something you need to think about. Buy from highly rated and trustworthy sources, otherwise do your research. Have the seller send you photos of the item to verify whether it is genuine and what condition it’s in. The price can often be a dead giveaway, especially with high demand products – if it falls outside of the usual price range for the same or similar items for that brand and it’s claimed to be like new or new with tags, then it’s more than likely counterfeit.

7. If there was one person you look up to, say your style icon, who would it be and why?

​I keep coming back to ​Alexa Chung. I do love her style of course, perhaps not totally suitable for me, but what I love about her is that she does everything: glam, classic, feminine, masculine, edgy, etc. She’s a chameleon. And she always makes it look so effortless and timeless, and most importantly it’s always very Alexa Chung.

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