We’re always working on bettering ourselves, and love learning from experts –– and when it comes to slow fashion, we’re still very much beginners. So we asked Emily Lightly, who inspires us with her blog filled with capsule wardrobe, sustainable living and slow fashion tips, to give us her best advice for slow fashion and sustainability curious beginners.
Tell us about who you are and how you got into slow fashion.
I’m Emily, I’m 29 (soon to be 30!) and live in BC, Canada. I started getting into slow fashion around three years ago. I was working a highly stressful job, and I ended up shopping a lot for retail therapy. My closet was accumulating things that weren’t really making me happy. If anything, all of the clutter was making things worse. It was then that I stumbled upon minimalism and capsule wardrobes, and decided to try it for myself. I started decluttering and slowing down, and it was like a breath of fresh air –– I got hooked! Since then I’ve been working towards living more sustainably and minimally.
What do you wish everyone knew about slow fashion? What are the benefits & why is it important to you?
There are so many benefits to slow fashion. Not only is it much friendlier to people and the planet, but there are personal benefits as well. Less clutter means less stress; less shopping means more savings; and focusing more on a small collection of clothes you love to wear makes it so much easier to get dressed in the morning and feel confident all the time.
These days, it’s so hard to ignore what other people have. Everywhere you look there’s an ad for something or an influencer wearing the latest trend and that makes us feel like we need it too or else we’re not good enough.
But getting out of that mentality is so freeing and in the end will make you much happier and more content than keeping up with the Joneses ever would.
It’s important to me because it’s helped me so much. Having less, not just in my closet but in other areas of my home and life, has brought much more focus and clarity to my life as a whole.
How do you explain slow fashion and sustainability to your friends and family?
Whenever someone asks me what a capsule wardrobe is, I normally respond with “a small, curated collection of pieces that are high-quality, versatile, work well together, will stand the test of time, and are true to your personal style.”
I keep things short and sweet instead of going into a whole spiel about the harms of fast fashion, and then if they want to learn more then I am more than happy to talk about it!
I try not to force my views on anyone, but lead by example and show them how it’s benefited my life, and how it could benefit theirs as well.
Can you tell us about your capsule wardrobe? What does that look like for you? How many items do you have and do you limit them?
I don’t have a limit, but I tend to find that each of my seasonal capsules has between 40-50 items.
Because I live in a place with all four seasons, my entire closet has more, but I keep my seasonal items out of the way when I’m not using them. I try to keep my seasonal refreshes limited to five items or less, but it’s difficult because I work with brands and enjoy sharing their products with my followers, so I’m still trying to find that balance between keeping my own closet minimal while doing what I love.
I am currently participating in Slow Fashion Season where I have committed to bringing nothing new into my wardrobe for summer, which has been great as I’ve been focusing on making a few of my own clothes and otherwise have just picked up a couple of secondhand pieces. So I am trying to limit my consumption and get as much use as possible out of what I already have.
How did you curate your closet? What do you look for?
I started by doing a lot of research and made a plan for my wardrobe. This is always the first thing I tell people to do instead of going in straight away and decluttering.
I started with my own style, and looked at my favorite pieces to see what I gravitate towards. I realized that I’m most comfortable wearing a casual tee, denim or pants, and sneakers, so that’s my typical ‘uniform’.
I created inspiration boards on Pinterest to save outfit ideas using items I already had in my wardrobe, and started a wish list for items I wanted. That way I was able to think about them for longer and see if I really wanted to purchase them or not.
When I shop, I typically look for items that are high-quality and versatile. They need to be made to last and work well with the other clothes in my closet. Comfort is also important to me, and I won’t get wear out of something if it’s too tight or I feel out of place in it.
I’m trying to change my mindset about my clothes from just something I wear to building a relationship with them that will last my entire life, so I try to choose pieces that I really love to wear.
What are your favorite, go-to sustainable shops?
I love Everlane because they have great quality basics, but while they do offer great transparency in their production process and are working towards sustainability, the speed of their product launches is really more along the lines of fast fashion.
I love browsing my local thrift and consignment stores – it’s like a treasure hunt and it’s so fun to come away with a gem that cost you much less than buying new.
How can someone start if they’re new to learning about slow fashion?
Documentaries are great to watch because they provide so much information as well as inspiration. Two that I would recommend are Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things and The True Cost.
These will give you an overview of what the harms of fast fashion are, as well as the benefits of slow fashion and living with less overall.
When it comes to shopping, there’s an app called Good On You which rates brands in three areas: labour, environment, and animal welfare.
So if you’re not sure if a brand is sustainable or ethical, you can check there before you buy and see how you feel about it.
Finally, I love to just gather inspiration – there’s a huge slow fashion community on Instagram and there are tons of ideas about it on Pinterest. There are also some really great blogs so you can find someone or a few whose style you like and follow them.
Are there misconceptions about slow fashion that you’d like to break? What do you wish you knew when you first started?
I think there are definitely a few misconceptions. When I first started, it felt like I needed to dress a certain way or achieve a certain look in order for it to be considered slow fashion. But that’s really not the case . You don’t have to dress in flowy, linen clothes in neutral colors if that’s not your style.
You can really do slow fashion your own way. There are a lot of brands to choose from out there that offer a range of styles, and used clothing is always a great option.
Also, when I got started I sort of felt like I needed to replace a lot of my old fast fashion buys with new, more sustainable and/or ethical pieces. But the most sustainable thing is actually wearing what you already have and keeping it out of the waste system.
So I still wear a lot of my old clothes and shoes that aren’t sustainable or ethical, but moving forward I try to only purchase from good brands or secondhand.
The last thing is that you don’t need to be perfect about it. If you buy one sustainable piece instead of a fast fashion piece, that’s great, but you don’t always have to be doing that especially at the start – it’s expensive and an investment.
The goal should be progress, not perfection. Just by making little changes here and there and slowly changing your habits, you’ll make a difference.