I Didn't Shop for A Year: My Experience as a Fashion Designer
I survived a fashion detox.
For many it may sound ridiculously shallow; a founder of an eco-friendly brand struggling with living on a minimal range of clothing…
Let me take you back to how it all started for me. Why I founded STARSEEDS and how I’m trying to make a difference in my personal life to become more responsible of the impact I make on the planet.
I wasn’t always an eco-warrior. Growing up in post-communist Eastern Europe my generation had a big craving for colourful fashion and for the abundance in general. It all came to us much later than the rest of Europe.
Shopping for fashion used to be one of my favourite indulgences. Fashion is my background. It was the love of my life in my teenage years and early twenties, a vast source of inspiration, and I am sure it will remain a big part of my creative work for as long as people will continue wearing clothes! Even though my lifestyle has changed, designing clothes or patterns is always what sets my heart on fire. Working in fashion gave me an opportunity to empower people who didn’t have a strong vision of how they wanted to look, but knew they wanted their style to express their personality. I love art and I love people, so, fashion was a natural choice to work with the two.
In the yoga industry, I often come across the opinion that yogis promoting fashion are going against the values of yoga, because it’s such an artificial layer of our existence. As well as of course, the sad direction the fashion industry took, allowing high street brands to use cheap labour in sweat shop factories. But I will defend the core of fashion. Let me share with you my ongoing journey to making and consuming fashion in a more sustainable way - meet a fresh yoga teacher who is and will remain a fashion designer for life.
Creative and conscious functional design, that is durable and sustainable is what I think we need more of in this world. I believe it’s not fashion itself that is the problem, but the way we produce and consume it today. Throughout history, people have decorated the body for rituals, to signify belonging, to celebrate. It is an undeniable human need for self-expression and in a way, a paying of respect to the body.
According to traditions of yoga, the way we decorate our bodies is an expression of one of our five pranic energies that are governing the human body. It’s called Udana Vayu and it’s responsible for the way we express ourselves to the external world, including the way we move, the way we sound and how we dress. So, if you are a person with passion for art and design and very much in touch with your fifth chakra, it doesn’t mean you are not a true yogi, perhaps you’re just a stylish one. I encourage you to not deny this part of your culture and lifestyle, but instead, stay conscious and curious, and mould your fashion choices to reflect your values. Be your true authentic self in the way you consume fashion.
I’ve been a part of the fashion industry since before my first degree, the journey started 17 years ago, when I took my first steps as stylist assistant. Learning that skill together with studying Fine Arts gave me a good foundation to begin seriously thinking about designing clothes. I moved to London where I could learn from my idols. I worked in the Print Department at Alexander McQueen and then graduated from Tailoring at London College of Fashion. For the past seven years I’ve been slowly developing my own clothing lines, starting with NAVADA - which was all about quality, durability and timeless design to then launching sustainable activewear through STARSEEDS.
The fast pace of London city life, made me constantly seek balance. I believe the biggest luxury of our era is the quality time that we spend with our loved ones and with the self, often indulging in a physical activity. Very often we don’t have time to travel back home and change what we wear. So, our fashion should be a response to those needs. In my opinion - we need less clothing, just more versatility. That’s why STARSEEDS is a lifestyle brand with yoga in its DNA. And that’s also why I’m constantly revisiting my own wardrobe, asking myself if I still need all of those structured, uncomfortable heavy clothes that need extra care and space in my closet.
London, being a cultural capital and home of a creative crowd promoting individual style, is sadly a good example of this over-consuming fashion drama. The majority of the consumers buy cheap, fast fashion to wear it just for one event and bin it after. The slow fashion trend is a solution to heal this imbalance. I don’t think it will be possible for everyone to wear designer clothing, but in my ideal world, there has to be more designers and brands creating durable, quality clothing and slowly this shift to sustainable fashion will put pressure on high street brands to become more conscious. The shift is inevitable for the industry, but we need to change the way we consume fashion too. So why not to make it a fun challenge?
What I Learnt From A Year of No Shopping
Being a proud owner of conscious clothing line at the end of 2016, I set myself a task to not buy any clothing/shoes/accessories/etc for a one whole year. STARSEEDS is an expression of my true values, from the materials we work with to the connections we make with the people in our supply chain. In my personal life I was also supporting the designers and brands with the same values, or simply buying quality clothing, but I still felt the need to reduce the amount of things I buy.
I started by writing down some rules, “In 2017 I will not buy any clothing or accessories either new or second-hand. I can’t accept any gifts from my friends and family with these items.” I made two exceptions in my contract, “While travelling I can buy one piece of a local jewellery and one piece of functional clothing in case of unexpected circumstances.”
The first quarter of the year was easy. It was just one season in trends and thanks to my work, I have access to what might be the “it” item a season or two ahead, and so I’d tend to wear what I designed for the future seasons. This didn’t feel quite right, so I added a new rule to my contract: “I can’t wear anything I am designing for STARSEEDS future collections.”
In 2017 fashion trends changed massively. The biggest change was going from the tight fitting bodycon shapes, to the wide legged trousers and loose-fitting tops. They were out there before but in that particular season the oversized trend overpowered everything else. So, I started feeling a bit self-conscious, as a big part of my closet was fitted styles. I thought people would not trust me as a designer, if wasn’t representing the latest trends.
It was a difficult moment, but quickly, I realised how important it is to keep it simple and stick with your true authentic style. I believe that’s exactly what happens on any sort of detox. And when you pass that moment, when you simply break your own pattern of self-doubt and self-judgement, it creates space for building a new belief system.
So, my solution for this crisis was simply becoming more creative with my wardrobe and redefining my personal style. One of the benefits of a daily yoga practice is getting to know yourself better. The other is clearing up your space, knowing what you want and what you don’t need. My daily yoga practice helped me a lot throughout this clearing process.
Then Fall/Winter season hit. It was the perfect time to focus on my health and go deeper within myself. I suddenly had so much more time to invest in my own development – I hadn’t noticed before just how much of my life shopping had occupied!
The fashion detox was one of the most valuable experiments on my sustainable journey so far, because it revealed my weakest points when it comes to living sustainably. I’ve learnt how to be even more careful, selective and conscious of my choices. I’ve had to restructure my wardrobe and introduce the rotation method; I now try to hide a piece for a season or two so I can fall in love with them again.
The next chapter of this journey has just started now - we moved with STARSEEDS to Bali, so I gave away lots of clothing that I no longer need in this new climate. But instead of throwing them away, I gave them to my loved ones.
Sometimes letting go of things is giving them new life.