In December 2021, 6 DWF colleagues from across the business and I took on the 30 Day Fashion Remix Challenge. We committed that for the entire month of December we wore only 30 items of clothing which we selected before the month commenced (jackets and pairs of shoes included).
The challenge was inspired in light of COP26, and as a responsible business, sustainability is high on our agenda. We wanted to find a different way to engage our colleagues, even whilst working from home, and raise awareness of the environmental impact of fashion overconsumption. The aim of the Fashion Remix Challenge was to:
- make the most of, and reuse, our beloved and pre-beloved items;
- reduce the amount we buy and all processes involved (manufacturing, packaging, delivering);
- save money and time by wearing what we already have and support the circular economy and;
- have fun whilst challenging ourselves to be creative with our clothing choices.
After speaking the team who took part in the challenge, these were the top 10 lessons we learned:
1. The Challenge – I own that many clothes?
Some of us struggled with deciding what clothes to choose, especially as December brings along many opportunities to socialise. Our colleagues experienced it all – from Christmas and New Year events, to birthdays and bereavements. The main challenge was to fit only 30 different items during the coldest, most socially demanding month of the year.
Some were faced with the fact that we have way more clothes than we thought. Although all of us are doing our best at making good decisions, we were confronted with the amount of clothes we have, and we continue to buy. To quote one of our participants, '50% of the wardrobe wasn't used in the past 18 months'.
2. The Lack of a Challenge
Whilst some of us spent a considerable amount of time on the 30th of November choosing our items for the challenge, some colleagues with a more minimalist fashion approach had a smoother time. Having more staple items to choose from and a dislike for shopping, made it very easy for some of us to participate in the challenge.
The direct benefits on a personal level were clear to all of us: no more decision fatigue in the morning of what to wear! Whilst some would try on a few outfits before finding 'the one', this month everything was very simple. Some were creative with their choices – mixed and matched chosen items and saved a lot of time thinking of what to wear and what to buy overall.
4. Lifestyle & Culture
We all agreed that nowadays' lifestyle and culture, as well as living in a fast-fashion era have become normalised. Many want to keep up with the latest trends, celebrities and influencers, especially when we are often being marketed at on social media, email and so many other channels.
It seems that younger generations could be more influenced by fast fashion, whereas as you age you are less concerned about it, as the pressure to confirm disappears. We talked with pride about items that we have had for 5 to 20 years and still wear. It is time to ask ourselves why we don't really want something anymore over something new.
As it was December, the UK Christmas Jumper tradition was the perfect example – some colleagues highlighted that it has only become a popular tradition in the past 10 years – so do we really need to buy a new jumper we only wear once every year? How about starting new traditions, such as swapping existing Christmas jumpers?
5. Working from Home
The challenge was easier on us all, especially as we have been working from home – we don't need as much variety in our closets, especially if your role is not client facing.
However, this brought a very interesting point – is there a scope to change how we view wardrobes and professionalism? Do we judge someone differently if they are wearing a hoodie on camera as opposed to a shirt?
In November, DWF chaired a round table discussion on the topic 'Has the pandemic changed the way we dress for work forever?' where we discussed how we perceive one's aptitude by the clothes one wears and if this is fair, as well as how this may be different from one role to another. It will be interesting to see how our perception to clothing will change, as blended home and office work are becoming a more natural part of our working lives.
6. Is it a need or is it a want?
Do you ever open your closet and think – why did I ever buy that? So did we.
Many of us realised we have items that look the same – a black top, but with different writings or logos and different fits. Some of us also realised we have items we rarely wore since we bought, and that we don't have a staple set of clothes to easily go to.
We made a point of asking ourselves when we are ready to click buy or pass the card – Is this a need or a want? More than anything, the Fashion challenge remix raised our awareness to focus on our real needs and to appreciate the items we already have.
7. Sustainability – Can you stitch?
The topic of clothing sustainability could be a series of books, documentaries and miniseries. We discussed about the sustainability of our choices when it comes to clothing, but three topics were very relatable:
(1) When an item has a defect – rip/small hole – do you fix it yourself, go to a seamstress/tailor or do you throw it away? – Learning how to stitch and where our local seamstress/tailor instead of throwing a piece away and buying a new one may be the way forward.
(2) The fast fashion footprint is even more prominent in the COVID/post COVID era – on top of the environmental impact of a garment and the amount of resources that go into producing this (which cannot be understated), we have the return process. We used to walk to a shop, try something on and buy it. Now we have a vehicle delivering an item to us, we can return it and another journey is made to re-deliver our item, increasing overall the carbon footprint.
(3) Implications of disposing of clothing items – how many garments end up in landfill instead of being recycled, especially when some clothes are made up of polyester, nylon and other plastic derivatives.
After the challenge had ended we recognised that some of us are targeted in one way or another by ads selling us something we may not need, but once we see it on a platform or in our inbox, we may want the specific item (clothing/ accessories/ gadget/ etc.). This is happens to be very prevalent during sale seasons – Black Friday/Cyber Monday/January sales.
What some colleagues found useful was to unsubscribe from mail newsletters, unfollow accounts that led to more spending, and be mindful of how advertising and influencers are affecting our shopping decisions.
9. Let's talk money
Overall, we all saved money this month. Why? We didn't buy any new outfits. Unless there is a real need and purpose for buying something, why do it? Overall, we need to be more intentional with our purchases and what we spend our money on.
Quality over quantity was a big theme in our conversations. Ideally, it would be great to invest into something better and more sustainably made, that you will have for a longer time. This may not be financially possible for everyone, but choosing items you can wear again and again over something you can only wear once, will save money in the long run.
My favourite metric (as the finance representative of the group) is price per wear. A £10 t-shirt you wear once is more expensive than a £45 t-shirt you've been wearing regularly for the past 7 years.
10. Change in habits – 'It's time to use what we have, better!'
We all agreed – it's time to appreciate what we have and normalise loving the items we have. Be grateful for the wardrobe you have – you bought it for a reason!
Now the challenge has concluded, some of us are speaking to friends, challenging assumptions about shopping and one of our colleagues has written an article for her local newspaper about the Fashion Challenge. Most of us are also going to do a 'mindful decluttering' exercise and create the capsule wardrobe (one which has the most versatile items we will love to wear again and again), and be more mindful about buying clothes going forward considering:
- quality over quantity;
- is this a need or a want? And;
- price per wear
Overall it was a very interesting conversation to have with our colleagues. Whether the month was a challenge or brought us awareness, we all reconciled with the fact that we have more than plenty items of clothing. Collectively we need to be more conscious about how we use our resources and whether we really need those new items of clothing.
Andreea Virban, YP, Invoicing Improvement Lead and Chair of DWF's Sustainability Group.