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A Guide to Improving Your Wardrobe’s Lifespan

With the need for sustainable fashion solutions growing with urgency, The Style Sheet looks at how to prolong the lifespan — and life cycle — of our wardrobes across different stages. With some expert input, of course!

Paris Fashion Week FW19/20
Paris Fashion Week FW19/20

BUILD A WARDROBE OF TIMELESS STAPLES


By investing in high-quality staples that’ll never go out of style, you can ensure your wardrobe essentials will get a workout for years to come. Hong Kong-based fashion stylist Adele Leung tells The Style Sheet that ‘classic items that aren’t limited by trends’ are her priority when it comes to shopping. Here, Adele shares her top high-rotation investment pieces.


1.Trench coat

‘A trench coat is functional for wet and windy weather, but it protects so stylishly.’


2. Silk blouse

‘A silk blouse adds an elegant touch to workwear.’


3. Classic handbag

‘A classic bag says a lot about the woman who carries it — she’s much more than her clothes and she knows it.’


4. Double-breasted blazer

‘A double-breasted blazer with an accentuated waistline is the most professional thing on earth, a synonym for working women.’

Stella McCartney FW19/20
Stella McCartney FW19/20

SHOP MORE SUSTAINABLY


The number of sustainable fashion solutions is on the rise, offering customers more choices when it comes to shopping mindfully. One of the leaders is Stella McCartney, who champions a strictly animal-free and environmentally conscious product line. Other brands focus on recycled materials, such as FREITAG, which creates robust, one-of-a-kind designs made from recycled truck tarp, plastic bottles and fully compostable textiles. You can also look to pre-loved clothing consignment stores for luxury and contemporary pre-loved goods. Hong Kong-based options include HULA for women’s clothing and Retykle for kidswear. Outside of fashion, there are lifestyle and food concept shops such as Edgar that present a new way to purchase bulk foods and eco-friendly products.


Founder of Hong Kong-based sustainability platform All In – Asia and sustainable living advocate Tanja Wessels has taken a bolder approach — withholding from buying any clothes in two and a half years as part of her mission to dress mindfully. She tells The Style Sheet that the change has been liberating. ‘I’ve become a lot more relaxed about “fashion rules” since I started going to Burning Man five years ago — I’m a lot more experimental, and things I wear out there, such as unexpected colour combinations and loud patterns, are well received in Hong Kong — so, it pays to gamble! I rely a lot on good-quality, long-sleeved button-up shirts. I wear them with almost everything, so I guess they take a beating.’ As for Tanja’s biggest takeaway from the process? ‘Healthy self-confidence lets you wear almost anything beautifully, so in many ways I feel I’ve simply returned to myself.’

Clothing hanging on a line to dry

WASH, STORE AND FIX ITEMS PROPERLY


This is an easy way to prolong your wardrobe’s lifespan. While The Style Sheet has outlined the basics below, if you’re looking for even more hacks, Tanja tells us she’s found plenty of good tips from the book Dress [With] Sense.


Sweaters

Wash: Synthetic, acrylic and cotton knits can be washed and dried on a gentle cycle in cold water. Regular wool shrinks, so hand-wash it in cold water. Despite what it might say on the tag, cashmere is best washed by hand in cold water with baby shampoo or a gentle detergent. To dry, gently squeeze it and lay it flat.

Store: As moths can be attracted to scents like perfume and deodorant, clean your sweaters before storing them for long periods. For the rest of the year, fold and store them in drawers and avoid hangers, which can mess with their shape.

Fix: You can fix small rips and holes yourself with a sewing machine. If you don’t have one, try taking them to a dry cleaner.


Denim

Wash: Wash jeans inside out in cold water on a delicate cycle, or by hand. To preserve the colour of dark jeans, add a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the final rinse cycle.

Store: Fold them and store them in drawers.

Fix: To fix a hem, head to a tailor or dry cleaner. Keep a pair of old jeans and use the denim for patches on your new jeans — or keep the holes open and embrace the distressed aesthetic.


Leather

Wash: For real leather, wash it by hand with mild soap, focusing on scuffs and marks. For faux, spot treat it with delicate soap. Hang it to dry.

Store: Hang leather jackets on a well-shaped hanger in a dry, well-ventilated closet.

Fix: As leather is a heavy fabric, all misplaced stitches will show, so don’t try and fix it yourself — enlist a tailor. Let a professional cleaner clean your leather jacket once a year, too.


Coats

Wash: Heavy coats like wool ones should be dry cleaned at the beginning and at the end of the season. The rest of the time, remove light stains on wool by blotting it with cold tap water or soda water.

Store: Empty the pockets to remove sagging and use sturdy hangers so you don’t stretch out the shoulder area. Try not to cram them into your closet, as breathing room helps the material stay crisp.

Fix: Using a felting technique, bond new wool to the coat and hiding the hole. If you’re not a pro at sewing, leave this to the experts.


Gym Gear

Wash: Machine-wash technical workout clothes in cold water, with a little extra detergent if needed. Air-dry spandex and Lycra to help maintain their elasticity.

Store: You can’t really go wrong if it’s dry and out of the sun. Hanging and folding both work.

Fix: Lululemon offers free on-site hemming on their tops and pants, no tags or receipt required. Take other brands to a tailor for repairs.


Shoes

Condition: If your dress shoes or leather shoes are particularly filthy, wipe them down with mild soap on a damp cloth. For sneakers, shake two or three tablespoons of baking soda into each sneaker, which will soak up excess moisture and odour.

Store: Stuff shoe trees inside them so they keep their shape.

Fix: Most store-bought shoe polishes are fine for keeping everyday leather shoes looking their best. It’s usually the soles that go first, so take them to a shoe repairer for resoling.

People shop for pre-loved clothing
Image courtesy of Redress

ALWAYS GIVE CLOTHES A NEW HOME


According to Christina Dean, founder of environmental fashion NGO Redress, ‘There’ll be times when you’re sick of some clothes, and no DIY-ing, re-styling or visiting a tailor will make you fall for them again. For these, dispose of them sustainably! Never throw them out. Depending on how high-quality they are, you could swap them with friends, sell them via consignment stores both physical or online, or donate them to charities’ collection containers. There are hundreds of large outdoor used clothing containers for donations, and even retailers like Zara have in-store collection containers for used clothes. Redress receives all of the used clothing donations that are donated within Zara stores in Hong Kong and Macau, and we work tirelessly to transform unwanted clothing to benefit the community.’

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