The Eco Fashionista : A Vest

After a recent purge of unwanted clothes in my wardrobe and inspired by the Perth Fashion Festival ReStyle challenge with local fashion bloggers, I thought I’d start a recurring feature called “The Eco Fashionista” – a term I coined when I first began my ethical clothing journey. The idea is that I show you how easy it is to shop secondhand, upcycle unwanted pieces, buy fair trade and generally shop ethically. I’ll even show you how to incorporate these items into your current wardrobe.

So I’m going to start this off with the humble vest. I found this vest in my local Salvation Army store for $5. Vests are such a great way to accessorise an otherwise boring outfit. You can layer it over jeans and tshirts, a dress or even over work clothes for a more corporate look. Basically it’s a very versatile little item to have in your wardrobe!

When you need something

When you ‘need’ something what is the first thing you do? Just go out and buy it? I’m pretty sure that’s what alot of people do. I like to think of it as “no conscious buying“. And what’s the opposite of that? CONSCIOUS BUYING. Giving great consideration to each and every thing you buy. My Mum mistakes ‘being thrifty’ as buying a super cheap knife on sale at Red Dot. That’s not thrifty because if that knife isn’t going to last it’s not only a waste of money but a waste of resources and will become landfill.

Today I bought a bassinet. It was after a long discussion with my partner and alot of research. It occured to me how much effort I had put into something someone else might have just gone out and bought without the blink of an eye. Having a baby (any day now!) has put me in what must be the biggest consumption period of my life. These are necessities (not just a new dress to wear on the weekend) but every thing I’ve bought I’ve given great consideration to.

If you still don’t understand what I mean, here’s a little glimpse into how my brain has operated for everything I’ve bought.

  • So I think I need X.
  • I research X and decide whether this is something we really need.
  • If I decide it is something we need (not just want), I then research all the different types of options for X.
  • I decide what factors to consider when making a decision for this purchase (eg. quality, colour, cost, storage, duration of use, sustainability etc).
  • I decide whether buying secondhand is an option. If it is, I check the availability and prices brand new and then compare this to secondhand. I check for secondhand via Gumtree, eBay and Op Shops. I also check the prices of hiring. Sometimes you might even be able to put the word out via your social networks to see if anyone has what you need.
  • I take my time and eventually find what I need.

That’s pretty much how my purchasing experiences have been over the last 6 months. It has applied to the new car, the cot and bassinet, the nursing chair, clothes for baby, clothes for me, EVERYTHING.

Someone might say “but it seems harder” – well the benefits far outweigh the hassles. You make a far more educated decision, you usually save money (or at least know that you’re spending alot of money for a good reason) and you can even save the environment.

And you could easily replace the ‘X’ with something like ‘new dress’, ‘bookshelf’, ‘camera’ – you name it, the same consideration should be given to everything you consume.

Awesome Christmas shopping (that you can feel good about)

Oh my goodness tomorrow is December. That means there are 25 days left to do your Christmas shopping! I’ve discussed that Christmas has become a somewhat consumerist nightmare, but I also understand that gift giving at Christmas is a hard tradition to break. It’s more about being smart about your Christmas shopping – and buying sustainable and eco friendly gifts is definitely something to consider.

So, here is a list of great online stores that offer unique gifts that you can feel good about buying:

Eco Toys

An awesome website absolutely full of sustainable and eco friendly toys, clothing, furniture – you name it, they’ve got it. There’s nothing more disturbing than a kids room full of plastic toys (that happen to break far too easily). These are the types of toys that become heirlooms!

(featured above: Bajo mini rocking horseDobbin & Drum teepee & Wishbone bike)


Ethikl is somewhat of an online marketplace selling eco friendly, ethical and fair trade products direct from the artists themselves. There’s a massive range from beauty to bags to home and garden. A great place for unique products.

(Featured above: Melanie Eagleson vintage spoon bookmarksRecycled polyethylene plastic toiletry bag & Osiris Jewellery recycled silver and copper rose ring)

Blue Caravan

Another online marketplace for contemporary handmade, fair trade & ethical products by independent designers, artists and artisans.

(Featured above: Vintage black typewriter key necklacePacific Perfumes & Miss Liliput Tuxedo Top)

Recycled Market

A great online marketplace for clever upcycled and recycled goods. You’ll definitely find something unique here!

(Featured above: Recycled Fashion upcycled zipper broochCreative Thinking Recycled Can Light & Origami Paper Gifts paper bowl)

Rather not shop online?

Not everybody likes shopping online – and if you take any more time you may be pushing to have the gifts delivered before Christmas.

Another great place for gift shopping is local markets – there have been a bunch recently and another still to come for Perth is the Christmas Gift Market, which is part of the Subiaco Farmers Market held every Saturday. This particular market will be held on the 10th of December. For more information visit the Subi Farmers Market website.

I hope this gives you some insight into ethical, eco friendly, sustainable shopping for Christmas – it’s certainly a great time to try new places and best of all find new and unique gifts for friends and family!


Anti-consumerism and Christmas

from the website:

The title of an ABC news article I read this morning was “Anti-consumerism is the new democracy” – it certainly piqued my interest (and thanks to WAste Not for bringing it to my attention). It discussed the case of the Kellogg’s workers who in the 1930’s chose to work less hours a day in order to spend more time at home with their families. They chose family life over more money. The less money you earn, the less money you spend. This article questioned whether this would work and if you earn less money, could you still enjoy life?

I recently, with the support of my partner, changed careers. Well, it wasn’t just about getting a new job as it was about getting a new lifestyle. I work in what we think is one of the first creative co-op agencies in Perth. I now work in an environment that encourages flexibility and a good work/life balance. We have the ability to work from home, drive to work after peak-hour, bring kids or pets to work, and generally it’s a far more relaxed atmosphere. There are no bosses, no politics, no bullshit. The only negative (if you could even call it that) is that I only get paid for the workload I receive, which means no more weekly salary. Starting this system is the hard part, and it meant I had to completely change the way I spent money. In fact, it meant in the beginning I had to flat out STOP spending money on anything other than the essentials (food, toiletries etc). Rather than it being something scary, it’s actually been refreshing.

So, when I saw this article titled “Anti-consumerism…” I was intrigued. Economists freak out at the idea of anti-consumerism, because our society is built around growth and consumption. Whilst I admire people who don’t buy anything new – there is still the need to buy some things. It’s what and who we buy them from that matters.

Here are some of the things that my partner and I have purchased in the last month:

  • Fruit & vegetables from a biodynamic farm (supporting a sustainable, local business)
  • Wood from a salvage yard (supporting a sustainable, local business)
  • Plants from Lullfitz Native Plants Nursery (supporting a sustainable, local business)
  • Body moisturiser from Sukin (supporting a sustainable, Australian business)
  • Face cleanser from Moo Goo (supporting a sustainable, Australian business)

You see where I’m going here.

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s a great time to sit back and think long and hard about what you are going to buy as gifts (that is, if you’re going to buy gifts at all). I have had some horrible Christmas shopping expeditions in the past where the pressure to find the perfect gift for everyone can cause unnecessary stress and overspending. One year, the year I spent the most money, everyone opened their presents at once and 10 seconds later it was all over. Was it really worth it?

No. It’s not worth it. Since then my family decided to set new rules. One year we didn’t buy any presents and instead all rented a beachside holiday house. We’ve also had wishlists and the infamous ‘Secret Santa’. It has never spoiled the essence of Christmas (which for me, is all about spending time with family and friends – and eating lots of yummy food!).

So here are my tips on avoiding unnecessary consumption:

  • Set a dollar limit with your family to ensure nobody unnecessarily overspends.
  • Get everyone to write their own ‘wishlist‘ so that you can all buy them presents that they actually want (and not something that will be thrown in the back of a cupboard).
  • Instead of presents, everyone chips in for something else, like a holiday or boardgames – or something fun like hiring a spa pool or an airhockey table.
  • Buy your presents from local or Australian made businesses. A great place to start is local markets.
  • Buy your presents from ethical/fairtrade stores (like The Oxfam Shop).
  • And most importantly, make sure you take your green eco-bags with you when you go shopping, to avoid bringing home plastic bags!

Do you think you could become less of a consumerist and more of a ‘smart shopper’? If you really want a good lesson then perhaps check out the new Buy Nothing New campaign starting this month for the first time, promoting to (you guessed it) buy nothing new for the whole month of October.

From the website:

Buy Nothing New is not about going without, nor is it Buy Nothing New Never.

It’s about taking October to reassess what we really need, think about where the stuff we buy comes from (finite resources), where it goes (landfill), and what our alternatives are.

It is about conscientious consumption and by not spending on stuff we don’t need, increasing our savings for the things we do need.

If you’re interested in changing your habits, give it a go. Even try it for a week. You’d be surprised how often you thoughtlessly buy things until you’re challenged not to!

So, do you think you could have an eco Christmas? The challenge starts now!

Defining free-range eggs

If you haven’t heard the news, the Australian Egg Corporation this week sent a draft of ‘free-range standards’ to egg producers/farmers which proposes to allow a free-range egg farm to run as many as 20,000 chickens per hectare instead of the industry’s current model of 1,500 chickens per hectare.

Allegedly there are egg producers who falsely claim to have free-range chickens. This is, of course, a great concern to ethically minded consumers (or economically minded – who wants to pay twice the price for nothing?). Whilst it’s great that the Australian Egg Corporation is trying to define what is considered ‘free-range’ and enforce a minimum standard, I think that this number (roughly two birds per square meter) should be the minimum industry standard for cage or barn chickens – but not free-range chickens!

I’m not sure about you, but when I buy free-range eggs I like to envisage chickens roaming an open pasture in the open sun, free to peck at the ground and eat bugs and worms (which is their more natural eating habits – not pellets or grains). This is why I am willing to pay almost double the cost. I realise I may have false hope and ideals in the eggs I am buying – as the AEC have made us aware, without standards producers can make false claims.

So what are your choices?

I haven’t found any online petitions yet, but write to the AEC and tell them what you think. We, as consumers, need to have our opinions heard.

Another alternative is to find an RSPCA approved egg producer, which apparently carries an RSPCA sticker. A list of stockists can be found here.

I’m going to go that one step further – have my own chickens.

My partner and I are currently in the process of building a chicken coop. It’s the only way we know that the chickens will be ethically treated, fed nutritious food, allowed to roam in the sun and most importantly are allowed to live long natural lives hormone free. This will, in return, produce healthy eggs. I’ll be sure to tell you more about this process later – how we designed and built the coop, and how the chickens go!

To read more about how the RSPCA have been campaigning to define the standards for chickens go here. Decide yourself what you think is fair.


Upcycling – old to new

Previously: Recycling clothes.

Continuing my 3things pledge to become an ethical fashionista, I have been on the challenge to discover the wonderful world of upcycling.

Upcycling is the process of converting a somewhat useless product into something of value. In the world of fashion upcycling can also be referred to as reconstruction, refashion or reclaiming. There is even the term ‘trashion’ (trash+fashion).

The best part about upcycling is you can use nearly everything in your wardrobe again and make it into something new. WHY you ask? Why not!? Why not use something you already have and make it into something new? It’s exciting, it’s crafty and there is a definite sense of achievement when you realise nothing went to waste when making that item. Best of all it can be virtually free if you use something you already have.

Upcycling yourself involves at least some basic sewing skills for small things, and a sewing machine for the more complex things (or be willing to pay a tailor or your Mum to do it for you).You can also buy upcycling items which it is relatively easy once you know where to look.

I decided to try both – buy and make.

Buy It

I unknowingly stumbled across buying something upcycled when I was drawn to the colourful dress rack assortment at Pigeonhole to discover the rack was full of old vintage dresses upcycled to better fitted dresses while still keeping with the vintage styling and there were no two fabrics the same. The best thing about these dresses is they were super cute, while still being unique.

upcycled vintage style dress by pigeonhole

I found some great online stores like Enchanted Platypus selling upcycled clothes like this amazing upcycled jacket made from old sweaters. Enchanted Platypus even donates a portion of her takings to her favourite charities.

Image from The Enlightened Platypus

And this dress from Scarlett Charlett made from a mixture of old outfits.

Image from Scarlett Charlett

You can even find bags like this one made by SewMuchStyle, made from old suits.

Image from SewMuchStyle

Make It

When it came to making something I really had to put my creative hat on. I’ve been seeing fabric necklace in magazines lately and decided to give it a crack without really knowing what I was doing! I found an old singlet that had a hole in it and decided to use this. I ended up using 95% of the singlet, cutting it up into strips, plaiting, tying and sewing it together in different spots. I then made some fabric flowers and used spare buttons (you know, the kind you get with new clothes?). Here is my random attempt:

upcycled necklace by Kat

Can you believe that was once a singlet? I’ll admit it’s a pretty average first attempt and would definitely create a pattern next time instead of cutting and sewing blindly like a crazy person, but it was good fun and great practice for hand sewing and crafting and it inspired me to make more attempts in the future!

There are lots of ideas and patterns on the internet, you just have to find them. For example the below singlet was converted from an old tshirt, with instructions on how to make it and step by step pictures included.

Upcycling sewing project from Crafting a Green World

Upcycling love

The best part is, once I gave upcycling an attempt I then started looking at everything as a project-in-waiting. Old clothes, leftover fabric, random objects – anything really. I even started finding other people making things and selling them locally, like the store Oldlove  in Subiaco, who sell all sorts of upcycled items such as lampshades made from things like old My Little Ponys or He-Man action figures or books (like in the picture below), as well as jewellery, accessories and clothes.

Image from Oldlove

So far this has been the most fun eco fashion element I’ve played with. It’s just so exciting to find something unique and amazing that used to be something else entirely.


Next: Fairtrade and Ethically Accredited

Recycling clothes – seek and you shall find

Previously: Becoming an ethical fashionista

The road to my becoming an ethical fashionista has challenged the way I  look at fashion and shopping. It can no longer be about satisfying an immediate want and going to the cheapest fashion store to buy it. I have to consider what my ethical choices are and the first consideration should be looking at what already exists – second-hand or vintage clothes.

Mo Mo's Vintage

With so much waste in the world, fashion certainly contributes with its ever changing trends encouraging people update their wardrobe constantly and subsequently throw away old, out of fashion clothes. But where do these old clothes go? Either the bin (I hope not!) or to goodwill clothes bins for recycling.

Firstly, let’s get two things straight. I might refer to things as ‘second-hand’, ‘recycled’, ‘op-shop’ or ‘vintage’ – what’s the difference? The only difference is, specifically referring to something as ‘vintage’ refers to clothes typically from the 70’s and earlier (and are almost ‘in demand’ for their uniqueness) they are usually harder to source. Most of them still exist today thanks to vintage enthusiasts and people storing bags of old clothes and eventually giving them away! When I say ‘second-hand’ or ‘op-shop’ or ‘recycled’ – despite technically meaning all pre-loved clothes, typically refers to clothes from the 80’s onwards, including relatively new clothes. The reason these ‘new’ clothes have been given to goodwill is probably because they are not in fashion anymore and the owner needed to make room for new fashionable clothing!

There are positives and negatives to buying second hand or vintage clothes. In the positive, you find can find cheap, unique or rare clothes and it’s good to know that reusing something means it doesn’t go to waste.  The only negative is it can take more energy to trawl through racks of clothing, to then hope it’s in the right size and also repair possible damage. Sometimes if it’s really special or rare, it’s not even cheap! True vintage enthusiasts find that it’s all part and parcel of vintage shopping – it’s a treasure hunt.

My recycled clothes adventure

vintage scarf

vintage velvet skirt with neck tie turned into a belt

Walking into a vintage store is like walking into a costume shop – you have to have an idea of what character you want to play and be willing to try a few on before finding the right one – and sometimes you just don’t know where to start. I had fun looking through all the racks without anything particular in mind, I was just hoping something would stand out.

I eventually stumbled across a navy velvet skirt, tried it on and it fortunately fit perfectly. I also found myself getting giddy at the scarves rack (I have an obsession for scarves), and found a great mauve coloured fabric which was the perfect length for a neck or head scarf.  I also spotted some awesome fabric in the way of a neck tie and thought it would make a good belt. All three things cost me $60. If I was to buy this from an op-shop it would have costed even less.

Needless to say, you certainly have to be creative when looking through recycled clothes. I usually browse by fabric, if I see a fabric that catches my attention I’ll have a look at the outfit. It also pays to understand the history of fashion so that when you find something you understand how it was meant to be worn and how you can incorporate it into your modern wardrobe.

A recycle fashion hero

Jessi Arrington

I recently stumbled upon Lucky So and So blogger Jessi Arrington on the ‘ideas worth spreading’ website TED, and her inspirational talk titled ‘Wearing nothing new’.

Jessi, self-confessed ‘outfit obsessed’, doesn’t buy anything new and buys everything second-hand.

“Second-hand shopping allows me to reduce the impact my wardrobe has on the environment and on my wallet, I get to meet all kinds of great people, my dollars usually go to a good cause, I look pretty unique…”

Jessi believes if you believe that you are a good person inside and out, then there is no look that you can’t pull off. She also puts great emphasis on not getting emotionally attached to clothes. To prove her point, she came to the TED Seminars with a suitcase of underwear and only the clothes on her back. She bought every outfit for every day of the seminar from second-hand stores in the area.

“You do not have to spend a lot of money to look great”

What Jessi makes you realise is that buying recycled clothes gives you the best opportunity to dress uniquely. There’s something slightly unsettling about going to a fashion chain and picking up an outfit from a rack of 30 other matching outfits.

Watch Jessi’s inspirational video here:

Swap with friends

If you’re not keen on trawling through second-hand stores, another option is to have a fashion swap night with your girlfriends where you can bring all your unused outfits and swap them with your friends. I once accidently did this with a bunch of girls from work, where we discovered we all had bags of clothes to give to goodwill in the boots of our car at the time, so we brought them all into the office and we went through each other’s bags. It felt a lot less invasive to know where the clothes were coming from.

Another option is websites such as Thread Swap which is virtually the same thing, but online. This involves a straight swap system though, so in order to ‘take’ something you will have had to have ‘given’ something of the same value. It’s still a great way to find people who will truly use your pre-loved fashion items.

Perth vintage

Whilst you can quite easily find goodwill clothes stores (such as ‘Good Sammys’, ‘Salvation Army’ etc), the true vintage stores are harder to find. Here are a few that I know of:

Memory Lane : 768 Beaufort Street, Mt Lawley

She Seldom Blushes : Shop 5, Atwell Arcade (just off High Street Mall) Fremantle.

MoMo’s  : 849 Beaufort St Inglewood.

Lola Rose Vintage  : 42a Old Perth Road, Bassendean WA

Pigeonhole Vintage : Shop 10 Bon Marche Arcade, Barrack Street, Perth

Bluebird Vintage  : 288 Cambridge St, Wembley

You can also keep your eye out for advertised markets such as Polka Dot Vintage Markets and the Sugar Blue Burlesque’s Retro Markets.

The conclusion

Personally, I am a vintage girl at heart loving everything retro. I usually don’t mind going on a treasure hunt for clothes and I love the idea of finding a really unique outfit. But I know that it’s not for everyone and I know that it can become tiring, especially if you’re desperate for a specific item and you just can’t find it.

An alternative to buying second-hand or vintage clothes is upcycling.  Upcycling uses these old clothes and fabrics but reconstructs them into something different (both in retro and modern styling) and this is the next stage of my ethical adventure.

Next: Upcycling