Thanks to the pandemic, it is easy to lose yourself to fast fashion and shopping mania these days. But there is a better way to cope with lockdown boredom: nailing sustainable fashion 101. Experts Saul Velásquez Umanzor (aka Prince Saul), founder of Re-Love Campaign, and Cemre Oktay, founder and designer at Cemre Oktay studio shared their insights with NBN on recycling, the future of fashion and eco-friendliness. Follow these six pieces of advice, next to which, you will find a number of trees indicating levels of sustainability.

1. Clean your closet 🌲 🌲 🌲

Try on each dress, sweater or jacket with someone who will tell you to “Drop it!” every time you look unsure about a piece. Whether you donate it, sell it or exchange it, that garment will make someone happy – and will be “re-loved,” says Saul Velásquez Umanzor (aka Prince Saul), the 28-year-old founder of Re-Love, a backyard thrift boutique in San Jose, Costa Rica. “We all have stages with our clothes. We go through the process where we are obsessed with a certain item, and we wear it all the time. Then for some reason, we don’t wear it anymore.”

2. Revive old clothes 🌲 🌲🌲 🌲

If you can’t give up on an item you don’t wear anymore, revive it. Crop T-shirts, add zippers to dresses, sew patches onto jackets. “There is so much potential to old pieces,” Prince Saul said. “When a new item comes into our store, we think about how to give these items a new perspective.” Prince Saul encourages people to experiment. “There is always something you can do,” he said. “You can play with it. You can give a new life to it. Worst case, you can use it as a piece of art. Recycling is the future, and there is no going back.”

Me, sewing wooden colored buttons on an old shirt to revive it. Photo by Louise Munise / North by Northwestern

3. Go thrifting 🌲 🌲 🌲

Second to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world. So rock new outfits, or even transform your closet, but shop mindfully. Thrifting lets you buy apparel with style while spending and wasting less. When it’s not safe to go out, try online options such as, a peer-to-peer street wear fashion marketplace, or, a retailer of vintage clothing. But be careful — the act of thrifting has become increasingly gentrified and trendy, which can disallow low-income individuals from purchasing the low-priced clothing they need. So, if you're purchasing clothing from Goodwill just to hike up the prices and sell it from your own Depop shop, you're doing it wrong — that's gentrification.

Still, “second-hand shopping is the next fashion,” according to Cemre Oktay, founder of Cemre Oktay Studio, an independent sustainable brand that uses dead-stock fabrics –  leftover fabrics of other brands and factories who overestimated their needs – for its limited edition collections. Oktay says thrifting peaked during the pandemic as the production cycles of major brands halted, and the industry adjusted by selling pieces from earlier seasons. “This phenomenon surfaced the idea that archive is cool,” she said. “Fashion is psychological and the new-is-better mindset is broken.”

Oktay at an atelier in Istanbul and the dead-stock fabrics on the table. Photo by Louise Munise. / North by Northwestern

4. Delete those shopping apps 🌲 🌲

Consumers tend to buy more when they shop online. In fact, online purchases have baskets that are 25% larger than purchases from physical stores on average, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review by Jeremy Sporn and Stephanie Tuttle. With more apparel brands going online and launching applications, you may find yourself constantly scrolling through clothes and buying items you don’t need. Just delete those apps, lift the burden off your wallet and the environment – and feel liberated by lowering your screen time.

5. Buy from eco-friendly brands 🌲

If you want new pieces, shop from places with a minimum carbon footprint and a green objective. Check the “about,” “more info” or “sustainability” pages of the brand websites. Or purchase from environmental organizations. At the World Wide Fund for Nature gift store, you can get sustainably made panda T-shirts and socks covered with sea turtles, and contribute to wilderness preservation.

“The term sustainability is a marketing tool for most fast-fashion lines and not a genuine concern for the environment,” Oktay said. “If you just mass produce considering the trend of that year, the extras that aren’t sold will obviously turn into waste the next year. Design houses and small sustainable brands prevent this by establishing their target audience and by tracking the quantity of items being sold.” Good examples include House of Sunny (if you’re not on a budget) and Rent the Runway, an online service that provides designer dress and accessory rentals (if you are), Oktay said.

6. Download and use Ecosia 🌲 🌲

This Berlin-based search engine invests most of its profits into planting trees and owns solar plants to power its searches with 100% renewable energy. Ecosia reports that with over 15 million active users, it has raised enough money to plant more than 113 million trees and to empower local communities in Colombia, Indonesia, Morocco, Tanzania and 14 other countries. Add Ecosia as a chrome extension, download its app and remove some CO2 from the atmosphere while you shop online.