Flanders’ first sustainable stylist wants to make your closet a better place
Fashionista Yana Gaevskaya advises her clients on how to shop for clothes that are not only trendy, but also ethical and sustainable
A curated closet
When did you start going green as a stylist?
In 2014, I stopped buying clothes – a clear indicator that I wasn’t feeling OK. Seriously, I love fashion, and I love shopping, but something about the whole clothing industry was making me uncomfortable. I asked myself ‘Do I really need so much?’ The answer was obviously no, and that’s when I discovered sustainable fashion and decided to make a lifestyle and a career out of it.
What does sustainability mean in fashion?
Words like ‘sustainability’ and ‘ethical fashion’ have been used so often that they have become almost devoid of any meaning. That’s why definitions are important. Sustainability, for example, can be seen in three ways. First, there’s environmental sustainability. The resources used to make clothes are not infinite. If you want clothing to be sustainable, you need to look at materials that last longer and have less of an ecological impact, such as organic cotton.
Second, there’s economical sustainability. Brands have to make a profit, or it becomes impossible to pay employees fair wages. This is connected to a third aspect: social sustainability. High-street chains sell their clothing at prices that make it impossible for workers in Third World countries to earn a living wage and cover even their basic needs. Sustainable fashion is sold at a fair price.
That sounds expensive.
Yes, sustainable fashion is more expensive than what you would buy at a big chain store, but the whole point is to buy fewer disposable, low-quality items that you end up throwing away after one season, and more high-quality clothing to cherish for years to come. In that sense, shopping sustainably is actually less expensive, because you don’t need so much stuff.
How do you make a wardrobe sustainable?
I start by looking at what my clients already own. Sustainability isn’t about replacing all your old clothes by new, eco-friendly brands. Rather, it’s about creating a capsule wardrobe that fulfils all of your needs, which leads to less shopping and less garbage. I call this curating your closet. In the event that clients do need something new, I advise them on brands that are sustainable in every sense of the word.
What does a ‘curated closet’ look like?
A curated closet is your ideal wardrobe. It’s what a clothing store catering specifically to you would look like. You’re the only person who can decide what should be in it because no one knows you better than you know yourself. But as a stylist, I’m there to help. The first step towards a curated closet is always the realisation that buying and owning stuff will not make you happy. The second step is evaluating what you already have and what is still missing.
We need to create a concept for your wardrobe and then get rid of pieces that don’t fit the description. Not just throwing them in the trash, but donating them to friends, charities or second-hand shops. The final step is investing in pieces that will make everything work: neutral items like a white shirt or a great camel coat that can be easily combined, preferably from sustainable brands.
Where does one find these brands?
If you want to shop sustainably, you need to be willing to shop online since there aren’t that many eco-friendly clothing stores in Belgium yet. One of my favourite virtual addresses is California brand the Reformation. Their slogan is “We make killer clothes that don’t kill the environment”, and they are 100% transparent about their materials and mark-up.
If you do prefer real-life shopping, Juttu in Antwerp, Bruges and Roeselare is a must-visit. This eco-friendly chain sells more than 100 brands that respect people, animals and the environment.
Is sustainable fashion anti-trends?
Not per se. Sustainable fashion is anti-disposable, but since trends are cyclical and make a comeback every few years, it’s OK to buy trendy pieces as long as you keep them for future wear or find a way to incorporate them in your wardrobe after the hype has passed. You need to curate them, so to speak. The most important thing is to think before you swipe your credit card. But by all means, you don’t need to stop shopping!
Photo courtesy Yana Gaevskaya