Green by Design (GbD) contacted me to publish an article on a “Summer Light Challenge” they are hosting where people wear only 10 pieces of their wardrobe all summer or 10 pieces during their summer vacation. My first thought was “I wouldn’t encourage anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself, so I need to look into this a little more.” I didn’t think a wardrobe could be limited to 10 pieces, so I checked out their website and saw the testimonials and examples of people who have started the challenge themselves. This actually made me feel more capable of doing the challenge. I contacted Celestyna Brozek, the Editor of Green by Design and a local fashion designer, for additional details that would help inspire me and others to take the challenge.
Celestyna already has chosen her 10 pieces for the summer. On her blog, she states “I continue to have strong conflicting feelings. One the one hand I feel huge relief and abandon and on the other hand I feel petulant and grumpy, like someone took my toys away” This article includes the 10 pieces she chose for summer.
Michele: What is this challenge all about and why for the summer?
Celestyna: Green by Design is a Bay Area online publication and eco-fashion showcase that is taking their commitment to consume less into a summer challenge. Inspired by Earth Day, we’re challenging ourselves and our readers to pick just ten garments, accessories and underthings not included, and wear only those garments the entire summer: 10 pieces for 91 days or the “lite” challenge which is 10 pieces for 1 vacation. It made sense to do this during the summer, as it’s a time of simplicity and carefree days.
Pieces that can be worn individually or layered to change up an outfit.
Michele: What type of impact to you think this will make?
Celestyna: Our hope is that those who join the challenge will gain a better understanding of their signature look and style, allowing them to shop smarter with a keener eye for pieces they’ll truly love in the future. It’s about consuming less, making do with what you have, simplifying your daily fashion equation and identifying the MVPs of your closet.
Michele: What are the benefits of scaling down to 10 pieces for the summer (i.e. does this impact the environment?)
Celestyna: It does impact the environment but I think it might be a draw. On the one hand, so many resources go into producing new clothing, even if it’s made eco-responsibily. Therefore, by not buying anything new, you are reducing your carbon footprint. However, you are also probably going to do a few more washes than usual…so maybe you are using more energy and water. For me the challenge isn’t so much about carbon footprint as it is about regaining a normal, intelligent relationship with clothing – making sure you buy clothes that meet a need and define a style instead of just whatever the flavor of the day is or whatever catches your eye without thinking it through – How will it fit into your wardrobe? Does it really look good on you? Etc.
Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Don’t forget the outerwear!
Michele: What inspired the idea of the 10 item challenge?
Celestyna: I was inspired to do this by two things – Vogel’s ten piece collections (http://www.parkvogel.com/) and the Uniform Project (http://www.theuniformproject.com/). Also, I really wanted to free myself from fashion a bit. It’s what I do all day, I obsess over it. I thought, “Summer should be about fun, friends and family.” Your clothes should be able to pull their own weight without you micromanaging them. Do I think 10 pieces is practical? No. But are fasts practical long term? It’s like a fast that is done for personal fulfillment. This challenge is done for many of the same reasons.
Michele: Most people think that they need to buy seasonally or purchase new items that designers are coming out with. Would this conflict with the challenge of supporting local designers?
Celestyna: This definitely supports the fashion industry by encouraging people to buy conscientiously and not mindlessly. People need to think through their purchases. These days I never buy something on first approach, no matter if there’s an awesome sale or if it’s one-of-a-kind. I always leave it, go home and figure out if it has a place in my wardrobe. If I can’t stop thinking about it, I’ll get it. I find out with most things, I’m glad I didn’t buy on impulse.
Celestyna: “I’m already coming up with outfits I never would have stumbled upon if not for these restrictions.”
Michele: How can we scale down our items and support the industry at the same time?
Celestyna: Here’s how to support the industry: let the designers charge more because it’s a lot of work doing things sustainably and with quality, buy less – two or three items per season instead of 30. We need new clothes and new things and it’s fine to consume. Just do the same things we are asking the designers to do. They’re busting their asses trying to be as sustainable as possible and shoppers should have the same responsibility. Think about what it means to buy clothing in a sustainable way.
Michele: Have you always been eco-conscious yourself?
Celestyna: Of course! How can we not be? I find ignorance difficult and blatant disregard is even more frustrating. Does it make life harder to live sustainably? Yes. It’s not intuitive, there is a learning curve, we have to change our habits and make the effort to educate ourselves. We have to remember to wash our reusable mugs and take it with us instead of getting a latte in a paper cup. Recycling – we have to pick the correct bin instead of chucking something thoughtlessly. So what? At the end of the day I can live with myself. I’m trying. How can you not? We owe it to ourselves, to everyone else and to future generations. I’m not perfect. I still shop at Zara and I still forget my mug, but I do my best instead of doing nothing at all.
Celestyna’s last 2 items. Plan ahead for evening wear for special occasions.
Michele: How did you get involved in the organization and how is it impacting your design career and the way you live?
Celestyna: Since starting at GbD, I’ve met a lot of really cool people who have pushed me to examine the way I live. They are doing really awesome things and are walking examples of an eco-conscious life. I’m always inspired and always learning new things. I love it. Since starting at GbD, I’ve become a vegetarian and have really become aware of my waste and consumption.
Designing sustainably is very different than conventional design. It requires way more thought and examination. With conventional design, you’re thinking, “Shit, I have to do 30 pieces in 2 weeks! Does it look pretty? Is it on trend? Will it sell?” With sustainable design, you’re thinking, “How can I reduce waste/energy in the manufacturing process? How can I convince the customer to hold onto this longer than just a season? When they finally get rid of it, what can I do to make it recyclable, reusable, biodegradable, to keep it out of the landfills?” And, ON TOP OF THAT, since it’s probably a higher price point than non-eco competing garments, “Is it MORE beautiful? Is it on trend in a clever original way? Will it sell?” There is a lot of thought and strategy involved in the designing sustainably.
Michele: How would you describe Green By Design and its mission?
Celestyna: Our mission is to educate, and to try to incorporate sustainability without sacrificing beautiful design and luxury. Hemp and muddy colors don’t cut it. You shouldn’t be guilted into buying something ugly because you’re trying to be responsible. Sustainable design needs to be even more beautiful than conventional fashion – and it will be, because it’s designed with a lot more thought, care and depth.
People don’t respond to guilt and shock – they respond to beauty and value. It’s the whole honey vs. vinegar argument. I agree with novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Beauty will save the world.” Fashion can do good by seducing people into being responsible.
Summer has already officially started, but it’s not too late to get involved in the GbD Summer Light Challenge! Either you can choose 10 items for the rest of summer or 10 items during your summer vacation. Send pictures of your items and a description of your personal experience to Green By Design to be published on their website. For additional details and blog entries on people that have started the 10 item challenge, check out the Green By Design website http://greenbydesign.com/ and their Summer Light Challenge blogsite: http://www.gbd-slc.com/.