Sustainable fashion tips | Make My Wardrobe Work
Check out our interview with Make My Wardrobe Work. Are you interested in sustainable fashion tips? Do you love being stylish but also want to be sustainable at the same time? Check out some tips from our sustainably stylish fashionista 🙂
Tell us about yourself!
Sheryl: I have been in Hong Kong for about 12 years (since 2010), as is the usual story, the corporate I was working for transferred me to the HK office on a two year secondment! Still here and now with two children born in the 852, my career has pivoted. I am a passionate advocate for sustainability within the fashion and retail sector.
I have worked in the clothing retail industry, in a variety of roles from Buying, Sourcing, and Product Development for over twenty years and I absolutely love clothes. I definitely have shopaholic tendencies but manage them in a more sustainable way these days.
What inspired you to start your Instagram promoting sustainability and write a book?
Having worked in the industry for many years, I have seen first hand what goes into producing the clothes we buy. My commitment to becoming part of the solution compelled me to write this book. I am a big believer in small changes by many creates positive impact. The book empowers everyone to become a more savvy, stylish, and sustainable shopper.
I founded Make My Wardrobe Work, a HK based wardrobe editing service in 2013 to help women love and wear the clothes they already own. Helping women bring back to life pieces they already owned never fails to make me happy.
I began to understand the enormity of frustration around clothes shopping and styling that many women face. I feel this combination of experience leaves me well placed to explain how our clothes are made, worn and bought.
Over the years I have became frustrated at the increasing numbers of people who treat clothes as disposable. My time spent with charities and NGO’s showed me the horrendous reality of what happens when things are thrown ‘away’.
I wrote the book to share all my knowledge and to educate people about what sustainability, when it comes to clothes, actually means. There is so much misinformation around, I wanted to empower consumers to question what they are buying. I also wanted to reassure readers that our actions can make a difference.
My Instagram is a way to demonstrate that dressing well doesn’t have to mean buying the latest trend and always buying clothes that are ‘new’. It communicates what is going on in the sustainably stylish space in Hong Kong and at times further a field.
Sustainable fashion tips: How can we be a conscious consumer?
Great questions, simple answer: Start small and start now! I am a big believer in the idea that every little bit helps.
Before you buy anything, ask yourself if you really love the item and if you will wear it forever? I’m really happy to see the media start to a talk about Forever Fashion. The notion that what we buy will be loved, worn and cared for over a long period of time then passed on for others to enjoy wearing when you no longer want it, I talk about this a lot in my book but for that to be possible, the items must be of good enough quality to stand the test of time. In essence a case of quality or quantity.
Often when I want something I see if I can get it second hand, the most sustainable option is often using the clothes already in circulation.
Sustainable fashion tips in Hong Kong
Hong Kong doesn’t have quite the same circular fashion community that other global cities have, but without a doubt it has hugely improved over the last decade. When I arrived it was almost impossible to get anything second-hand, which is why I started running ‘Frock Swaps’. These clothes swapping events have raised many thousands over the last decade for local charities. I have acquired some of my favourite pieces from this event. Fingers crossed we can get back to hosting soon.
There are now so many places to shop sustainably from the permanent boutiques such as Hula (My personal favourite. Sarah and her team are incredible at helping you to find the perfect thing). As well as regular second hand pop ups hosted by Redress, for children’s clothes Retykle do a great job. There are also many Facebook pages targeting different groups, with the advent of mail order people often buy and can’t be bother to return and so sell cheaply to avoid the waste. Also the Cathedral second-hand shop Castaways has some gems if you look close enough and often enough! And [second hand clothes from] Green ladies, [with physical stores] and ships across the city, honestly so many I must write a blog post on this!
Always donate your unwanted items but when asking someone else, especially a charity to sell on your behalf, ask yourself, “would I gift this to my best friend?” If the answer is no, then do not give to them. I have written an entire chapter on this topic as it is so critical that we discard out unwanted items responsibly.
What are your insights to sustainable fashion in the future?
Sustainable fashion is not easy to define, it is a nebulous and often contradictory term, it is not black in white. It took me an entire book to break it down!
Education is key, the more we understand around the subject the more likely it is that our consumption behaviours reflect our values. We have the power to demand change, if we stop buying from companies whose values do not align with our own then retailers will have to adapt and improve. Money talks.
The Fashion industry hates to be out of fashion, it’s up to us all to dictate the new trends in consumerism. People are starting to realise the merits of buying less and buying better and of course of buying second hand.
Can you share your entrepreneurial journey? Is this your full time job?
I’m not an entrepreneur, and wouldn’t want to be! I enjoy working freelance on lots of retail projects, the book was self published and it was a huge risk to invest in it. I am really proud of it and would do it again, but if I had known what a challenge it would be at the start, I probably wouldn’t have begun.
What's the most important thing you've learnt after starting this journey?
1) Done is better than perfect
2) Don’t beat yourself up, just do your best
3) It’s ok to change your mind, or say I don’t know enough about the subject to make an informed comment. We live in a society where it is often encouraged to take sides or dissect topics as black or white. The reality is, life is much greyer than that.
Memorable stories of revamping people's wardrobe
Hard to pick a favourite, clients that I saw a few times over a period of time were always fantastic as you can see their style evolve and how they shop their own wardrobe change.
Every single wardrobe I have edited has at least one item with the tags still on – I went on to write about why this is in the book. It fascinated me that so many people buy clothes that they never go on to wear. Spoiler – often they were purchased in a sale!
If you could make one rule that everyone has to follow, what would it be?
Think before you buy.
If you could make one rule that every fast fashion brand has to follow, what would it be?
Be transparent and make a start to improve.
What's your favourite fashion brands?
If I buy new new I usually buy Whistles, I always wear it for years and years and it lasts. I adore Mulberry handbags and have started buying them second-hand. I have ended up with quite a few Maje and Tibi items through second hand sales and swaps and they are always great for my body shape and style.
Any styling tips and fashion hacks you can share with us?
Chose your outfit the night before. You are more likely to spend a few extra minutes curating it and adding accessories.