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Fashion

Sustainable Fashion 101: The Aarika Lee Guide To Eco-Friendly Dressing

If you thought that beginning a sustainable fashion journey means a total overhaul of your current wardrobe, think again. We got Female Collective member and eco-enthusiast Aarika Lee to shows how going green can be as effective as editing what is already in your closet. Easy, no?

Aarika Lee is no stranger to conscious living. The mother of two and co-founder of local branding agency Elementary Co has steadily infiltrated sustainable practices into her everyday life over the years – from simply toting around reusable cutlery to making a decided effort to shop less. As for when exactly her drive to start living green began? “I’m not sure I can pinpoint an exact moment but I know that once I had my daughter Zola Mae, I started to be more conscious about the way I was living.”

Fast forward to today and Lee is as passionate about sustainable fashion as she is about environmental welfare. Followers of her IG account (@aarikalee) will know that there are dedicated highlight tabs in which Lee addresses the pruning of a tree in her neighbourhood, the tragic burning of the Amazonian forest and links to where one can shop conscious food and lifestyle products.

A quick scroll through Lee’s grid also reveals an affinity for brightly-coloured headwraps, laidback flowy dress and easygoing separates – often from eco-friendly clothing labels. “(Lifestyle brand) Matter is always at the top of my list. I love the way they share the journey of the garment from the artisans’ hands to us and how they try to remind us daily that we need to be more conscious about the way we consume. Olive Ankara (the fashion label is known for its African wax printed fabrics) is also one of my favourites for all the amazing colours that are available and I love that all the offcuts or leftover material from the garments are then made into earrings, headwraps and shoes.”

Despite her lifestyle choices, Lee is quick to remind us that big changes often start with small, seemingly unnoticeable shifts. And while a complete overhaul may be tempting  –  a great, manageable place to start is in the clothing choices we make. Here, Lee shares six easy tips (some don’t even require you to shop) for you to start your eco-fashion journey.

Swap your clothes
“One really simple way to start dressing green and feel like you have an extended wardrobe is to have a sister (or friend) whose clothes you can also fit into. Ever so often, consider finding friends who are open to a clothes swap for a month or so. This reduces the need to feel like you need to buy new clothes when you get bored with what’s in your wardrobe.”     Swap your clothes
“One really simple way to start dressing green and feel like you have an extended wardrobe is to have a sister (or friend) whose clothes you can also fit into. Ever so often, consider finding friends who are open to a clothes swap for a month or so. This reduces the need to feel like you need to buy new clothes when you get bored with what’s in your wardrobe.” Rent your clothes
“Sometimes we just want to wear something new and not necessarily own it. We have some great wardrobe rental services available to use right now so why not use it? We get to dress up with great outfits, and then we can send them right back when we’re done. This way we also save wardrobe space and we don’t have to do laundry. That’s so many wins! Here, I am wearing an Alice McCall dress from local apparel and bag rental platform, Style Theory.”     Always try to mend your clothes before anything else
“We all have our favourite “everyday” wear pieces. I have some pants and denims that I’ve had for years that fit so well I never want to let them go. They’ve had to be mended on several occasions though: the zips, tiny tears from being worn out and even alterations. Before you throw out clothes you think have run their course, why not take them to a trusted tailor to see if they can give it new life? A great example are these Zara pants I’m wearing that I love – but first, I had to get them taken in.” Shop consciously
“It’s hard to completely run away from fast fashion brands because what they do offer us is really cute outfits for an affordable price. What you can choose to do is to shop their conscious lines instead – for example, H&M’s Conscious Exclusive or Zara’s Join Life collections. This lets brands know that we appreciate their efforts to move towards a more sustainable approach on fashion. You’d also be surprised at what kinds of materials can be recreated into beautiful fabrics. Everything from orange rind, to pineapple leaves, to recycled plastic bottles. I am always amazed. And if you do purchase from a fast fashion brand, try to pick items you know you will wear for a long time.” Support local conscious brands
“When we purchase locally, we also reduce our carbon footprint since things can be delivered locally instead of being air-flown or shipped. There are many fashion conscious brands available to us now like local brands Matter (the ultra comfy jumpsuit I’m in) and Olive Ankara, so why not show them love?” Support local conscious brands
“When we purchase locally, we also reduce our carbon footprint since things can be delivered locally instead of being air-flown or shipped. There are many fashion conscious brands available to us now like local brands Matter and Olive Ankara (where my top and earrings are from) so why not show them love?” It's okay to repeat
“We always think we need to be in something new but there’s no shame in working the same look if it works. I realise that I don’t really need a lot in my wardrobe to feel like I’m dressing up everyday. Find what works for you, and be ok with sticking to it. It’ll really help you cut down on the need to buy new things and it’ll give you room to invest in the pieces that you really want and love and can wear for a long time.”