Four years ago, I was done talking. I wanted to start taking the steps our planet needs to thrive. As long as I can remember I was interested in fashion. Interest doesn’t cover it. Love. Obsession comes closer to the truth. As a four-year-old, I decided pants are no longer fashionable. It had to be a dress or a skirt. I stubbornly refused to wear any pants, even leggings. To avoid these when it was cold outside and adults tried to make me wear them, I convinced friends in kindergarten to hide with me inside the bathroom, when the other kids went outside to play. Daily. When I was eleven one of my favorite activities was to go through catalogs for hours and hours to pick out clothes. As soon as I was old enough I started working in a retail store selling clothes. I loved helping people pick out outfits and showing them unconventional choices. I grew up in a small city so by the time I left home I have worked pretty much in every store there was.
pile of my clothes
By the time I had a drivers license my favorite activity was to take my friends, drive to the next big town, and go shopping. When you asked my friends about my style you’ll get very diverse answers. One friend told me ones that it’s like the story of the ugly duckling that became a beautiful swan. It was often eccentric and different. Which inevitably lead to many questionable fashion choices. When I moved to a big city, shopping was limited due to the financial situation of being a college student. As soon as I had my first job though, money was no longer an issue. I was able to fulfill myself every fashion wish I had. When I changed my career to sustainability research, it took quite some time to really grasp the connection between sustainability and my shopping habits. And even when I grasped it, it took even more time to actually take action. In the beginning, the action was limited to buying clothes in certain shops that I considered “evil”. Learning and understanding more I noticed though that it wasn’t just about WHERE and WHAT we buy. Shopping second hand or at sustainable brands is a great first step. But what this doesn’t change is the underlying notion of what fashion has become. What’s even more questionable is WHY we buy. I got more and more interested in the underlying psychological effects of fashion. Yes, fashion has been important to people for a long long time. But never to an extend like today. Today, marketing determines our relationship to fashion. It tells us: “We need fashion in order to look good. And we need to look good because otherwise people are not going to like us and we are never going to achieve anything in life.” The message works so well, that we don’t even question this belief anymore. In my search for answers, I started doubting, and I started asking, and I started making changes and aligning my lifestyle. My first step was to reduce my wardrobe to a capsule of 25 pieces. It was nice, but it didn’t change anything about the energy and thoughts that I put into fashion. I am aware that my relationship to fashion might be more extreme than it is for most people. Although, when I stroll the street of Berlin on a Friday afternoon, it seems like the world is shopping. Going back and forth from having a capsule to wearing whatever, I went a step further. Inspired by the uniform project, I decided I’ll wear the same dress for a whole year. From my birthday onwards in 2016, I wore one dress (which I had twice to wash it). Every day. I wore it to weddings, interviews, presentations, hiking, partying, hanging out on the couch, to a fetish party, to birthdays, to walks, to meeting friends, to meeting colleagues, on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Me, wearing the same dress for a year.
And by the way, the compliments for my outfit didn’t stop. Yes, the people I saw regularly didn’t tell me how great my dress looked every time I saw them. But people that I had brief encounters with kept giving me compliments. One woman said“Thanks for reminding me again to take care of the way I look”. When I told her that I wear the same dress for a year, we both started chuckled. After the year, it took me almost three more months to wear something else again. I didn’t know what to wear. But eventually, I did change into different clothes. Jeans, t-shirts, long dresses, skirts. And I seemed to be back at where I started. It took me not even another year to figure out that I am done with following the standard guidelines of fashion. This time, I decided to make a final decision. This time, I decided to wear the same dress for the rest of my life. I made the decision around October 2017. In contrast to wearing a mass-produced dress from the rack that fits ok, I decided to have a tailored dress that fits my body, as well as my social and ecological standards. I worked together with talented designers and tailors from a small atelier in Berlin. The fabrics were kindly donated by a producer in Italy, who follows high social and ecological standards whom I told about the project and who loved the idea. Since the beginning of January 2018, I am wearing the same dress. My aspiration in this lifetime is to reframe how we approach fashion. From rack to individualized.
- It’s not fast - it’s slow.
- Personal style is made by oneself - not by the industry.
- The world is colorful if we truly express who we are by individualized fashion.
- Anything from the rack is boring.
- Individualized fashion is cheaper in the long run, because it doesn’t require constant renewal.
- Even if we don’t have time to think about fashion, it’s easier to invest one day to have something custom made that you can replicate for the rest of your life whenever you need to, than constantly keeping up with the ‘new style’.
- It’s art.
Me, turning my back on the fast fashion industry.
by André Groth