Araceli Gallego, a former Hospitality Project Manager, started Dubai Fashion News to channel her love for fashion and creativity. More or less at the same time, she started a personal journey to lead a more sustainable life and that included her closet. After struggling to find good options in this market, she decided to launch Goshopia. A unique marketplace where fashion is linked with Sustainability and Social causes all while keeping Style and Quality as center stage. We speak with her about sustainable fashion and why is it so important.
IS THE FUTURE OF FASHION SUSTAINABLE?
It better be! We are depleting the natural resources and that is not economically sustainable in the long term. In the past, fashion had a very different cycle. Our grandmothers used to get their clothes done on demand by tailors and seamstress or even themselves. The change to the actual model is kind of recent but the damage that is causing will stay with us for long if we don’t do something about it.
This change is not going to be easy. There are many actors playing different roles and we need all to do our part.
1. AS CREATORS/DESIGNERS AND PRODUCERS. There should be a strong commitment to improve supply chains, and to reduce environmental impact. At the same time, ensure that the working conditions in factories are fair and safe.
2. AS PUBLIC OPINION, MEDIA AND POLICY MAKERS. We have to give visibility to the situation and do something about it.
3. AS CONSUMERS WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR BEHAVIOR. A good starting point is to consume with more awareness. Try to buy less but of better quality and make it last by taking care of the products. We have to be aware of the power of our choices.
IS IT JUST A TREND OR IT IS HERE TO STAY?
It might be still early to say, but I hope it is not just another trend and actually becomes the new norm if we work hard enough.
Probably, it will take a while to shift to a more sustainable lifestyle because we already got used to this “disposable” fashion where we can have many pieces that cost close to nothing. We will need to change the way we think about fashion and understand what is behind each garment.
The good news is that many brands and companies have started already to shift their ways. Talking about the consumers, we can see that in some countries, sustainable consumption is more developed. Education is key in this. True that there is a part of the population that might not be able to afford sustainable fashion at the moment, but if it becomes the new standard, the prices of producing sustainable will drop and will become more accessible for everyone.
WHAT ARE THE SUSTAINABLE PRINCIPLES THAT SPEAK OF A SHIFT IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
There are different ways to enjoy a more sustainable fashion production and consumption, according to Dr Anna Brismar from Green Strategy. We tried to address some with Goshopia, some are already addressed by other fellow entrepreneurs.
1. On demand & Custom Made. This is what I called the Super Slow Fashion and it is something we will be introducing in Goshopia very soon.
2. Green & Clean for all phases of a
product’s lifecycle or simply put, the Sustainable fabrics and processes. Our second S. Besides Goshopia, you can also see Future Fashion.
3. High Quality & Timeless Design which is the base of Goshopia as we don’t follow trends, but the creative talent of our selected designers. The pieces are curated to be of the highest quality and are meant to last a lifetime if properly cared for.
4. Fair and Ethical, like traditional production, artisan crafts and animal rights. This chapter is our third S the Social Responsibility. If you are Vegan, you can check Address Chic.
5. Repair Redesign & Upcycle. In Dubai there are many sewing and mending workshops. The last one was organized by Fashion Revolution.
6. Rent, Lease & Swap.
7. Second Hand and Vintage.
These last two you can find in Retold, an amazing shop I invite everyone to go and check. As for rentals, you have TheMode.ae or Designer24.
As you can see there are countless possibilities for every demographic and for every pocket. By making the right choices we are all helping, and every little thing adds up, contributing to the bigger picture. If someone is not up to reuse or recycle, a first step could be to focus on the quality and timeless design.
Another important issue is what we do once the production is finished. How we treat the leftovers of production, the production we didn’t manage to sell or the items that were once made use of but are no longer desired.
Sometimes huge packages of clothing are sent to communities that may need them but still, we should be aware of the specific context because these products may end up being discarded and end up in landfill. For example, often times winter clothing is sent to countries with high temperatures.
WHAT ARE THE POINTS TO BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION FOR AN IDEAL ECO-RECIPE FOR FASHION?
There is not an ideal recipe. I came to terms with the fact that we have an impact whether we like it or not. Yet, there are things we can do to reduce it. For example, at a personal level, the first step is to change our mindset. Do we really need to buy 3 t-shirts? Are we just buying so many because they are on promotion? I always ask myself a set of questions every time I am tempted to buy. My mental mumble goes like this…
Do I really need it, or I just want it?
If I still want to buy it, how many times will I be using it? I have to picture myself wearing it multiple times for me to even consider it. If, for example I need it for a particular event like a wedding or similar, I rather rent or ask my friends if we can swap a dress. If the dress I have in front of me is still calling my name after all this questioning, then I go – How does it match with the rest of my closet? Can I use it as it is, or will I need to go buy more stuff to be able to style it? Is it easy to wash and take care of, or not?
All this can happen really fast in your mind when you are buying conscientiously. And trust me, it makes a difference. Initially, you buy less, but also you start buying with a more discerning eye. Now quality is paramount for me and I stopped looking for trends and found my real style.
And one very important thing is that we need to stop thinking that our contribution is too small to be important. It is important! Very Important! Our choices give or take power. Make sure your choices reflect your true values. In my case, Creativity, Sustainability and Community are my core values. They are important for me. I wanted to support the emerging designers and make sure the environment and the people doing our clothes are respected.
IS THERE AN INCREASING NEED TO CREATE LINES THAT REPURPOSE USED MATERIALS AND SHOWCASE NEW ONES THAT HAVE NEXT-TO-NO ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT? WHAT EFFORT IS BEING MADE IN THAT DIRECTION?
Yes, there is, and we need to get more creative as still we haven’t found the perfect solution. For example, we heard a lot about the plastic micro fibers found in clothes made from synthetic materials such as nylon or polyester. We have not yet found a way to get rid of them, so instead of sending it to the landfill and waiting 200 years or so for them to breakdown, let’s give it a second life by turning it into something else. I agree it is not perfect, but it is better than nothing. When it comes to organic cotton, it is true that as no pesticides are used to produce it, we are not damaging the environment but at the same time to get the same amount of cotton it is required around 200% more water as the yield per plant is less.
CAN YOU NAME A FEW DESIGNERS WHO ARE WORKING IN THIS DIRECTION?
Many designers and brands are embracing the sustainable movement internationally but, in the region, they are just barely starting. Here it is more common to find slow fashion, which is a good beginning as there is less waste. On the sustainable front, I like what Martina Wyss, Bav Tailor and Studio Asanawa are doing. In the region we have sustainable accessories like Marie de la Roche, or Richmond Works all using vegetable tanning to create their beautiful pieces. I also want to mention Yara Bin Shakar, Ferzin Irani, Helena Bajaj Larsen and Zaid Farouki.
HOW DOES GREEN FASHION IMPACT YOUR CLOSET? IS IT ‘FASHIONABLE’?
Well, it does impact your closet. Not only that, it also impacts your mind and your soul. You will understand the story of every garment and piece you own, and you can be proud to be wearing your values. All this doesn’t mean you lose in style. With Goshopia, I want to change the stereotype of Sustainable fashion. Right now, Sustainable fashion is perceived as very loose linen clothing that you can wear for your next holidays or to hang out with your friends. But there are very chic and elegant options that are sustainable, and you can take to the office, to the next Board Meeting or to very special occasions. It is what I call Sustainable Style.
FASHION AT YOUR PACE
GO + SHOP + UTOPIA
Araceli Gallego is the founder of Goshopia.com, an online marketplace for slow and sustainable fashion. Designers or brands that want to be part of Goshopia needs to follow at least one of their 3 S´s:
• Slow Fashion (meaning no mass production, meaning less waste)
• Sustainable Fashion (whether the fabric or the process to produce is not damaging the environment)
• Socially responsible fashion brands (if they support a good cause, if they do follow fair trade requirements and are ethical fashion brands)
There is also a 4th S- Style. Goshopia wants to break the stereotype of sustainable fashion being just comfortable clothes to relax or go to the beach.
Images Courtesy: GoShopia and Laurena de La Torre (@dubai.female.photographer)