Everyone loves to shop — that’s an undeniable fact. With fashion brands mushrooming all over the world, we tend to fall into the current fashion trends, and end up throwing new clothes to our wardrobes. That is, until we realize that we have no space left for our new items.
Jasmine Tuan, a former shopaholic who transformed into a zero-waste advocate, knows too well that something was wrong when her addiction to shopping loaded up her wardrobe, and yet, she still thought that she had nothing to wear.
Jasmine firstly broke her vicious cycle of shopping by the end of 2017. At that time, she was managing an event space that was rent for the first ever Zero Waste Festival in Malaysia, an organization that drives a turning point in her life. Inspired by the movement, she decided to take a step into a zero-waste journey in 2018, and therefore becoming a vocal force of minimalistic lifestyle up until now.
Not only encouraged by the zero waste movement and community, her transformational journey began when she started to open her eyes to the real scenes behind the fast fashion industry. With the clothing production that has nearly doubled in the last 15 years, the industry has been going in a really fast pace – almost too fast for the consumers to realize the negative impacts they have created: environmental degradation, child labor, and modern slavery. Though the truth may not be comforting, but the clothes that we use and buy comes from the voiceless children and women, oppressed by the exploitative system of this profit-driven industry. Some of us might think that we are giving people in the third world countries "better job opportunities", as we think that working in a clothing factories are way better than being sold off in the sex trade. But, there is nothing good about not having your rights as a labor—as a human.
Realizing these insights, Jasmine—who was a deep fashion lover—felt completely betrayed by the truth. For her, fashion should be fun and playful. It is about mixing and matching; it is about the style and taste. But, knowing that her passion has caused a lot of sufferings to others, that’s when she knew that she had to stop.
“It is called modern slavery and it is not fashionable at all. I would rather wear nothing and be naked, than to cause suffering of others,” she says.
Through this process of transformation, she has been living with the magical formula of 5Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. First of all, we should say no to the things that we don’t need, especially single-use disposables like bags, straws, cups, and many more. Then, we should reduce what we need, by simply getting clear about what we actually need and cutting back what we don’t need. Moving on to the next step, we can switch up our disposable items for reusable alternatives—we can play along with our creativity! Next one, we should recycle what we cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. Finally, we should rot or compost the rest.
Implementing this principle, Jasmine’s past addiction to shopping slowly turns into a minimal obsession. Her current goal is to downsize all of her clothes to a 7 kg duffle bag. Living in simplicity has become a healthy addiction for her. It not only minimizes waste drastically, but it also gives off a light feeling. The less she has, the lighter she feels.
“If you truly want to be free, let go of something that weighs you down. I’m always holding on to my things and my possession (mostly clothes and products). When I think about it, it’s just things. I can't even bring them with me when I die.”
For Jasmine, shifting to a zero-waste lifestyle has not been easy. Being a fashion enthusiast as she is, she needed to practice a lot of self-control to overcome her desire to shop. Jasmine stated that although it is difficult, but the step that we need to take is actually simple: do not enter into any fashion store. Instead of stepping your feet inside a clothing store, just go to a coffee shop instead, for example. When the idea of shopping pops up into your mind, keep reminding yourself that you already have everything that you need in your wardrobe. You just need to use them. Take a good look at your wardrobe and use what you already have. If we keep telling ourselves that we want to buy more beautiful pieces of clothes, there are endless of it out there. We cannot own all of them. We have to let go of our desires to want them because after all, shopping is just like an addiction. It is an addiction that are the same as abusing drugs, smoking and drinking alcohol. Shopping is an addiction that nobody really talks about, because it's good for the economy, it's good for business. And when something is considered as an addiction, it never ends well.
However, living a zero-waste lifestyle doesn’t mean that Jasmine should stop her love and passion in clothes. Looking up to ‘The Buyerarchy of Needs’, she believes there are many creative ways to experiment our fashion style. Based on the theory, instead of buying, we should firstly use what we have. Moving on to a higher level, we can also borrow, swap, or thrift clothes. The second highest level is to make clothes, and the highest hierarchy is to buy clothes. If we must buy new clothes, buy less and invest in better quality which last longer. Therefore, we need to maximize our effort in fulfilling the primary levels of the triangle instead of buying a new one.
Inspired by the ‘buyerarchy’, Jasmine created a side project called Rent My Wardrobe. It is a project that encourages people to rent instead of buying, so that more people will stop contributing to the consumerism cycle in the fast-fashion industry. Other than that, she also created Blackmarket, a retail concept store that pops up as a preloved store. This store allows the visitors to feel an atmosphere as if they are walking into someone’s wardrobe, while trying on many different fashion items. This project started in Malaysia, on September this year, with the preloved clothes exclusively collected and curated by Jasmine herself.
Throughout her continuous efforts to implement a zero-waste and minimalistic lifestyle, she hopes that this can create a change to our society, as well as to our planet. With the earth getting hotter day by day due to the waste, she mentioned that a lot of big, unwanted changes in our environment will come if we don’t change our habits. Changing our habits may feel inconvenient, because great change comes with a great discomfort. Changes also happen when we are in the most uncomfortable state, but it is a sign that we are stepping out of our comfort zone to make an impactful change to this world. We should see this discomfort as a positive challenge rather than a barrier. As a change starts from our mindset, it means that we need to rethink about our lives: our consumption, habits, lifestyle, and perception.
After all, it is not the clothes we buy that will define us – but it is our actions and results that will define who we really are. As we only have one planet to call home, it is our contribution that will also define the future of our earth.
(red dress) Jasmine Tuan is wearing Zero Waste fashion label: Starting Point, designed by Sandy Ong Sin Yee, Shot by Mirabelle Koh.