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  • Writer's pictureAtiqah Nadiah Zailani

Zero Waste Clothes

Eliminating, substituting and/or reducing our waste from one too many obsessive, compulsive and impulsive clothing shopping sprees.

I Have Nothing to Wear

I used to be a fan of cheap clothes. The cheaper the clothes, the more I could buy, and the less I cared when I threw them away when they turned out to be a horrible fit. After all, I could easily buy more next month without feeling too much of a dent in my wallet.

My ignorant bliss was interrupted when I found out more about the horrible behind-the-scenes reality of the cheap clothes I was happily buying and wearing (and throwing away). The first hint is the illogical economics of retailers being able to sell things for far less than what it costs to make them - this can only mean that costs have been externalised or ignored in the calculation (particularly long-lasting costs of environmental damage), or that someone else is forced to pay the price (like exploited workers in the manufacturing chain).

Fast Fashion Worker Exploitation

As with all other categories of things, we have been duped into focusing on price and quantity, rather than value and quality. The throwaway culture is never a good one, and the first thing in tackling the waste we produce is to reduce the amount of things coming into our lives.


For a lot of us, the issue is not that we are fashionistas dying to follow the latest trends, but that we simply haven’t figured out our personal style and end up buying anything and everything that catches our fancy without a game plan in mind.

Do yourself a huge favour and take the time to think about your wardrobe. What styles do you like that best suits your figure? What colours make you look good? How many combinations of different outfits can you make with your existing wardrobe? Do you have too many of a particular clothing, or too few? What gaps in your wardrobe do you need to fill, and what should you stop buying?

Adopt a French Wardrobe or Capsule Wardrobe

One way of reducing the amount of clothes you need but still look fabulous and stylish is to adopt a French Wardrobe. The idea is to have just a few classic, never-out-of-fashion pieces that combine well into multiple different outfits. The French are good at this - a silk white shirt, a good pair of jeans, a trench coat, and walla!

French Wardrobe

A basic but versatile French Wardrobe made from just a few number of pieces.

If you're not into looking like the French or loathe monotone get-ups, you can try a Capsule Wardrobe, a more flexible, trans-national take on the philosophy of minimising your clothes but maximising the outfits you get out of them. Building your own Capsule Wardrobe is a lot of fun too!

Capsule Wardrobe

20 outfit combinations from just 12 pieces of clothing.

Buy To Last

Whether or not you adopt a French Wardrobe or a Capsule Wardrobe or stick to a regular wardrobe, the best thing you can do is to purchase quality clothes that will last you a long time.

Say goodbye to fast fashion retailers that sell clothes that are too cheap to make sense that they hope you will get bored of and throw out in a few months. Switch to brands that source their clothes ethically, commit to sustainability and design their clothes to have zero or minimal waste.

Instead of spending the money to buy ten pieces, use that same money to buy one or two that you absolutely love and will wear forever. The less you purchase and the more you use what you have, the less waste you will be producing.

Buy Secondhand or Thrift

Another excellent alternative is to purchase secondhand clothes that are in good condition. I myself enjoy shopping in secondhand or thrift stores, as they are a good source of quality, quirky and interesting clothes, and every now and then you may even find a surprise in the form of designer items!

Secondhand Buying Pledge

Pledge to buy more secondhand clothing!

Buying secondhand will return the clothes into circulation rather than having them end up in a dumpsite, and gives the clothes another chance to serve its purpose.

Host Clothes Exchanges

If you have similar-sized friends, consider hosting a Clothes Swap event where all of you bring your clothes and swap with each other. This is a super fun way to occasionally add variety to wardrobe without spending a cent and if you find it you don’t actually like it, you can return it back to the friend!

Clothes Swap Party

This could be you and your friends having fun at a clothes swap party.

Regift or Donate

When your clothes no longer fit you or no longer represent your personal style, you can be sure that it will fit someone else out there who may be looking for the exact thing you have. Consider gifting your good clothes to friends and family with similar build and style who would appreciate it (don’t just dump on them unwelcome!), or donate them to charity.

Repair or Repurpose

When your clothes tear, don’t just chuck them out! With a needle and thread, clothes can easily be mended and altered to suit you. If you don’t have sewing skills (which, by the way, are very easy to learn), consider sending them to a tailor who will know exactly what to do.

Patching up a pair of jeans

If the clothes are beyond saving, try repurposing them instead of throwing them away. Turn them into accessories like bags or handkerchiefs, or any other creative ideas you can do with a piece of cloth. If the clothes are in horrible condition, turn them into rags for you to clean with.


Scraps of clothes (from craft projects or altered clothes), due to their small sizes, are very difficult to salvage, but not impossible. There are various creative projects one could make with the littlest bits of cloth (link).

If you’re not up for any crafting, here’s some good news (at least for KL-ites): The Hive collects clothes and fabric you no longer need.

Cloth or Fabric drop at The Hive



Achievement Award: Take the minimalist approach - adopt a minimal wardrobe, a French wardrobe or a Capsule Wardrobe. Maximise your outfits with just a handful of good quality pieces.

Points For Effort: Buy to last, buy secondhand, regift or donate your clothes and repurpose old clothes to give them a longer life.

Um, Maybe Not: You’re a fashionista and can’t imagine changing any of your clothing and shopping habits? That’s okay, continue as you do, and find some other waste to eliminate! Check out other recommendations here.

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