The Practical Guide to a Conscious Closet with Christina Dean
To mark the launch of our very own Acey Bookshop, we sat down to discuss ‘slow living’ with each of the authors from our initial offering of titles.
First up is the wonder woman that is Dr. Christina Dean. We met Christina over coffee in East London in a quiet moment admist her busy schedule. It's no wonder why the dentist-turned-philanthropist behind Redress is living life in the ‘fast lane’.
Christina has just added another string to her bow of incredible establishments, co-authoring Dress [with] Sense: The Practical Guide to a Conscious Closet. A breath of fresh air - Christina is candid on her approach to ‘slow living.’ She admits the only thing slow about her life is her closet. We discuss compromise, falling in love with your clothes and the pains of growing your own veg patch.
The Acey: How do you define slow fashion?
Christina Dean: On the surface, the term ‘Slow Fashion’ sometimes feels at odds with most modern lifestyles. I live life cemented for most of the time in the fast lane; high workload, lots of travel, daily deadlines, endless commitments and a loud internal conversation that I must slowdown - when the reality is that for now I can’t. So the term ‘Slow Fashion’ ‘feels’ like it won’t be able to keep up with me - but this is wrong.
The beauty of slow fashion is that you buy carefully designed and made clothes that form a smaller closet of ‘must-haves’ that have both the durability and attitude to keep up with you. I don’t have time to think hard about what I’m going to wear everyday – this essentially feels like a waste of precious time - so my ‘Slow Fashion’ closet allows me to get out the door faster every day!
TA: What inspired you to write Dress [with] Sense?
CD: I was inspired to co-author Dress [with] Sense with my colleagues, Hannah Lane and Sofia Tarneberg, because I had gotten up close, literally, to the problems that countless people were having with their closets. A few years ago, I did a personal challenge to dress entirely from other peoples’ discarded clothes for a whole year, called ‘The 365 Challenge’. For this, I dug through tonnes of unnecessarily discarded clothing in humungous clothes recycling centres in Hong Kong and London, looking for clothes to bring back into the fashion loop.
I salvaged incredible clothes - which took me from boardrooms to slopes and beaches - from the brink of their death by learning how to clean, repair, restyle, DIY them, and much more. Essentially, my one year in these ‘bins’ showed me that people dump clothes for the wrong reasons; and so I wanted to write this practical guide to teach people how to keep their clothes – whilst looking great – in action for longer.
TA: Why did you choose to use illustrations to help convey the ideas of the book?
CD: People often think that ‘sustainable fashion’ is some abstract pursuit best left to the hardened eco warriors and ethical fashionistas amongst us. But we believe that everyone can be more sustainable. So we wanted our book to be very accessible; it’s like a recipe book for beginner cooks! Really, being more sustainable in one's closet and life is very simple, so we wanted the book to be welcoming for many mindsets. Publisher Thames & Hudson commissioned the illustrations to give the book a timeless and lively feeling.
TA: Tell us about some lessons you learned about creating a conscious closet while putting together the book?
CD: I’m often asked ‘What’s the one thing we can do to have a more conscious closet?’ And the one thing, which I learned through co-authoring this book, is that everything starts in the mind. If one wants a ‘Conscious Closet’, then we need to be more conscious, full stop! So the pursuit of a more sustainable attitude to clothes, and to life, starts with an inspired leap of faith to live and act with more thought. For me, fundamentally, the best way I started living with my more conscious closet is that I fell in love with clothes. I love how they make me feel and what they say about me to the world and since my 365 challenge i’m having a lot more meaningful fun with my clothes. Clothes have the power to speak to us – deep down – and I’m enjoying them doing the talking.
TA: In addition to reading Dress [with] Sense, what are some other resources you'd recommend for Acey Women wanting to inform themselves about the environmental impact of fast fashion?
CD: The must-watch documentary to frame the challenges of fashion, if you have the stomach for it, is True Cost. Once you’ve watched this, it will be impossible to look at clothes in the same way. Some TEDx talks that I’ve enjoyed are: - Eva Kruse, "Changing the World Through Fashion," TEDxCopenhagen 2013 - Jessi Arrington, "Wearing Nothing New," TED June 2011 I have also done a TEDx talk on the subject "You are what you wear" in 2014. I also simply LOVE this short film about where our clothes end up; the baffled local Indian women’s reaction to the West’s discarded clothes – and those skimpy knickers – really touched me. Unravel: The final resting place of your cast-off clothing by AEON
TA: Why did you author Dress [with] Sense as Redress rather than under your own name?
CD: Dress [with] Sense was co-authored by myself, Hannah Lane and Sofia Tarneberg. We’re three women with very different approaches to life and clothes, but we all have one similar vision – to inspire consumer change. The three of us worked together for years at Redress, and we became partners in our vision. We’ve therefore attributed the book to Redress because the inspiration and the learnings that went into the book were founded from years of pushing a more sustainable fashion industry through the organisation. I speak for myself in saying that it is through my 10 year legacy of founding Redress that I have shaped who I am and what I believe in.
TA: Do you embody a slow lifestyle in other aspects of your life? How so?
CD: If you knew me well, you’d appreciate that the only thing that’s truly ‘slow’ about me is my closet! When it comes to food I’m quite slow. I’m a vegetarian and I mostly only eat organic and local. I’m currently growing an enormous vegetable garden – there’s a major war going on with the abundance of rabbits here – and our chickens and pigs will be joining the home chaos soon. (Pigs are pets, my daughter in particular crumples at the thought of eating them) The one huge challenge I still have in creating a smaller footprint is my travel; increasingly I can be found at airports around the world, especially now that I’m based between London and Hong Kong. Slower travel is a challenge – I simply don't have the time. So I’m far from perfect. It’s all a compromise; and I’m doing my best!
With Hannah Lane and Sofia Tärneberg, her colleagues at Redress, Dr. Christina Dean penned Dress [with] Sense: The Practical Guide to a Conscious Closet. The book is packed with beautiful illustrations by London illustrator Charlotte Trounce and is split into 4 simple sections, Buy, Wear, Care, Dispose.
Buy dress with sense here.
Follow Christina on Instagram @drchristinadean
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