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What is zero waste fashion, and how to create a capsule wardrobe

Written by: Hendrik

Category: Fashion, Zero Waste

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In halting the environmental impacts of fast fashion, it is crucial to adopt waste reduction-focused solutions such as the slow fashion movement and zero waste fashion.

There is no production of new things without waste. But the concept of having a green planet and the zero waste movement is more about mitigating the harm to the earth than anything else.

Zero waste fashion can be using recovered materials and taking responsibility for a clothing’s end-of-life by companies and designers OR building and using patterns and cutting techniques for the design process of clothes that leave no trash behind.

Going by a simple dictionary explanation, zero waste means generating little or no waste during the process of manufacturing. And similar to other zero-waste use cases, zero-waste fashion entails reusing and forming a circular system that produces no trash.

zero waste fashion

One thing is paramount in both explanations – the need to reduce waste generated from the fashion industry, which accounts for the second-highest waste contributor to the environment.

Sustainable brands achieve zero-waste fashion by cutting waste from the production stage of clothing/accessories.

Why Zero waste fashion?

The move for sustainability in the fashion industry has brought about several movements. While there is a clamor for the reversal of fast fashion through the slow fashion movement, the Zero waste fashion looks to reduce the amount of waste from both the production/pre-consumer and the post-consumer stages.

You will be amazed to learn about the statistics on textile production year-round.

Textile Production

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A lot goes into the production of new clothes. Currently, the world consumes about 62 million tonnes of textiles per year.

How is it possible that we produce that much fabric in a year?

A large amount of textile production yearly is not just a lot but also unnecessary, given that about 50% of fast fashion clothes are trend-led pieces disposed of within a year.

But, the bigger question is, where does all this textile end up?

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Textile waste

The first line of textile waste starts from production or pre-consumer waste. About 15% of the textile gets discarded during the cutting process.

It means that when we cut patterns for our skinny pants, denim skirt, sweater dresses, jeans, cashmere sweaters, or simple t-shirts, we waste 15% of the textile.

We produce 62 million tonnes of textile yearly only to lose 9.2 million tonnes of the same. Sounds obscure, right? And it is tragic to discover this number is only from the cutting process.

11 affordable eco swimwear brands to check out this summer.

How can a brand achieve Zero waste fashion?

The garment production process of fashion brands can achieve Zero waste fashion in two ways.

The Zero Waste Design

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In prehistoric times, wasteful habits were frowned upon because people worked close with raw materials, and resources were less attainable. They made use of zero-waste cutting techniques to reduce textile waste.

Recently, gifted designers are making incredible design patterns that reduce the amount of fabric waste from a traditional one.

The majority of patterns made from improved cutting techniques make it impossible to produce waste.

Zero Waste Production

When textile waste persists, designers can reuse excess fabrics in other pieces.

Fashion is inclusive of smaller accessories like handbags or bags and shoes. It is common for brands to use excess fabric on other fashion items.

Another way to achieve zero waste production is to use excess fabrics to create packaging items.

A more circular fashion industry is possible, and zero-waste fashion brands are paving the way.

While the designers and fashion brands work round-clock to emerge with zero-waste techniques, we also have a role to play as consumers.

This post will teach you about 11 brands you probably didn’t know support ethical fashion.

How can I be stylish without waste?

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Adopting a personal lifestyle of ethical fashion habits is a sustainable approach to reducing waste in fashion. On another note, you also save money!!!

When you buy clothes only to be worn once and discarded, it makes up the bulk of textile waste found in landfills.

Adjusting to a personal style of zero-waste as a consumer can help reduce waste in the post-consumer zero-waste fashion.

Some simple ways to achieve this are to create a capsule wardrobe, buy secondhand clothing and accessories that already exist, and mix outfits in your current wardrobe.

Let’s learn how to build a capsule wardrobe out of a few foundational pieces of clothing.

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

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A capsule wardrobe is a collection of classic pieces that allow for versatility.

Jeans knitwear, a dress sleeve or blouse, jackets, and dresses that are worn, mixed and teamed, dressed up or down, and enhanced with creative and individual additions that make you feel alive, confident, and uniquely you.

A capsule wardrobe serves as the building block of your closet.

It means having a curated, versatile wardrobe that is suitable for different seasons, times, and occasions and not a one outfit per one event lifestyle.

Benefits of a Capsule wardrobe

A simple capsule wardrobe tailored to your style comes with a few great benefits:

  1. Less decision fatigue with a capsule wardrobe in place, you have less clothing, and you can easily choose which clothes you want so that you do not feel rushed when making a decision. By doing this, you have automatically solved half of the problem of thinking of what to wear every morning, and you do not have to dig into piles of clothes.
  2. Create different looks with the same clothes you want to be able to use your capsule wardrobe for different purposes. The clothes can be matched with different items so that they have different appearances suitable for all kinds of events that may happen.
  3. A more sustainable capsule wardrobe can be a durable and efficient way of navigating your wardrobe. You mostly have old pieces that will last you the rest of your life and never fade from fashion. Capsule wardrobe owners cherish and value fashion items in their closets because they invest in quality pieces that last longer.
  4. Save money. You could save even more money! When you wear capsule clothing, you don’t have to shop much as your clothing pieces are easily interchangeable and flexible. You can wear them on multiple occasions.

Is a capsule wardrobe worth it?

Having a Capsule wardrobe helps you decide what to wear quickly and is more efficient, meaning no worries about the clothing. It can reduce your wardrobe and help you be intentional about purchasing things. You can say goodbye to always giving in to impulse buying and a new lifestyle of priority on investing in quality clothing that will last.

It also assists you in maintaining the cleanliness of your closet. With a capsule wardrobe, you get an organized wardrobe devoid of unworn pieces hanging around.

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Essential Items to Include in Your Capsule wardrobes

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The rules for numbers do exist. Typically capsule clothing consists of anywhere from 10 items or 80 pieces for a curated wardrobe.

Some schools of thought suggest that 50 things are the maximum size of your capsule wardrobe. These rough estimates work because you need to be realistic about how many items you wear.

Here is a list of essential items that work for both male, female, and non-binary dressers and can be easily mixed.

  • T-shirt
  • Pants
  • Footwear
  • A Dress
  • A fitting suit
  • Button-up shirts
  • A Jacket
  • A Belt
  • A piece of outerwear
  • Denim skirt or pant

How to Build A Capsule Wardrobe That You’ll Love

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While most stylists will suggest your wardrobe should have the essential items such as the best jeans, the perfect jacket, or the most expensive cashmere sweater, you must consider yourself when preparing your capsule wardrobe.

It is crucial to start a capsule wardrobe while considering its versatility, simplicity, and longevity.

Filter your wardrobe

Initially, the most important thing to do is to examine the things that you’re currently holding. Take everything out of the closet and check the items you wear regularly and those you don’t.

After sorting the clothes, you might want to get a few new pieces. You can buy or make an exchange for the new pieces with clothes you no longer want.

Try everything to make sure it fits well and feels comfortable because this is something you will wear all the time.

Some of the priorities you should consider are – how the fabric feels on your skin, the shape of the clothing, and how it matches your body type and style.

Choice of Colors

You want to make sure you are picking clothes that align with your goal of capsule wardrobe longevity.

Picking neutral colors that outdate the trend-piece period will keep clothing items in style.

You should make sure when picking colors for your tops or bottoms you also consider accent colors that will coordinate with your base color.

You can’t go wrong with black pants or a black dress to coordinate with other colors. Making the right choice of colors should be your foundation.

capsule wardrobe

Go for High-Quality Clothing

It is important to remember that the purpose of your capsule wardrobe is never to go out of style.

You should avoid going for low-quality pieces since the items in your capsule wardrobe will be worn consistently.

High-quality items like shoes, suits, and outerwear can last for years and save you cool cash from buying over and over again due to low quality.

I will like to emphasize that you should start making your capsule wardrobe with what you already own.

Talking about quality clothing, here are some recommended sustainable clothing brands you can patronize for your capsule wardrobe.

If you are looking for some tech shirts or activewear check out this post I wrote about Fioboc.


Setting up a capsule wardrobe should not create more waste. After picking suitable clothes for your capsule wardrobe, you must declutter the rest by selling or donating, so they do not end up in landfills. You can find out where to donate your clothes ahead of time.

Meanwhile, sustainable clothing brands like Patagonia collect old tees under their Take-Back Program. The collected tees are recycled into new ones. All you have to do is bring them to your local Patagonia store or post them. You can find out more on their website.

To make the process easy and efficient, here are some recommended tools that can help you build your capsule wardrobe from scratch –

Are you ready to create your capsule wardrobe? If you are still thinking about it, what questions do you have?

Photo of author

Hendrik Kaiser

I've studied biology and lived for 3 years on an off-grid permaculture farm. I love kitesurfing and keeping my body healthy and fit. Hence, I care so much about keeping our environment clean and being as zero waste as possible. Being a zerowasteman is a superpower everyone has inside of themselves, and I want to teach you how you can unleash it.

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