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Signe Hansen: Use Less

We love her style and her message. Signe Hansen is a 27-year-old sustainable fashion and lifestyle blogger/youtuber from the Southern Part of Denmark, where she has lived with her boyfriend for the past 8 years. She is a fashion design technologist with a bachelor’s degree in communication & media strategy, and has had years of experience working as a designer in the fashion industry.

Despite the fast pace and nature of the fashion industry, she decided to face the wasteful tendencies surrounding fashion in our current society, and take a stand towards the fast fashion industry. We had to know her story!

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When and how did you get into sustainable fashion?

It actually started as a fun experiment a year ago, while I was unemployed. For years I had felt frustrated with my wardrobe. I would spend too much money on things I wasn’t happy about, and I always felt like I had nothing to wear, even though I was constantly adding new things to my wardrobe.
I watched the documentary “The True Cost,” and it made me feel so bad about my way of consuming. By chance, I stumbled upon the concept of “the capsule wardrobe system” through a blog called “Unfancy”. This means that you only have a small collection of clothes in your wardrobe (for most people it’s about 35-40 pieces of clothes and shoes), that you alter from season to season. The cool thing is that you can store pieces that you actually like, and then you can pull them out again when a new season starts. In that way you get to “shop” your own closet, keeping the amount of new purchases to a minimum.

The main focus is quality above quantity, and to only hold on to the things that you truly feel happy about using. In that way you will naturally stop buying things out of impulse that you don’t need and will lose interest in very quickly, which is also what happened to me along the way. I’ve been doing the capsule wardrobe for about 2 years, altering the rules along the way so they fit my life, my style and my own way of living. Somewhere along the way I realized how sustainable this way of keeping your wardrobe actually is, so my urge to explore new ways to enjoy fashion in a more sustainable way grew. I have always been good at purchasing products second-hand, but I definitely want to support the fair-trade fashion brands more – to the extent that it makes sense of course. I think it is very important to stay true to your own style in order to have success with a minimal wardrobe that you are happy about.

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Was the transition difficult? If so, how did you make the process smoother?

I would say no, because it has all happened rather naturally after I started the capsule wardrobe experiment. I don’t want to mess up the wardrobe I’ve spent so much time and effort building, and that I am finally truly happy about. In that way my sustainable approach to my wardrobe and fashion in general has happened pretty smoothly, however when you really start digging in to the whole fair-trade and ecological way of thinking – that’s where it gets really hard. I so badly want to do the right thing as a consumer, but as it is right now, one can’t. That’s probably the biggest challenge. I try to stay cool about it, stay curious, open-minded and just come to terms with that I’m not an expert and I still make mistakes. I do constantly push myself to learn more, but I also try not to stress about it at the same time, even though that can be hard sometimes. But learning something new will always feel like hard work, right? And that’s a good thing. It takes quite some work to change your life for the better.

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How has this lifestyle change impacted your everyday life, social life, or even mental wellbeing?

It has definitely pushed me towards a minimal approach in so many other aspects of my life, other than just fashion. I am trying to make better choices when we buy groceries, I’m thinking more about what kind of beauty products I buy, and I generally feel empowered to live a more meaningful and sustainable life, being critical about what really makes me happy. What kind of people do I want in my life, what kind of job do I want; basically everything has been revised the last couple of years, and I’ve changed quite a lot actually. I feel like I’ve come more down to earth, and that I rest more in the person I really am. It’s pretty huge to say that it has made me happier, but you know what – it has, because I’ve become more present and less stressed out about things. Plus, it has opened the door to finally becoming self-employed which I have dreamt about for so long, to spread the message about living a simpler, kinder, and more meaningful life.

It is an on-going process though, because as I mentioned before I am constantly discovering new areas where I feel like I can improve. For example, it hit me the other day that I really want to optimize my way of storing food in the fridge. Often we wrap foil or plastic bags around food and cans that have been opened, but we should really just put it in plastic or even better – glass containers, that can be used over and over again instead. So little things like that constantly pop into my mind.

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How have people responded to your lifestyle? Are they supportive?

Luckily I am surrounded by so many awesome people – my friends, my family, former colleagues and schoolmates, and they are all super supportive. I think it is because they see how much passion I have for this, and maybe because I really try to speak a language that the average consumer understands. Because I am a consumer like everyone else, and I’m not trying to point my finger at anyone. I’m no expert. I’m just really eager to learn. Some of them don’t quite understand what this whole capsule wardrobe thing and minimalist wardrobe is really about, but once they finally understand it they come back to me and say how inspired they are to start re-inventing their wardrobe themselves. I mean, I’m not the only capsule wardrobe blogger/youtuber out there, there are so many talented women talking about the subject already (“Unfancy” has been my biggest inspiration in this), but I really try to make my own rules and my own content, and the more we are the merrier! I think it’s good to have women with different kinds of style making content about sustainable fashion, so that there’s a little bit for everyone to relate to.

Then there are of course the occasional “oh, so you bought that? Do you even have room for that in your capsule wardrobe?” kind of critic, and I really try to not let that affect me. I mean of course people are allowed to be critical about whether I practice what I preach, but I’m only human and I’m not trying to preach for zero-consumption. Just more meaningful consumption, and less consumption of new things in general.

How do you decide when to add items to your wardrobe, when to alter them, and when to remove them?

I have a bunch of style icons that I stick to (Anine Bing and Emanuelle Alt to mention a few), and I really turn to them a lot whenever I need a dash of inspiration. I spend quite a lot of time on Pinterest, pinning outfits and products I really like (where others might use this time on shopping instead), so in that way I’m constantly reassuring my own style and myself. I like to create my outfits from all the inspiration that I find whenever I feel “bored”, but mostly I just pick whatever I feel like wearing from my closet. Every once in a while, I do feel like something is missing though, mostly when the seasons change. Maybe it’s a product I’ve been thinking about since last year or just something that I feel will make a huge difference for the rest of my wardrobe. My leopard flats for example. They look like nothing else I have in my wardrobe, yet they go with everything. That is very crucial to me; it has to fit my true style. I also purchase something, if I really need it – whenever something is completely worn out for example. Before purchasing something I always try to picture myself wearing if for about 20 times, ask myself how I would style it, and if I already have something similar. That prevents me from buying things I don’t need. If I really want a pair of wide leg trousers and I already have a pair but they are too long – I take the time to take up the hem a couple of centimeters instead of purchasing a new pair.

My wardrobe is parted in three: my all year basics, which always stay the same and are the biggest part of my wardrobe. I rarely touch these pieces! Then I have my seasonal products – like heavy knits in winter or dresses in summer. I swap these from season to season, so they fit the weather. Finally, I have a tiny amount of more trend based pieces, but it’s usually only 3-5 products. I try to be very careful with these in general, and try not to purchase too many of them, I just like to have a few to keep my wardrobe feeling fresh. I’ve discovered, that these kinds of products are the biggest sinner though, both in my own closet, but also in the entire fashion industry. They are made with a very short expiration date, and are meant to “run out” within only a couple of weeks or months. And that’s what can really mess up your wardrobe!

My seasonal and my trend items are fluid, so I can swap these products with some of my stored clothes even in the middle of a season. The reason why I have chosen this way of keeping the capsule wardrobe, is because sometimes the weather in Denmark is really crazy (hello, summer in September!) or sometimes, I’m just in the mood for something “new”. So I “shop” my own closet sometimes, to get rid of that feeling.

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Has your focus on creating a sustainable wardrobe affected your style in fashion and design? Do you still feel that you have full creative freedom, or do you feel that you sometimes have to sacrifice in order to stay sustainable?

I feel much more creative indeed! This is only because I am constantly looking for ways to reinvent my outfits, using the pieces I already have (by looking at my style icons on Pinterest and copying their style for example). Because I have spent so much effort on building a versatile wardrobe, I never seem to get tired of it. I will say though, that I sometimes struggle with finding eco-friendly products that are both my style but also affordable. In general I am trying to teach myself to pay more for my clothes, because clothes aren’t free. Someone is paying the price if you aren’t. It’s just I can’t always seem to find what I’m looking for in fair-trade brands, and I don’t like to compromise.

To me a sustainable wardrobe is not only one where you think about purchasing eco-friendly products. It’s just as much having products in it that last season after season, and that you take good care of. I won’t choose the eco-friendly one over the conventional one, if I don’t like the style of it. That would be a total waste, and it wouldn’t add any real value into my closet. On that note, I am very willing to shop for pieces second-hand and to sacrifice that “new” feeling is no problem for me at all. It’s been liberating to get rid of being almost dependent on “the rush of the new”. I have quite a lot of things that I have bought second-hand – mostly it’s luxurious items like my Acne Jensen boots or my leather biker jacket, but I recently also bought a red and white breton striped top from Cos on a Danish online second-hand shop, instead of purchasing it from the store. That’s something I am trying to do more and more, and buying second-hand is really the most sustainable way you can buy new clothes.

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What tips would you give to someone who is just getting into the world of sustainable fashion and general sustainable living?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Be eager to learn, be eager and willing to change your life. Be critical towards the fast-fashion brands and low priced products – but don’t try to be a perfect consumer or to make perfect choices. It’s impossible and it wouldn’t be a very joyful way to live your life. Do what makes sense to you and your lifestyle and let everything happen naturally, because it will. If you are the slightest bit interested in minimalism and sustainability you are already halfway there! As I always say – it all comes down to using less. And also – don’t throw out everything you have and start over! Keep the things you really love, and then work from there.

I would highly recommend watching some documentaries or reading some books just to kick start your new sustainable lifestyle. For documentaries you should watch “The True Cost” (you will be shocked!) and “Minimalism: a documentary about the important things”. Then you should do yourself the favor and read the book “The life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo. I have watched/read all of these and they have made the biggest impact on me and my lifestyle.

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To see more of Signe and all that she does, make sure to check out her platforms!

Blog: Use Less

Youtube (her fashion channel): Use Less

Youtube (her beauty channel): Beautyfix

Instagram: @useless_dk

Photo courtesy of Signe Hansen