Author Camille Scheidt talks about her new book Unravelling Threads, how to build a sustainable wardrobe and the things mainstream fashion doesn’t want you to know.
We’re so excited about your new book! Before we dive into it, can you tell us about your background?
I’ve always been interested in clothing. Either finding my own at thrift stores and then remaking them into something that I wanted or starting from scratch and making something that I wanted to wear. And then I can’t help but not be interested in the state of the climate and pollution. Writing Unravelling Threads just seemed like the perfect fit.
What motivated you to write Unravelling Threads? What inspired you to make a change?
I had been researching for NaturalClothing.com for at least a full year. After talking to friends and colleagues I began to understand that a lot of people were overlooking what their clothes are made out of — the different effects that their clothing has from the production through the use to the disposal of the clothing. I realized it was important to repackage my information and present it to people in a way that is digestible and helps them understand how they can change their habits.
You give some amazing figures on cotton. 660 gallons or roughly 2,500 liters of water is used to grow enough cotton for one shirt. 2,000 gallons or 7,500 litres for a pair of jeans. These are unbelievably large amounts of water being consumed.
Cotton is insane. On the other hand you have something like hemp which people are talking about as a miracle crop. But it grows like a weed. That’s kind of the crazy thing about hemp. It sticks around in the best way possible. Instead of wearing out it wears in. And when you are done it’s compostable. It really is a unique thing.
Tell us a little bit about why natural fibers don’t smell as much as synthetics. We were really surprised to hear that sweat doesn’t actually smell!
Body odor isn’t really your own smell. Your sweat doesn’t smell. The sweat molecule is too big to be received by our olfactory sensors in our noses. Instead it’s the bacteria on your skin that eat the sweat, break it down and then the bacteria “poop” is what you smell. It’s a volatile compound that you can smell. A study that I cite in the book explains that this bacteria can be completely washed out of clothing made of natural fibers — but polyester, nylon and acrylic trap it in the clothing. Adding some white vinegar to your wash can really help with this.
How do I get started on building a sustainable wardrobe?
The easiest thing to do is just don’t buy anything. The next thing is to figure out what you have and what they’re made out of. If they are made out of synthetics like polyester, acrylic and nylon just keep them until you’re done using them. When you wash them use some sort of filtration device like a Guppy Bag. I think the Cora Ball is out now, too. Once it comes time replace the items with something new, switch to natural fibers. It’ll last longer, you’ll be more comfortable and you’ll smell better. It is pretty simple. Pay attention to what you put in your body and what you put on your body.
You suggest a process of going through your closet. Can you take us take us through it?
I think a great way to go through your closet — once you go through and see what everything is made out of (check the care tag which is usually on the left side of your garments). — is to decide what you have worn recently and what isn’t useful to you anymore.
Take the items you don’t want to an ICollect facility in a store. They are in Adidas, Puma and quite a few major retailers. They go through a very intensive sorting process of deciding what they can recycle, resell and upcycle into different items.
It’s like an Earth-friendly version of Kondo-ing your closest! What if you’re not quite ready to purge?
If you’re not ready to get rid of stuff yet, you can turn all of your hangers one way or put all of your things in one drawer. Then when you wear an item, turn its hanger around the other way or move it to the empty drawer. This is a surefire way of learning and showing yourself visually what you wear and what you’re not wearing.
Your approach sounds like the Michael Pollan quote, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Buy better. Buy less. People might think, “Do I have to care about it every single day?” But it’s really just a certain point when you make a choice about your clothing. Whether it’s what you buy, how you wash it, when you wash it, what you do with it, or when you get rid of it. I think buying less and buying better will make you happier.
You can check out Camille’s new book Unravelling Threads: How to Build A Sustainable Wardrobe in the Age of Plastic Fabric here.