If I’m What I Wear, I’m a Cheap, Ignorant Environmental Disaster.

Siyana Ivanova
6 min readMar 28, 2022

People often say things like your clothing says a lot about you and you are what you wear. And I always thought that in this case, I’m colorful, versatile, unexpected, and unique. But after more than a year of wearing a legging and an oversized sweatshirt at home, I started looking at my overcrowded wardrobe with different eyes.

If I’m What I Wear, I’m a Cheap, Ignorant Environmental Disaster.

Yes, my clothes were more colorful than a rainbow. More diverse than any recent Netflix show. But they were also made in far places I’ve never been. Made by people I never met. Made with materials that I doubt grow in nature. My wardrobe was actually cheap and impersonal. And I was clearly ignorant and damaging the environment to keep my identity intact. That was clearly not a statement I wanted to leave to the world.

One day, I took the whole day off and inspected every single tag on my 200+ clothing items laying and hanging forgotten in my bedroom. And the closer I looked, the more alienated and detached I started to feel from these human torso-shaped textiles, made with these unpronounceable materials. Most of them were made in China and Bangladesh. Most of them were made from fossil fuels, hence the all-caps letters shouting KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE. None of them seems to have ever received the love a piece of clothing deserves. Not from the makers, nor from the buyer — me.

That experience with the strangeness of my own wardrobe got me extremely interested in where my clothing came from and where they are going after I dumped our short-lived relationship. I indulge myself on an extremely long journey to learn more about the fabrics that my clothing was made of. The impact they had on the environment, on the people that were making them, and last but not least — on me. And boy, was I shocked on a daily basis! I always sensed that this massive overconsumption of clothing cannot be good. It cannot be right for our beautiful planet. The cheap smell in my made-in-China clothes cannot be right for the people that made them. But I somehow didn’t imagine it to be THAT bad.

Some of the things I wished I knew earlier in my life

A list of horrors

The true cost of fashion left me speechless. Speechless and hopeless. Here is a global summary of what I learned about the fashion industry:

After fossil fuels, the textile industry is the world’s second-biggest polluter. It can be directly linked to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people & billions of animals, and indirectly to millions of people.

It’s an industry that still enforces slavery. That makes people pay with their health. It uses chemicals that are extremely bad, not only for the environment and the wildlife, but absorbed through the skin, for the health of the people that end up wearing the clothing. It can be linked to cancer, hormone disruption, weakened immune systems, kidney and liver damage, and a lot more. Oil-based polyester is the most commonly used fabric in the world, made from, you guessed it, fossil fuels. The second most used textile is cotton– the most chemically intensive crop and the thirstiest as well. A white cotton t-shirt takes more than 2.700-liter water to make and requires a lot of pesticides that damage the soil, the air, the water, and eventually through the skin, the person that wears it. No location on Earth is safe from microplastic fibers, and most microplastics come from our clothing. More and more rivers are being declared biologically dead because of the textile industry’s waste.

This is just a plain summary. The list of what the fashion industry has done wrong is endless. I spend months learning more and more about it and it just seemed like one of the most fundamentally and systematically idiotic ways we are digging our own graves. In style, this time -_-

A statement piece (of shit)

And none of this I knew a few years ago. The food industry is doing a lot of bad things, I knew that. The fossil fuels industry is no picnic. Transportation and logistics are growing into a huge problem. But clothing? I thought clothing is fine. Is all gucci. No worries. The fact that the statement pieces we wear to enrich our sense of identity and set ourselves apart as the unique snowflakes we all are, is also the second biggest polluter, seemed to have escaped my fact radar. I was just ignorant, I guess. I have wondered why so many of my clothing yell at me to keep them out of fire. I have wondered why some clothes don’t smell right. How come I can buy a shirt for $3 that has been more places than I have been before arriving at the brightly lit store I bought it from? But the backstage of the fashion industry is a straight horror show.

And now I was stuck in facts that I couldn’t escape, like quicksand. It took me some time to shake off the feeling of helplessness and unenviable disaster that was evoked in me. And then I realized — I’m a designer. I get paid to solve problems. I should be able to solve problems for free as well. My own problems, my own mess, and maybe later — help out other people understand their clothing better. So around a year ago, I started the most exciting and rewarding personal project I’ve ever done (and still doing). I decided to challenge myself on levels unimaginable for me till then.

A brand with a soul

I decided that this world of ultra-fast food, fashion, and friendships needs balance. An ultra-slow fashion label, with the ultimate goal to prove to myself and hopefully the whole industry that fully sustainable fashion is possible, and not just a myth. Healthy clothing, that one can really become good friends with. That one special t-shirt in your wardrobe that can prove it’s made with love, which in terms makes it easier for you to start loving it more. I’m far from reaching this goal. As I said, I’m taking it slow. But I have set the first steps of this long journey. It will take years to create a fully transparent and sustainable production, with the right materials.

The RGHT one — The label with a soul that took ‘I’ out of right

In the meanwhile though — I’ve been very busy diving deep into the horror stories around the fashion industry, but also at all the awesome possibilities for the future. Vegan leather made from mango or grape waste. Banana and coconut fibers for soft, durable, and biodegradable textiles. Clothing and shoes made from pineapple leaves, eucalyptus, seaweed. Hemp — the oldest and most environmentally friendly textile. The future is bright. The future is right.

I have a long way to go till this becomes a legit clothing label that produces slow, ethical, eco-friendly clothes. But for now, this label's main goal is to bring light to all the good and the bad things around the clothes in your wardrobe. So if you are interested in learning more about it, without having to do the intensive research I’m doing on a daily basis, follow the label on Instagram or LinkedIn and stay on track around all things clothing-related.

Some positive and negative stories about the fashion industry

Follow The RGHT One on — Instagram and LinkedIn

Thanks for reading my personal story of awareness around my wardrobe. If you’ve had similar struggles and the last couple of years made you really aware of something you were ignoring before that, I would love to hear it in the comments! If you feel like chatting and geeking with me about the state of the clothing industry, reach me at hi@siyanaivanova.nl

Have a great day!