Fashion

Zero-Waste Fashion the French Way

by Sylvia Sabes

One of the reasons I moved to Paris was to embrace international fashion. While it took me a while to reconcile a zero-waste lifestyle with my penchant for fashion, I have learned that the two can be very compatible. I’m getting better at it every day, and have incorporated zero-waste fashion, the French way, into my life.

Left: a ball of orange yarn, an old tan colored tape measure, a few buttons, and a few spools of thread, all sat on a wooden table.

Right: racks of brightly colored tshirts, dozens hung neatly with several strewn messily on top.
Top: Guerrisol. Above: Gabriel Manlake / Denkrahm

Maintaining Your Clothes

For clothing, I start with the basics: taking good care of the clothing I have. The French are great role models for this. Local hardware stores, called quincailleries, have entire shelves of stain removers dedicated to specific stains, so you can save just about anything from getting tossed into the rag bin. A few aisles down you’ll find déboulocheur combs that help brush away the fuzz from well-worn sweaters.

Left: A seamstress, whose face is not visible, sews some fuschia coloured chiffon material, with scissors sat in front of her, and a box of needles and a spool of thread. 

Right: a rack of second hand clothes at an outdoor flea market.
Kris Atomic / Artificial Photography

Continue exploring and you’ll find cedar blocks and lavender oils to put in your closets to keep the moths away. If it’s too late and the moths have beat you to it, the French have a solution, bien sûr. The verb is stopper and the best stoppeuse I have found in Paris has fairy fingers that make it virtually impossible to find the holes she has repaired.

Left: a basket full of beige, orange and pink thread, a pair of black scissors, and scraps of brown fabrick. 

Right: a woman's hands with blue painted fingernails sews a white cloth at a sewing machine.
Mojor Zhu / Reuben Kim

For other fabrics and to-save clothing in general, I visit Kamel, my tailor at L’Art de l’Aiguille. He has refitted a 1930s gown, relined a 1940s riding coat, and saved countless pieces from my family’s closets. 

Left: a woman with shoulder length brown hair wears a brown trousers and blazer with a black camisole, and white sneakers. She stands next to a rustic door bearing the workds Phoenix Saloon.

Right: the interior of a small closet with assorted women's clothes hanging.
Veja / Adrienne Leonard

For that which Kamel can’t save, I use a Kintsukuroi approach. Kintsukuroi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold to make the item even more precious in its second life. For fabrics, I prefer gold or other threads and embroidery a fix. If I have a sweater with a hole too big to fix, I pick some yarn in a contrasting color, and stitch a ring around the hole to make it look like it was meant to be there. For shirt sand jeans, I may use decorative stitches or sew on patches from fabric I’ve salvaged over the years.

Left: a rack of clothes in a vintage shop.

Right: The outside of a vintage shop, looking through the glass to the interior, featuring eclectic goods.
Rianne Gerrits / Allison Christine

Second-hand Shopping

When shopping for new clothing, I start with old-to-someone else, and hit up the treasure trove of consignment stores in Paris. Chercheminippes is a collection of shops on the rue du Cherche-Midi. They focus on everyday wear and are close to Maison de Fanfan, which has a small selection of very luxurious second-hand goods. 

Left: a rack full of assorted men's tshirts.

Right: spools of thread in a shop with an assortment of colors.
Nick de Partee / Héctor J Rivas

Used clothing stores are called fripperies in Paris, and the most popular maybe Free’P’Star in the Marais. It is full of young kids sifting for a find. Guerrisol is an international group dedicated to eco-responsible living and its chain of used clothing stores is often a source of mouth-dropping bargains. Finds include a silk designer scarf, worth hundreds new, but only five euros used.

Left: a pair of men's leather brown shoes strewn on a wooden floor

Right: a woman searches a rack full of colourful shirts.
Greg Rosenke / Becca McHaffie

Caring for Shoes

Shoes are no different from clothing. Zero waste starts with taking good care of what we have. For the French, that means going back to the quincaillerie and getting shoe polish and waterproof sprays to properly care for one’s shoes. Parisian men do this weekly; it’s often a Sunday night routine and a form of meditation for many. It also means regular visits to the cobbler to protect soles and resole before just throwing a pair out. 

Left: A row of colourful scarves. Right: Interior of a clothing store
Visit Britain / Prudence Earl

I still do shop for all the lovely clothing that first drew me to Paris, but now I look for natural fibers and pieces I can wear for many years to come. Because really, there is nothing chic about disposable fashion.

Addresses

Aldo Retouches – 99 Rue de Sèvres, 75006

L’Art de l’Aiguille – 8 rue Régis, 75007

Chercheminippes – 102 rue du Cherche Midi, 75006

Maison de Fanfan – 4 rue Mayet, 75006

Free’P’Star – 61 rue de la Verrerie, 75004

Guerrisol, 10 rue d’Aligre, 75012

Veja – 15 Rue de Poitou, 75003

K.Jacques – 16 rue Pavée, 75004

Related Links

Written by Sylvia Sabes for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates. 

Written By

Sylvia Sabes

When not hitting the ol’ cobblestones hunting down the hottest new addresses for her job as Paris Expert for Afar magazine and Luxe City Guides, Sylvia pretends to be swamped disguised as a wife and mom. You can read more of her work at www.SylviaSabes.com (link below) or follow her adventures on FB @SylviaDublanc View Sylvia Sabes's Website

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