Cuyana is a clothing brand that plans to scale by asking women to buy fewer things, paving the way for a nascent "lean closet" movement. It makes high-quality goods available at lower prices. The brand is pushing back against the excessive, thoughtless shopping that is promoted by brands that churn out $2 T-shirts and $5 jeans. Will minimalism be the next trend?
In the age of H&M and Zara, we buy a lot for not much. What we buy doesn't last long if we wear it - but much of it (30% in the UK) doesn't even leave our closets.
Supporting this rapid pace of consumption has come at major social and environmental costs, hardly reflected in the selling price of clothing. Clothing chains with traditionally 12-18 month production cycles now take 10 to 15 days to go from the design stage to the sales floor. Despite reforms, the industry still largely relies on low-wage garment workers in developing countries with poor working conditions to churn out the quantities. After all that cost and human effort to produce them, a lot of that clothing goes to waste or end up in our wardrobes, barely worn.
Charlene Collison, a colleague who is working on the future of cotton has mentioned that polyester and synthetic fibres degrade after many wash cycles, releasing microplastic fibres that can end up in the oceans, with impacts on the health of marine life and humans.
Brands like Cuyana represent a break from the high-consumption, low-value approach of much mainstream fast fashion. Could fashion encourage consumers to choose a good few over a damaging many?