If you are familiar with the Singapore fashion scene in the heyday of the ‘2010s, the name Jasmine Tuan would ring a bell. As the co-founder of local fashion boutique Blackmarket and one third of local label FrüFrü & Tigerlily (both now defunct), Jasmine was a woman-about-town, and a constant fixture amongst Singaporean fashion publications.
The creative was most notably always decked out in some sort of cool, independent designer piece and was just the sort of person where each time you bumped into her at an event, all you wanted to do was grill her on her latest fashion acquisition.
Trapped In The Fashion Cycle
Yet, Jasmine herself couldn’t find herself breaking out of the dreaded “I have nothing to wear” syndrome. “I used to have this weird mindset that I cannot be caught wearing the same piece twice,” she confessed. “Especially within the fashion industry, you would think once you were seen wearing something, you cannot wear it again.”
So she would continuously add on to her collection, picking up cool things from her travels and shopping from Blackmarket, a hip, underground boutique that championed independent designers within Southeast Asia handpicked by Jasmine herself. And having the organisational skills of Marie Kondo didn’t help either. Jasmine even had a system to keep everything in place. Her entire wardrobe was colour-coordinated and merchandised perfectly, and amassing her entire collection and seeing it all in one place used to make her really happy.
The Wake-up Call
But all this changed in August 2013 when the shop closed abruptly and she lost everything. Jasmine and her business partner had been struggling with cash flow and making payments for some time. And when Orchard Central (their building landlord at the time) decided to double their rent, they made the difficult decision to give everything up.
In the aftermath of losing her business, Jasmine had a wake up call when she was looking at her wardrobe while getting ready to head out. “I used to think all these clothes and possessions were my pride and glory. I accumulated all these nice, expensive things from all around the world and now I felt like a loser looking at them,” she shared.
While she was still decked out in designer clothes and still portraying the look of someone successful, little did people know that Jasmine only had seven dollars in her bank account. A sum which she couldn’t even withdraw as she had to leave a minimum requirement inside. “So what if I was wearing Margiela? I couldn’t even pay for my own meal. How I felt on the inside didn’t match what I was showing on the surface,” she continued.
Starting Over From Scratch
For the first time in her life, she had literally nothing else to do. She had no money, no business, no brands or events to even think about and this gave her the ample time to start assessing what she wanted to do in life. She started selling her things on Carousell as a way to make money and to downsize her life. And when a job opportunity came up in Kuala Lumpur in 2015, she drastically sped up her process to free up her room for rent.
But old habits die hard. As soon as she moved to Malaysia and felt the freedom of having less, Jasmine quickly reverted to her shopaholic ways again, swiftly taking advantage of the great exchange rates and abundance of sales. But thanks to a chance meeting with environmental organization group Zero Waste Malaysia, she started to seriously take a hard look at her consumption habits. While she was already familiar with the 5 Rs (refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle) it was a sixth one that really helped her to overhaul her entire mindset—that was to rethink.
“I asked myself, do I want to die as a consumer? Or do I want to die as a person who actually contributes something to mankind or to the planet earth? Because I don’t want to be attached to things. I don’t want to be attached to clothes for example. It doesn’t define me. My results define me,” Jasmine shared.
“I read a quote that resonated with me so much. It went, ‘Most of us spend the money that we don’t have, buying the stuff that we don’t need, to impress the people that we don’t even like!’ I laughed so hard when I saw the post. Because it’s like, wow, you know half the time you dress up to impress people but most people are always on their phones. They don’t even care.”
The True Cost Of Fashion
Being aware of the unscrupulous efforts of the fast fashion industry was also the final nail in the coffin for Jasmine. After watching the documentary The True Cost, a film that explores the negative impacts of the fashion industry, she wanted to have no part in that. “Whatever I buy might be causing the suffering of others. I don’t want that. It’s not the fashion that I know. We love fast fashion because of how cheap it is, but when I buy something I’m actually contributing to child labor and unfair wages,” she says.
“Fashion is suppose to be a creative outlet. It’s suppose to be fun, but all these things don’t look very fun to me. Now fast fashion companies just copy from bigger designers, add some tweaks and then make it for much cheaper. And all these human rights are gone just to make us look fashionable. And then we only wear these things for a few times before throwing them away, contributing trash to the landfill. This whole industry is just going very haywire. And I don’t want to contribute. I don’t want to be a part of it.”
Doing Zero Waste Imperfectly
And while Jasmine’s goal as a zero waste advocate is to eventually fit her entire life into a 7kg duffel bag, she maintains that her journey to self-discovery has not been perfect or easy. Any shopping she does is now at thrift/vintage stores or through swap meets with friends. And if she has a surplus, it all goes to her recreated Blackmarket Preloved Store, a store she has in Malaysia where she curates and sells secondhand items. She also makes her own beauty products such as toothpaste and body scrubs with just a few simple ingredients that can be easily found in your everyday household items. She also freezes her organic waste and drops them off at local community farms to donate to their compost bins.
“I do my best to walk my talk but I’m not perfect. We can’t all be Jesus right?” Jasmine said. “There’s a saying that goes, “We don’t need a lot of people to do zero waste perfectly. We need a lot of people to do zero waste imperfectly.” I just do my own thing and I never pretend that I’m the expert. And then somehow, that creates a ripple effect that slowly influences others.”
Changing your consumption habits, isn’t as daunting as it looks. If you’re looking to start, here are some of Jasmine’s tips on trying to implement a zero waste lifestyle.
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