Emotional Wellbeing

Mandy Kloppers

Designing a less wasteful fashion industry

For many people, fashion is fast and fleeting. But there is a growing shift towards conscious and ethical shopping. We can no longer ignore the 92 million tonnes of textile waste that is produced every year; the equivalent of a garbage truck full of clothes ending up in landfill every second.


The considered efforts made by a growing number of small, eco-conscious businesses to prioritise sustainability and thoughtful design cannot be ignored, and wonderful as they are, they are currently just a tiny segment of the fashion market. But there is something new on the horizon, that could spell the answer to the challenge of how we can indulge our love for fashion and clothes without hurting the planet.


The answer lies in a dress I remember well from my university days; a black jersey dress that could be ‘worn in 100 ways’ (all of which made me look like a bridesmaid and none of which I’d wear now). But the concept itself is worth exploring.


Design innovation

Convertible clothing, often referred to as transformable or multifunctional clothing, are garments that can be designed to serve multiple purposes. These pieces can be easily altered or manipulated to create various looks, making them an ideal choice for individuals seeking to maximise their wardrobe’s potential. They transcend trends, occasions, and often seasons too, and are, in essence, super-versatile clothing.


My fascination with convertible clothing grew when I decided to pursue my childhood love for fashion and launch my own small clothing brand, POLKO. This passion project would give me, a documentary filmmaker and journalist, some joy in days otherwise consumed with dreary emotions around climate change, record-high heatwaves, wildfires, and floods. But how could I enter the fashion world without becoming a part of the problem that I was trying to escape? I went back to my roots.


As a little girl growing up in the 90s in Pakistan there was little to no ready-made clothing available. We wore what we created, and I spent many weekends with my mother immersed in fabric markets, finding trimmings, and sketching designs. Culturally, clothes required emotional involvement; it was fun, it was exciting, it was creative. I even recycled cushion covers and made them into dresses. But the care with which we approached clothing was in stark contrast to the way the fashion industry approached Pakistan – a dumping ground for rich nations’ discarded clothes.


Meeting demands of eco-conscious consumers

The overproduction and overconsumption linked to fast fashion has come under the harshest scrutiny since the shift towards more conscious and responsible shopping. Over the past 15 years, clothing production has doubled while the length of time we actually wear these clothes has fallen by nearly 40%. Would we give in to impulse buying if the clothes we had never went out of style and use?


Circling back to my wear-it-100-ways dress (though I wonder if this sales pitch might have been a slight exaggeration), convertible clothing isn’t a new concept. It was originally associated with a limited range of styles or a utilitarian aesthetic, but reedited designs today are making it more sophisticated and mature.


It all starts with innovative and purposeful design. Convertible fashion requires huge levels of commitment and creativity from its designer. It is the ingenious use of zippers, snaps, buttons, patterns and fabric that enables a single garment to seamlessly transform into several different styles. There is also a lot of trial and error in perfecting these designs. Of course, all these elements make convertible pieces more costly to produce which means they come at a higher price. But this is the future of design, and the industry will need to adapt. Fast.


From the perspective of style, convertible clothing offers a dynamic wardrobe that thrives on self-expression and curiosity. Most people wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time, but playing dress up with dynamic pieces, experimenting with different combinations, mixing and matching, and mastering new styling tricks can make getting dressed a more fun and personalised experience. It helps us all wear each item more ways, more often, and for longer – considerably reducing waste. For example, extending the active lifespan of a garment by just nine months could reduce its carbon, water and waste footprints by as much as 30%. This is a great lesson; creativity – not buying more – is the answer to solving wardrobe boredom.


Convertible clothing is great news for those aiming for a minimalist and eco-friendly lifestyle. These versatile pieces can be dressed up or down, streamlining both your wardrobe and your mindset.


Changing minds

If we begin to see our future clothing purchases as investments—purposeful and long-lasting—then fast fashion seems less appealing and more problematic. The growing slow fashion movement takes pride in repeating outfits. It values the quality of garments over the quantity, and classic styles over changing trends. All this means less will be bought (but worn more) and less will end up in landfills. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that the emissions impact of clothing could be reduced by 44% if people wore their clothes twice as often as they do now, and yet a study found that 33% of women consider their clothes ‘old’ after only three wears.


But here’s the thing, the planet is changing and so are we. As the industry evolves to meet the demands of a generation that wants to do better, design has to play an active role in shaping the future of fashion. Convertible clothing is likely to become an integral part of wardrobes worldwide. Its ability to meet the demands of contemporary life, with its emphasis on sustainability, practicality, and style, makes it a compelling choice for fashion enthusiasts who are seeking to do more with less. It is a movement that is thoughtful, well-intentioned and bold.




Maheen Sadiq is founder of POLKO, the creator of a forward-thinking and innovative new fashion outfit that can be worn 14 different ways, to multiple occasions, and on repeat, meaning you are covered from work to dinner, from the party to the beach, and everything in between. It’s your entire capsule wardrobe in one intelligent and convertible design, decluttering your space and mind. POLKO is passionate about making life simpler and helping us all to cut down on fashion waste by reducing the number of clothes that are discarded and end up in landfill. Be the first to own this stylish 14-way design from POLKO by ordering now on Kickstarter ahead of the general launch.


Web: www.polko.co.uk

Instagram: @polkostudio

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/POLKOLondon/

Founder, Maheen Sadiq on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maheen-sadiq-32865751/



Scroll to Top