Retail worker Tanushri Saha was appalled with the sales targets she was pushing to meet every day. When she thought of all the sales targets for all the workers in all the retailers, she stopped being appalled and started doing.
Zeitgeist Label was created with ethics, sustainability and creativity at the forefront, with Tanushri re-designing second hand clothes into wearable and unique garments without generating excess waste. Think daggy 70’s mens shirts transformed into one-of-a-kind statement blouses, Lizzie McGuire-era flared tops altered into modern crops.
The name ‘Zeitgeist’ (pronounced “zite-gyste”) means “spirit of the age” and investigates the motivations behind people’s actions during particular period of time. It makes sense, then, that the label is dedicated to transforming clothing consumption into a sustainable practice. But wait!
It’s more than that! It’s not just about wearing the daggy hand-me-down of op-shop strangers; it’s about using art to recreate them while reducing waste.
Beyond Tanushri’s first collection ‘01’ featured on her website, she has also created a Sustainable T-Shirt range, using embroidery patterns to instantly uplift any tee into a one-off piece of wearable art.
What’s more remarkable is that the young designer runs her textile-art label while balancing a part time job and full-time study of her Gender and Cultural Studies degree at the University of Sydney, proving there’s always time to put sustainable and ethical fashion to the front.
Zeitgeist Label’s Five Tips for Everyday Ethical and Sustainable Fashion
1 Buy high quality products that last and endure
“If you really do wish to buy new pieces, go for clothes that are long lasting and good quality. This reduces the chance of your garment ending up in landfill.”
2. Think mindfully before throwing out
“Firstly value and love the clothes that you already own, and take good care of them. If you feel like there’s a reason you’re not wearing some anymore, look at them creatively and see if there is something you can do to give them a longer life. If a garment is damaged, can you repair it? Small things, like adjusting the length or putting new buttons on a shirt?”
“Most of what we donate (all with good intentions) ends up in landfill. A lot is even sent over to poverty-ridden countries. Countries in Africa can get second-hand clothes so cheaply because of our donations that their own textile markets find it so hard to compete, so finding ways to extend the life of things you already own is really important.”
Bonus tip! Australian app ‘Good On You’ has ranked more than 1,000 brands on the impact and sustainability of their products and popped them in a handy app for to take about when shopping.
Another bonus tip! Organisations like Oxfam and Baptist World Aid release reports like ‘Behind the Barcode’ every year, grading Australian and international brands from A to F. See the most recent report here.
3 Support ethical and sustainable brands
“It’s another way you can further promote value for the environment and human rights. There are plenty of small labels and ethical brands out there! It’s important to keep in mind that these brands have a responsibility to inform people about how they incorporate sustainable practices into their clothing. Are they using off-cuts and unwanted deadstock fabric from other brands in order to reduce waste?
Do they source organic fabric and natural dyes? Are they up-cycling and re-fashioning existing clothing? By supporting ethical and sustainable brands, you are making a statement not only about the clothes you wish to wear, but the world you ultimately want to live in. Big brands should eventually see this and take note.
The revival and renewed appreciation for vintage and second-hand is really exciting. The quality of vintage clothing is wondrous, and the fabrics are often quite unique. I sometimes find myself wanting to go back to the world pre-fast fashion era, to original fashion and good quality garments. I suppose, without time travel technology, shopping vintage is the next best thing. The waste has already been created; it’s been and gone. Dyes and pigments have already been used on the garment and the resulting pollution from production has already occurred. It makes sense to choose vintage over buying new clothing and adding to the damage done to the environment.
5 Only buy pieces that you really, REALLY love.
I know this can be hard – everything in a store feels new and pretty, and the lights and pumped up music gets the adrenaline going and you are SO SURE you are going to love this piece. But there’s a gap between liking it and taking it to the counter, a pause between stimulus and response, and that is what makes all the difference. A tip I use is to take a photo of something you like in store, and then leave. If you find yourself returning to the photo, then it might be a good investment. If you find you don’t need it after a couple of days, then great. And if the item is sold out by the time you make a decision, chances are you’re going to see half of Sydney wearing it on a Friday night, in which case you probably don’t want it in the end!
Zeitgeist Collection 01 Lookbook
We asked Tanushri about where a few of her pieces began and how she transformed them into unique, ethical and sustainable fashion pieces.
“It started out as one of those really bad 2000’s style cami’s that we all used to wear back in the day. I’m talking three-quarter sleeves, flowy under the bust. There was pretty much zero waste involved in this particular garment actually. I cut off the bottom fabric and stitched it straight onto the sleeves to make
them bell-flared. The difference between what it looked like in the op-shop to what I redesigned it and sold it as, it’s pretty incredible. I wish I had taken a photo of the transformation. The idea behind this one was tho make it feel more modern and timeless, much unlike 2000’s style!”
“This top involved a lot of embroidery, like countless hours! It’s focus is wearable textile art. It’s really one of
those pieces where I’m not sure if I want to hold onto it for dear life, or I can’t wait to sell it and be rid of it!”
“I picked this up from Salvo’s in Croydon as a very pink, very shiny and very daggy 70’s men’s business shirt. I did a lot of cutting and reworking on this to get
it to wear it is. The fabric is just so beautiful. When I picked it up I knew it would be a lot of trouble to get it where I wanted, but worth it in the end.”