Eliza Inoue and her Eco Journey !

Eliza is the co-founder of Touch The Toes – Singapore’s first Eco Yoga Lifestyle Shop. TTT is soon venturing into casual and evening wear, making it a full fledged Eco fashion store. 

I met Eliza a few years ago, and am inspired every time we see each other. Here’s her story.

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  1. How did your Eco journey begin?

My Eco Journey chose me! I quit my job as a graphic designer in advertising 6 years ago. This was when one of my childhood friends Kelly was opening the first Eco Yoga Shop in Singapore with her partner Wuen. I joined the shop initially as a temp shop assistant to help look for my next design job but I stayed on & eventually became a third partner and am running the shop mostly by myself today.

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  1. What in your closet is sustainably produced, and what is not?

Let’s first define what sustainably produced means. We can bring it down into 3 criterias. 1. Eco-Friendly manufacturing  2. Ethical manufacturing and 3. Lifespan of the garment.

My closet collection starts from clothing I’ve collected in the last 6 years. It is safe to say all the clothing I’ve purchased from my shop Touch The Toes is sustainably made because  I’ve done my research to ensure the clothing I stock is made with transparency. These are mostly activewear. So all the Cotton from my shop is made of Fair Trade Organic Cotton and most of the Polyester items are made from recycled plastic bottles. I do have nylon pieces that are not necessary the most eco-friednly material but they are at least Blue-Sign Certified as in no toxic chemials were released out to the enviorment during production & dyeing process of the textile. I have these pieces because I absolutely love the design and this can be one of the guilty pleasures but because I love the design I will cherish for long so it’s product lifespan will be long. This is all part of sustainability.

Recently I’m more mindful of where I purchase my clothes outside of my eco-friendly yoga shop. E.g. this year I’ve shopped from Everlane and Reformation.  Everyone focuses more on ethically manufacturing their material e.g. Cotton is just regular Cotton, not Organic but I love their philosophy of Non Trend Designs – they don’t make their clothes in seasons. As for Reformation, all their materials are from naturally derived fibers like linen, tencel some rayon.

For casual wear and evening wear sometime it’s tricky to buy from a most sustainable brand because you buy it mainly for the style. In this case I usually purchase from smaller or local labels so at least I’m supporting local or a small business. Because sometimes the problem is that I find this awesome sustainable label but the style is just not me or the silhouette of the clothes just doesn’t compliment my figure so I find myself not able to support them. I mean after all we wear clothes to feel confident and comfortable so you gotta find a balance of this & sustainability.

“I think it’s just all a balance and trying to do your best but not torturing yourself doing it.”

I still have pieces I got from mass labels like Zara, Top Shop, Armani Exchange from 4-5 years back. They are still in good condition so I still wear them. But if I want to change up the look to spice up the old outfits I now purchase shoes from more sustainable smaller brands like Everlane to give it a different look. Also If you got a beautiful pair of pants from a sustainable label but you can’t quite find a top from the same label, I think it’s okay to find a nice fitted dress top from a commercial brand to complete the look. I think it’s just all a balance and trying to do your best but not torturing yourself doing it.  This is similar on my views on food. One of the most sustainable thing you can do in your closet is to have complete outfits. Sometimes if you buy a top but you don’t know what to do with it because you don’t have anything to pair it with and it’s just sitting in you closet that’s not sustainable even if the top you made was sustainably made! So make sure every piece you have in your closet is used.

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  1. What are the challenges of following Eco fashion in a city like Singapore?

I think Eco fashion generally and globally the designs are still limited and it doesn’t offer all kind of designs that suit all kind of fashion tastes. And this is challenging  because we wear clothes to express ourselves. Choice are limited. Also Eco fashion the prices are higher and in Singapore people are used to shopping at H&M, Asos and Zara so when they see the cost of eco fashion they may think “wahh too expensive”. But think again, expensive is relative. If you only want total of 6 quality dresses and given time then if you invest in fewer pieces a year then you can afford to pay for more per piece. Clothes making is still a very labour intensive and it take time to make one garment. Hence no clothes should be so cheap it leaves no room to pay the textile artist the sewers and the designer. Also making quality clothing takes time so it all adds up. So buy less, invest in few pieces 🙂

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” ..in Singapore people are used to shopping at H&M, Asos and Zara so when they see the cost of eco fashion they may think “wahh too expensive”. But think again, expensive is relative. If you only want total of 6 quality dresses and given time then if you invest in fewer pieces a year then you can afford to pay for more per piece.”

  1. Have your seen your company help convert people from Fast Fashion to the ‘Buy Less’ philosophy?

I think we converted few and we still have a long way to go. I think people are gravitated to the style first and functionality and I don’t blame them. So that is why we are diversifying to casual wear and evening wear to offer more option to our customers. And start more actively telling the story behind the makers so our clothes becomes more of a historic object where you feel more attached to the pieces the more you learn the story and it becomes less of a disposable item.  

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  1. What are your personal and professional goals for the future in this regard?

We want to teach customers different ways to lead a sustainable lifestyle and beyond just green consumerism. I’d like to organise more community events where meaningful / intriguing conversation take place and our joy is more sparked by these conversation of intriguing ideas than what things we accumulate because Singapore is still very much material / brand centric.

  1. Do you have any tips for other big-city dwellers who want to make the shift to sustainable fashion?

Declutter your wardrobe – Sell or give away the clothes you have not worn for over 1 year. Clean out your clothing so you can see what’s actually in there! After you finish decluttering. Maybe there is bunch of tops you like but you haven’t gotten a matching bottom to so go get em! Complete the look 🙂

P.S. I’d like to close this interview with the fact that I’m always trying to continue growing, so my ideas may vary as time goes by, but this is my thought currently in December 2017! Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts.

Photos from : Instagram.com/touchthetoes

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