Le Conscious Fashion Diet

Some diets are all about slimming the fat. Mine is about slimming a different part of me, my wardrobe. This year I made a resolution I didn't think I could stick to. I went on a fashion diet. With a four-color palette limited by a 33 piece wardrobe in a three month period, I started a journey into conscious style. 

I am openly going to admit this was a daunting task. I live in a sizable New York City apartment that seems to have an ever-dwarfing closet. I am not a binge shopper, but I do purchase new goods as regularly as most. This is paired with the never-let-go-of-pieces syndrome that I inherited from my mother. Nostalgia or far-fetched one time use products, while good in theory, are in reality not actually useful at all. So this winter over a series of back-to-back dinners with friends in urban design and fashion, I came across two leads that hatched the idea. The first happened at in a dimly lit bar in the Lower East Side. 

She said it with a cheeky grin - "It's called How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style and Bad Habits". The title didn't have me jumping out of my seat, but as my friend Catherine recounted silly stories and tips to living, I started to lean in a little closer to capture all the details. Two days later, in the rain, I scourged a series of independent bookstores on the Upper West Side for a copy of my own. 

Sitting on the subway home, I probably looked like a madman. Laughing out loud to the book that, in a funny way, connects to quirks and habits most people are not aware of. The section that had most relevance to my later resolution was about style and uniforms. It discusses how in the eye's of many, Paris, has a iconic set style. You know it, navy stripes, berets, loose fitting womenswear juxtaposed with hyper tailoring, and all seemingly without second thought. To be Parisian, one must embody that sense of style - with limitation and personality. This got me thinking - if I was a city, what would my style be? New Orleans, where I used to live, had a bright costume-esque vibe. Jerusalem, another place I used to live, had a dark palette with a loose silhouette. New York, the place I currently live, has varying styles like it does micro-climates that span mere avenues and streets. The point is that there exists a style signature we identify with locations. When we think about these places, we have a visual of the people in the foreground as much as we do the landmarks that frame the scene. 

This idea was taken to the next level by a long time friend, Jessica, snuggled up in a booth jumping across Carl Sagan to RadioLab, to MarsOne and finally landing on Project 333. Project 333, as she described, was a fashion diet. A 33 piece, three month rotation of style to maximize lifespan of products and respond to the seasons. Limiting it to a four-color palette then constraints options so that everything more or less matches.  My friend Jessica was was turned onto the idea because she recently became obsessed with the idea of a uniforms. A urban planner turned teacher turned MBA candidate, Jessica is driven by well designed products and experiences and good branding. She alluded to cultural figures like Karl Lagerfeld, Steve Jobs, Annie Leibovitz, Anna Wintour who have all defined themselves as cultural and visual icons the world over. They, like cities, have visual landmarks. Bangs and glasses, Anna Wintour. Long white pony and modern suits of armor, Karl Lagerfeld. The list goes on and on. 

But on top of their brand identities, Jessica was also enticed by the ease of dressing these people have - something that certainly resonated with me. This was, of course on top of the underlying desire to reduce my consumption patterns to purchasing things that fill a void, why still keeping style in mind.

At home, a quick Google search and voila, I came across the guide for my new style. The first step in this new beginning was taking inventory of my current wardrobe. And needless to say there were way more than 4 colors. I started to think about my palette. I settled on the following after assessing what looks good on me, what I have readily available, and what I could do little shopping to fill voids.

So I selected four colors: 

  • Black: It's New York, did I really have an option?
  • Navy: Remarkably a lot of my wardrobe was already consumed by black's lighter sister.
  • Cream: I lumped a few shades of light white into this one. Especially during winter do these pop. 
  • Camel: An ode to my life in the Middle East and a perfect complement to my olive complexion.   

This left me a few gaps, which I filled over the season. I was actually shocked to find that I didn't even have 33 pieces total in all of these colors. After the selection process, I packaged all of the excess either in storage for seasons to come or donated to ModaCycle - my company's recycling program.

Since January 1, 2015. I have only strayed once. This includes going to tropical places during this period. It was a purple floral sweater. It was in New York for a dinner. I was called out immediately. Let's just say it is waiting in the wings for what I suspect will be next winter. Since April 1, I have transitioned to a new palette. 

  • I am going to try something with a little bit more energy this season as spring heats up. 

Are you going on a fashion diet? I'd love to hear more from you about what's working and any other ideas you have to curtail your personal impact. Email me at Jesse@modavanti.com. 

Happy Earth Month. 

- Jesse









Jesse Ayala

New York, New York, USA

Developing social good and value-adding products, Ayala seeks to enhance culture and behavior through experiences that address both macro- and micro-level problems. This mantra has led Ayala down an non-traditional career path, linking fashion, technology, performance art, media, education, community building, and design. Ayala has been honored by the Huffington Post and InStyle magazine for innovation and style in the digital new economy. Ayala is the co-founder and Creative Director of Modavanti.com.