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BURO Does Basics: Eco-fashionista Seri Mizani on scarves, kaftans and conscious consumerism

BURO Does Basics: Eco-fashionista Seri Mizani on scarves, kaftans and conscious consumerism

"99 per cent of the scarves I own are my mom's"

Text: Kelly Lim

Image: Seri Mizani

Our second instalment of 'BURO Does Basics' sees Seri Mizani, local sustainable fashion advocate and influencer dish about her relationship with clothes and the key to building an ethical wardrobe

Scarves...A quintessential fashion accessory. Whether printed or plain, silk or wool, worn as a stole or tied as a bandanna, the timeless item of clothing can be adorned in endless flattering ways. Here in Malaysia where the weather is hot but the malls are cool, scarves serve as a handy companion to help us stay comfortable and chic at all times. And for our second instalment of 'BURO Does Basics', Malaysian eco-fashionista Seri Mizani has chosen the versatile accessory as her ultimate wardrobe staple. Though initially a fashion student, she dropped out of college onto a path that eventually led her to an interest in sustainability that began in 2019.

"I now advocate on sustainable fashion, that's what people say," she explains. "I'm not fond of defining myself or anyone as one thing. I feel we're capable of doing multiple things. I now also advocate on environmental justice, greener education, public understanding and awareness. I sometimes do talks for universities and colleges too." 

Ahead, Seri dishes more about her relationship with clothes, scarf styling and the key to building an ethical wardrobe: 

BURO: What was your first encounter with fashion?

Seri: "Tough question, my first encounter with fashion is vague. Nonetheless, I've always loved dressing up for as long as I can remember––it’s the reason why I chose to study fashion. I loved to shop, I loved to hoard clothes and I loved going through my sister’s closet and getting dressed in her clothes. I still do it today––minus the buying and hoarding of course––though now it’s an expansion of my mum and the rest of siblings’ closet."

BURO: Could you tell us why the scarf is an essential wardrobe staple for you?

Seri: "It’s an essential because I’m wearing pieces of my mum with me wherever I go. She’s a vibrant being inside and out, and truly an inspiration to what I’m doing today as she’s an environmentalist on air pollution. 99 per cent of the scarves I own are my mum’s. It’s a staple because it’s sentimental. She’s sentimental. Writing this made me realise that I never go out without a piece of her with me. Even the accessories I have on me right now are my mum’s. Sometimes I feel like a broken record whenever people asked where I get my *insert item* and I answer "its from my mum’s". Can my mum just be my essential staple?"

BURO: How does the scarf fit into your personal style?

Seri: "If I don’t feel bohemian enough, throwing a scarf on me definitely ties the look I’m going for. May it be tying it around my bag, wrapping it as a top or just simply putting it around my neck. Honestly, you can do so much with just a scarf if you put a little time in experimenting."

BURO: Describe your personal style in three words.

Seri: "Free, flowy and hippie? That’s what people would usually say."

BURO: What are three essential items of clothing that everyone needs in their wardrobes? And what are some current favourites in your closet?

Seri: "Personally, a pair of black shoes, those with a platform is always great and you can pair it up with anything. Second in the list is accessory, necklaces and bracelets help to ‘zhoosh’ up any style. Lastly I’d say, a hair tie or a safety pin. If you ever feel the need to crop or cut a piece clothing but don’t have the guts to do it, just tie or pin it up and you’re done! I don’t have a current favourite, though I do have an ultimate favourite ha! And it’s a kaftan. I could talk about it everyday. I don’t just wear them to sleep, I would wear them to out too. Sustainability helps me to be more conscious with my clothes. It challenges me to style my clothes differently, instead of buying more. With the kaftan, I sometimes wear it as a skirt and a bunch of other ways which I did a video about it."

BURO: Who's your ultimate style icon, and why?

Seri: "Can my icon be my surroundings? Haha. I’m always inspired by my environment and the people around me. Like implementing kaftan/batik in my style came from the culture and surrounding that I was brought up in. Styling kaftans were natural for me since I grew up in a modest environment. I’m always in a constant search of finding ways to look modest around the elders back in my local supermarket––I love doing groceries––while embracing the style that feels comfortable for me."

BURO: What are some of your favourite local brands at the moment?

Seri: "Ah, brands. For someone who rarely shops, I genuinely don’t have a favourite. I like to support any local brands that can be a service to my needs, like my recent alterations to Darren from Ugly Pretty. I gave him a few of my old dresses to alter and another to repurposed as a corset. I've never owned a corset before and knowing my first corset is made from an old dress of mine feels great!"

BURO: How would you define a sustainable wardrobe?

Seri: "This will sound cliche but… A sustainable wardrobe is the one you already own in your wardrobe or handed down from the people around you. Being sustainable starts from you, it means being able to sustain what you already have."

BURO: What’s your advice to those who’d like to start shopping responsibly or build a more ethical wardrobe?

Seri: "Be conscious with your purchases, especially when you’re thrifting. Since it’s cheap, we tend to buy things we don’t need. It happened to me before I really understood what "sustainability" meant. I feel like we do have a misconception that when purchasing secondhand means we’re purchasing responsibly. It’s true to a certain extent, but the problem arises when we buy too much and end up not wearing the things we purchase."

"Don’t get me wrong, it’s not wrong to fill the dopamine in you by purchasing things, however be conscious and plan ahead. Ask a few questions before purchasing: "Will I wear it often? What will I pair it with? Do I really need it? What will happen if I don’t end up wearing it?". Sleep on it––you might not want that dress tomorrow. I used to spend a lot of hours in the thrift store, coming out with two or even three big bags of clothes that I didn’t need. Nowadays, I just go to my family’s wardrobe or ask my friends if I could borrow any of their clothes. If you see me at a thrift store, I probably have an occasion to attend and since I plan ahead, I’ll spend less time at the thrift store. The quickest was 15 minutes, which is crazy for someone who loves clothes. It definitely took a lot of willpower. The point is having a conscious mind when purchasing doesn't happen overnight. When you start to educate yourself a little and find things like the clothes you’re wearing right now takes hundreds of years to decompose, tell me who wouldn’t want to be more conscious?"

Read more 'BURO Does Basics' here