Fashion is designed to make us feel good. Clothes help us create our own identity, build our confidence and make us feel stylish. But at what cost? Would we really feel so good if we knew what it was doing to the planet?
Our relationship with clothes has turned sour. What were once garments to be worn for life; to be cherished, loved, repaired and reworn are now throw-away fast fashion items that have a purposely limited shelf life and are only ‘on trend’ for one season.
My relationship with clothes has changed a lot. From my teenage years of being influenced by school friends (the time we all wore Quiksilver even though we’d never been near a surf board, the weird octopus trousers and waist high chunky belts) to stepping into Primark for the first time like it was Santa’s grotto, and then obsessing over what the latest trend was in Topshop. I’ll admit I never thought twice about how my clothes were made or where they went when I got rid of them.
I often justified my new purchases by giving my wardrobe a seasonal clear out and donating what I no longer liked to charity. But I’ve since learned that even charity shops are overwhelmed with stock and often ship deadstock that can’t be sold abroad where it’s burned or goes to landfill. I was the problem. My relationship with clothes was the problem.
That all changed during my trip to New Zealand (which I’m sure you’ve heard me rave about by now). I spent 7 months living out of a suitcase and I had to pack for all weather and seasons. I quickly got frustrated with having so much stuff to carry around when I was just living in the same clothes. There’s something about travelling that allows you to just be yourself, meet interesting people, go on adventures and just enjoy living. No-one pays attention to the fact that you’ve worn the same t-shirt 3 days in a row or your shoes have holes in because you’re just too busy enjoying life.
When I got home I was overwhelmed with all the clothes I had in my wardrobe, many with tags on that had never been worn. I saw fashion in a whole new way after realising I didn’t need to be ‘on trend’ to justify who I was as a person.
And then I started learning. I also learned about how damaging fashion is to people and the planet. I learned about how many garment workers are refused basic humans rights, paid below minimum wage and even risk their lives to make low quality clothes for big name brands. I learned how most of our clothes are made from plastic-based materials that create huge profits for oil corporations, how cotton is grown in a way that damages land and the way we dye denim pollutes our waterways. I honestly believe if everyone knew what really goes into making their clothes, and made small changes where possible, we could really make a difference.
F*** Fast Fashion with my top 4 steps:
– Step 1 – ReStyle
I don’t know about you but the main reason I want new clothes is because I’m bored of what I have. A good way to overcome this is to try and restyle your existing garments. Is there a dress you could wear in the winter with a jumper over the top, or underneath? (a current fave!) Can you put a blouse under your jumpsuit, or cut your old jeans into shorts? Get to know your clothes and take some time to experiment with ways you can wear them, it will make you feel like you have a new wardrobe without doing any of the shopping!
– Step 2 – Swap
I’m pretty lucky that I’m a similar size to my boyfriend, mum, sister and lovely grandma who is no longer with us, so I am always pinching their unwanted clothes. What looks one way on one person can look completely different on someone else, with different shoes or accessories, so always be open to sharing and swapping before you look at buying.
– Step 3 – Shop second hand
I’d heard about Depop for ages but never downloaded it until this year when I was after some new clothes for the scorching French summer. Ideally I’d go charity shop shopping but in France it’s not really a popular concept, so I tried Depop. Safe to say I’m totally hooked! There are loads of other apps for second hand shopping and you can also use traditional websites like eBay and Facebook marketplace.
– Step 4 – Shop sustainably
If you’ve gone through steps 1-3 and you’ve still not scratched your fashion itch, then it’s ok to buy something new. If you are going to do this, try and choose a brand that has good ethics. One of my go-to resources for learning about a brand’s sustainability rating is the Good On You brand directory. They rate most popular fashion brands and then offer great alternatives.
A side note…shopping sustainably can be pricey and something not everyone can afford, which is completely fine! My golden rule, as with everything, is to do what you can, with what you have. If you’re on a low budget and have to buy something from a fast fashion brand but you know you’ll wear it for years… then do it! Just make sure you know you *really* like / need it before you buy it, and it’s not just because you saw an influencers wearing it or it’s on sale.