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We Need to Talk About Privilege and Sustainable Fashion

In recent weeks there has been an increased discussion online about the fast fashion industry and shopping ethically, due to events such as ...

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5 Sustainable Jewellery Businesses You Need to Know About

Friday, 20 November 2020

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 Snazzy jewellery is what I live for! Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but the sentiment still applies. Jewellery is such a fun way of expressing yourself and jazzing up an outfit. To find the most interesting jewellery, I always head either secondhand or to small businesses. Here are some small jewellery businesses owned and run by women I love, and I hope you will too!



1. Pomsha


Pomsha sells a wide variety of earrings, using lots of different materials and styles. They do clip-ons and requests for colours, so you can really customize your order. They have several charity earrings, in support of causes such as Color of Change, supporting Covid protections in Syria, Extinciton Rebellion, Black Vision Collective and Free Palestine. They use clay in several different ways – as tiles to paint images on, to make faces and other shapes, all are super creative and not something I’ve seen used much before. Other products include hook earrings with charms, beads and pom-poms. 


Pomsha Instagram

2. Felt Fancy

 

Felt Fancy sells a mixture of necklaces, bracelets and earrings, all made out of recycled and responsibility sourced materials. The main feature of Felt Fancy, as you would expect from the name, is their use of felt in most of their designs. Their most pom-pom earrings! These come in several different sizes, a wide range of colours, and some have added beads on the hoops. Each item is made to order, which reduces the amount of wasted materials. 50% of all bracelet profits go to Black Lives Matter UK.


Felt Fancy Instagram

3. WOWE


On their Instagram page, WOWE describe themselves as ‘wearable art’ and I certainly think that description is very apt. The products they make genuinely astound me frequently. They have so many different designs, including every type of fruit you could think of (my personal faves are the pears), flowers, waves, and more! They use minimal and plastic-free packaging. If you like bright colours and snazzy patterns, WOWE is for you!


WOWE Instagram


4. Eclectic Eccentricity


I first found out about Eclectic Eccentricity after Hannah Witton shared a few items she’d been gifted a few years ago. They sell bracelets, earrings, and necklaces, as well as stationary and some homeware (mostly small plant pots). My favourites of theirs are their pressed flower necklaces. I think they’re absolutely beautiful. Eclectic Eccentricitiy has been running for over 10 years and continues to support several charities, particularly Women for Women International. They also avoid all single-use plastic and are zero waste!


Eclectic Eccentricity Instagram

5. Foaki


Run by Yossy, all the products sold by Foaki are inspired by her Nigerian heritage. They sell rings, necklaces, earrings, hairclips, and even some net bags! All of their products are absolutely gorgeous, but I have to say that my favourite product of theirs is their Nike earrings. I am obsessed, and kept an eye out for a long time for them to come back in stock so I could get my own pair. I also think many of these would make beautiful and super affordable gifts for friends and family. 


Foaki Website
 

What are your favourite small jewellery businesses? 




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My Slow Fashion Journey: From Addict to Activist

Monday, 9 November 2020

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The transition to slow fashion is a journey that the entire fashion industry and us as citizens needs to take is a gradual one, yet so vital. While it’s important that we as citizens do our best to slow down our own consumption of clothes and to source them from ethical and sustainable avenues, that’s not always possible and is so dependent on a person’s privilege. As much as we should try our best individually to make our choices more ethical and sustainable, we have to hold brands to account for their exploitative practices. Complete system change is required to bring justice to workers and the planet, and shaming ourselves and others is not the way to change, naming and shaming the brands is!


I always find it useful and super interesting to find out about how people discovered slow fashion and how they made differences in their lifestyles and approach to brands. It’s important to remember that even the people who are now the most outspoken advocates of ethical and sustainable fashion at one point bought fast fashion, and probably bought a lot of it. There’s a starting point for everyone, and we shouldn’t feel guilty about wherever we are along our slow fashion journey. These things take time, persistence, frustration and resilience. Fast fashion marketing is manipulative and seemingly ethical and inclusive brands can let us down. It’s complicated.  

 

So, how did my slow fashion journey begin?



My A Level years were a huge time of learning for me, particularly outside of the curriculum. I learned a lot about feminism, mostly through the books I was able to borrow from my local library and my college library, and I increasingly looked into the need for intersectionality within this movement. I also learned a lot about sustainability, veganism (through my vegan friends I met at college), and eventually the effects of fast fashion. I started looking into the issue after hearing about some ethical issues within the fast fashion industry from a friend (love you Liz). I starting looking into NGOs like Fashion Revolution, and through them finding out about events like Rana Plaza and how systemic worker and environmental exploitation is within the industry. 

 

I went into college starting my A Levels and buying fast fashion enthusiastically – H&M was my favourite place to get my clothes! – and I left with completed exams and a determination to buy as little as possible, and when I did for those garments to be either secondhand or made sustainably and ethically (or at least to buy the most sustainable and ethical option available to me).

 

It was that summer between A levels and starting uni that I became more confident in my style. I got my dungarees, a couple of wildly patterned t-shirts and a few other items (all secondhand), and felt a lot happier in the clothes that I was wearing. I’d always loved clothes and putting outfits together, but there was a different kind of satisfaction knowing that less harm was created through the clothes I was now wearing (and indeed, do still wear).

 

Since then, I’ve done a lot more research into workers’ rights and the environment, have actively sought out stories from garment workers themselves, and was even able to write about the Rana Plaza disaster for a university essay. I am also currently doing a project on migrant workers in Boohoo's Leicester factories as part of one of my final year modules. Slow fashion is now at the centre of my activism. It encompasses so many different areas and issues – from colonialism, feminism, environmental conservation, labour rights, and more. With the pandemic, the increasing number of fast fashion scandals (notably #PayUp), as well as having more spare time as a result of finishing my second year of uni and being unable to continue my usual customer service job, I used the opportunity to ramp up my activism and research in the area. Before and at the beginning of the pandemic, I had kind of lost my way with my blog. I hadn’t written a post that wasn’t a Monthly Wrap Up for a several months, and to be frank, was burned out from my degree and other projects. Writing about these issues, on my blog and elsewhere, helped me get my writing mojo back as well as help give me a new sense of purpose and improve my mental health when it had been in a bit of a dire state. 

 

Although I do consider myself to be a subscriber of slow fashion, and for most of my clothes consumption to be generally sustainable and ethical, I am still not perfect, and that is important to highlight. M&S is always my backup if I can’t find something secondhand, or need something new and either can’t find it ethically or the ethical option is unaffordable for me. It’s not a perfect brand, but it’s certainly the best on the high street for sustainability and workers’ rights (Good On You is a great place to check these areas), and shopping better wear possible even if not perfect is always better than not thinking about wear your garment comes from at all. Middle grounds are what movements towards ethical and sustainable consumption need more of, so that it doesn’t just become the domain the most elite. 

 

I have probably gone as far as the average individual is able – more if you take into account my level of privilege – and wider changes need to be made societally and within the fashion industry to bring justice to workers and those buying the clothes they make. If you want to find out more about the fast fashion industry and how to separate yourself from it, I recommend looking through my Fast Fashion 101 Resource Document as well as looking into organisations like Remake and Remember Who Made Them. Please sign Remake's latest #PayUp petition to demand that brands pay their workers during the pandemic.





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Sustainable OOTD // Beatnik Inspired

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

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As much as I do love a pop of colour, I also love outfits which are all black. This jumper is one of my favourites and is the one which sparked my love of turtlenecks. I've been told a few times that this outfit looks like something a Beatnik would have worn and you know what? I'm kinda here for that. Gimme some monochromes any day! 




Turtleneck – secondhand fast fashion bought from a charity shop around 3 years ago

Jeans – M&S (one of the better high street brands in terms of ethical and sustainable production), owned for I think about 4 or 5 years

Boots - secondhand fast fashion bought on Depop at the beginning of the year, repaired once

Headband – gift from a friend 2 Christmasses ago

Necklace – had when I was a kid, genuinely no idea how long I've had it but it's a long time!

Earrings - had so long I can’t remember when or where I bought them, wear all the time.





Thank you to my friend Jude for braving the cold rain to take these pictures!


If you liked this post you might like: OOTD // When Harry Met Sally Inspired
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October 2020 | Monthly Wrap Up

Friday, 30 October 2020

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 It feels like October has been going on for ages, but it’s officially autumn and yes it’s now getting cold and dark but currently the leaves look pretty and deadlines are still a little bit distant. 



Favourite part?


I finally started back at uni! Albeit mostly from the same desk in my bedroom, but it’s good to be back in a learning environment again. All of my lectures are prerecorded, so I only have live seminars at the moment, which means that my time is even more flexible than previous years and I have to make more effort to manage my time and effectively create my own timetable. 

 

It was also my 21st birthday this month! As I’m sure many people have experienced this year, lockdown birthdays are a bit weird, and a bit more understated than we may otherwise have been. However, I still had a really great day and am thankful for my flatmates for that. We had pancakes for breakfast, went out to Tynemouth and North Shields during the day for walks around the parks, beaches and looking around charity shops and Keel Row Bookshop. We had takeaway from Karma Kitchen, a family run vegan Indian restaurant I absolutely adore, and had a great time. 


 

With uni starting, so did society events. I’ve loved the events Feminist Society have run so far this year and was so proud of the first Book Club event I ran with my friend Martha about the book Feminism, Interrupted by Lola Olufemi. I could rave about this book for hours and the discussions we had were so engaging and made me so excited for the rest of the year! I also represented FemSoc at a Gender and Sexuality discussion group with other students from Newcastle and students from University of Pittsburgh. It was a really good discussion and I really enjoyed it! 

 

I’ve also listened to several other talks online, including several about environmental movements, particularly about intersectional environmental movements, about clothes and the garment industry and a talk Lola Olufemi gave through the University of Dundee. 

 

This month has reminded me how cooking really is my meditation. Most of my days look pretty similar: at my desk doing uni work, reading, doing NEST work, etc., and taking time away from screens putting food together is my main source of respite and recharging immediately after I’m done for the day. I’ve also realized how easy it is for me to stay inside for days on end if I don’t force myself to, so I’m taking steps to ensure I’m not in my flat 24/7.



It was also my flatmate’s birthday yesterday, so at the time this post goes up it’s likely I’ll be a bit hungover.

 

Best read?

 

I’ve actually read a bit more this month although it doesn’t really feel like it. With uni starting back again, so does uni reading. I’m currently reading Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Beetle by Richard Marsh for one of my module, which I’m thoroughly enjoying. 

 

I also read Out of Office by Fiona Thomas, which is an incredible guide for anyone who wants to do freelance work and was a really accessible and enjoyable read too.

 

I also read the short satire book New Erotica for Feminists by which I as given as a present last year and finally got around to reading this year. It was funny though at times I thought it was a little bit off. At one page for example I crossed out the words ‘Margaret Thatcher’ and wrote Angela Davis underneath. Apart from that I enjoyed and it was a read to take my mind off other stresses.



Favourite tunes?


I’ve been listening to Taylor Swift’s Red and folklore on repeat, particularly ‘betty’ and ‘last great american dynasty’ as shower songs to lift my mood at the beginning of the day.


Favourite watch?


I’ve been really loving Staged recently. I love the pairing of David Tennant and Michael Sheen, the layout of the show and found the Wales jokes particularly funny. I’m certainly looking forward to the next series! 

 

I finished rewatching Game of Thrones. I still love it as much as ever and the last (two) series still frustrates me as much as ever. I just wish there had been more time given for character development nearer the end…

 

Strictly is back! Even though it’s not as it usually is, it’s definitely a comfort to have something so familiar back on regularly. I am always here for the glitz!

 

I’ve continued to watch more Taskmaster and Bake Off. In fact, I think Bake Off is one of the only things which helps me realise what point in the week we’re at. I’ve also been watching Married at First Sight and First Dates. 

 

I’ve also watched a few films, including the absolute classic that is Flushed Away and the recent adaptation of Rebecca, which I really enjoyed and I am now desperate to read the book!


Source


What did I learn?


9ams aren’t as bad as they seem, even if several of them on the trot isn’t fun, and they're much more manageable when online than in person! I should probably try getting up earlier as I genuinely am more productive and I need the extra time at the moment. 

 

Boundaries work and are there for a reason. It’s noticeable when I don’t follow them. 

 

What’s happening next month?

 

More of the same. I’m continuing with my uni work (I’ve got some of my first assessments), my work with FemSoc and NEST, as well as more writing. I hope to still have some fun time around Newcastle if we’re not in full lockdown!

 

What’s been on my mind?


Healing – how it looks, how it changes and its more of its impacts. I’ve not necessarily been thinking about it in a bad way or from a place of hurt, but more reflective and looking forward. 

 

I’ve also been really trying to keep on top of everything and thinking about what I need to say no to and what I need to prioritise. My final year of uni in a global pandemic isn’t the most relaxed experience (anyone in the same situation to me will be able to tell you that!) but it’s the situation I’m stuck in and need to figure out how best to handle. 

 

Favourite blogger/vlogger?

 

Not specifically just her blog, but I’ve been really loving Victoria/In The Frow’s Instagram, particularly the creativity of her reels – they’re so professional and stunning! I’ve also been enjoying some of her blog posts, especially about how repeating outfits helped her find her style

 

And as always, Leena Norms’ videos have been a major comfort to me.

 

Favourite post?


I always enjoy the posts that occur around my birthday. It’s great to look back and reflect on the past year, at how I’ve grown and the things that have shaped me. I did that in two posts this year, my usual Me at… post as well as 21 Things I’ve Learned in 21 Years

 

I’m also really proud of my other two posts. I love the images used for my When Harry Met Sally OOTD (thank you to Jude for taking them!) and I think that a younger me would have found What’s So Bad About Fast Fashion? very useful as it compiles so much about the industry it took me years to learn. 


 

Biggest inspiration?

 

Wanting to do the best in my degree now that the end is in sight. Working on improving and maintaining my mental health, happiness and overall wellbeing because I deserve for all of those to be prospering. 

 

Any other favourites?


The app Planta! I downloaded it after my flatmate recommended it and it is a lifesaver. You basically input all of your houseplants, stating which room they’re in with the different light levels etc., and it gives you notifications when you need to water each of them and you can tick those tasks off once you’ve completed them. For any new plant parent, this will help you! 




If you liked this post you might like: September 2020 | Monthly Wrap Up

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What's So Bad About Fast Fashion?

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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Fast fashion is a hot topic, and one I talk about frequently (on this blog, in other articles, on social media and in real life conversations). The term often gets thrown around without much background discussion into what it actually is, and when people publicly condemn it, the reasoning behind this condemnation is sometimes overlooked, instead simply just calling for boycott without detailed reasoning as for why. So what actually is fast fashion, and what’s so bad about it?



What is Fast Fashion?

 

Fashion Revolution defines fast fashion as ‘cheap clothing, with quick turnover that encourages repurchasing’. Fast fashion encourages us to buy more and use less. This has only increased since the invention of the Internet, with online shopping helping to aid a culture of quick buys and constant newness. Marketing strategies have pushed the idea that we need more items, that new products will solve our problems. And with social media sites designed to get us addicted constantly bombarding us with brightly coloured images of cheap clothes we are told we need to buy, how can we blame consumers for doing as they’re told? 

 

This fast-paced nature of our modern fashion industry is detrimental on a whole number of levels. In this post I will highlight the main offenders, and explain what we mean when we say that fast fashion is unethical and unsustainable, as well as going into a little bit about how many of these brands are problematic even when you take out these factors. 

 

Ethical Issues – Workers’ Rights

 

The treatment of garment workers is the main reason many people (including myself) have a problem with the fast fashion industry. In order to allow fast fashion brands to sell their clothes so cheaply, their suppliers are under pressure to sell them garments for as cheaply as possible. This need to reduce cost leads to a whole range of issues, and undercuts most of the ethical issues found within fast fashion supply chains.

 

The main result of this is that many garment workers are paid less than a living wage and work incredibly long hours. In recent years, Bangladesh, where the garment sector accounts for 80% of its exports, has been gradually increasing its minimum wage, but even then factories are working beneath those requirements and trying to find loopholes where possible. 

 

This is not just an issue in countries in the Global South, (most prominently Bangladesh), it also happens in countries such as the UK, as we have seen with the repeated allegations of sweatshops present in Leicester. The latest report on the factories in Leicester highlighted how suppliers for brands such as Boohoo were paying their workers as little as £3.50/hour, well below the minimum wage, and to work in unsafe conditions, resulting in a spike in coronavirus cases in the area. 

 

Cutting costs also leads to many safety issues in factories. This is includes frequent workplace disasters and injuries. The most famous of these is the Rana Plaza disaster which occurred in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 24 April 2013. Structural instability within the building caused it to collapse, leaving 1,134 people dead and a further 2,500 seriously injured. Before the factory collapsed, workers had protested as they could see large cracks in the walls, increasing day by day. While higher paid people with admin roles had been evacuated days previously, the garment workers were forced to remain working inside the building under threat of losing their jobs, and therefore their livelihoods. While other incidents like this have been happening for years beforehand, and continued afterward (for example at Tazreen Garments in 2012, also in Dhaka), the collapse of Rana Plaza was the biggest of its kind in recent history, and marked a huge change in attitudes toward the fast fashion industry globally. Fashion Revolution, perhaps the most prominent non-profit in this area, was founded in reaction to it, with Fashion Revolution Week now occurring annually to both commemorate the people who died in Rana Plaza and to campaign for change in the industry. Many legislative changes were made in its wake, but despite the global uproar which occurred around Rana Plaza, the problems which led to the disaster weren’t solved. Factory disasters still occur, often as smaller collapses and fires. These issues also link to other major incidents across the world. For example, although in completely different areas and circumstances, I cannot help but see clear links between the Rana Plaza collapse and the fire at Grenfell Tower.



 

The need to rapidly produce garments for Western consumers means that immense pressure is put on suppliers to cut costs and maximize efficiency. As a result of this, garment workers are often denied toilet breaks and paid leave (including maternity leave). They are also exposed to dangerous chemicals and fire escapes are often blocked to prevent them from leaving. There are also many cases of child labour and sexual harassment and abuse, although many cases aren’t known because of the potential consequence of the victim being let go and therefore losing their income. 

 

Factory managers also often threaten to fire workers if they take a day off or if they protest or form unions. This has been seen many times and across different countries. For example, in a recent case in Myanmar, hundreds workers at factories supplying Zara and Primark were fired after they formed a union in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and brands refusing to pay for orders which had already been made. Some have since been reinstated

 

It is important to remember the demographics of these garment workers. According to non-profit Remake, 80% of garment workers worldwide are women aged 18-24, while factory owners and brand owners tend to be men. In factories like the one in Leicester, these women are more likely to be migrants with less English, and therefore more vulnerable to modern slavery and other forms of exploitation. Fast fashion is a feminist issue, and it cannot be treated differently.

 

The dynamics of the fast fashion industry are those of neo-colonialism. Resources are taken from previously colonized and often poorer countries, then transported for use in richer countries who had previously been the colonisers. While the resources may have changed, the same power imbalances remain. This system is dependent on white supremacist patriarchy for survival, and it is also those systems we must aim to eradicate when we’re seeking for change in the fashion industry. 

 

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Remake's #PayUp campaign has been highly publicized in both the traditional media and social media. As a result of closing stores etc., many brands cancelled thousands of orders, many of which had already been completed (or at least partly completed). This was devastating for garment workers, leaving them without pay for potentially months on end and risking starvation. This campaign has resulted in several brands reversing their decisions and paying their suppliers, meaning that so far $22 billion has been recovered. I urge you to sign the latest #PayUp petition and read through the seven demands Remake are asking of brands.


Image credit


Sustainability

 

Fast fashion also brings up a whole load of environmental issues. Frankly, the rate of production many of these brands operate on is just not sustainable in any way. Those with the fasted rates of production include Boohoo, Missguided, Pretty Little Thing, Shein, Fashion Nova, and yes, H&M. In their recent Channel 4 documentary, Missguided CEO Nitin Passi revealed that the company releases over 3,500 new products each month. He also stated how 50% of their stock is less than a month old and 90% is less than 3 months old. That’s a hell of a lot of new clothes, many of which will be made of damaging materials such as polyester (i.e. plastic). This combined with a culture of disposability surrounding clothes is incredibly damaging. Even if they used sustainable materials, this level of production will never be sustainable, simply for the amount of energy and resources it uses. 

 

In an effort to salvage their reputations, many fast fashion brands our now using recycled and other sustainable materials, often releasing their own ‘eco-friendly’ collections (see: H&M Conscious). However, these attempts at sustainability often only amount to greenwashing. What is greenwashing? It’s essentially when a company markets itself to be environmentally friendly when in reality they are anything but. This often includes using buzzwords such as ‘ethical’, ‘sustainable’, ‘vegan’, ‘eco’, and ‘green’ (which aren’t restricted in advertising in anyway) as well as visual imagery like green and neutral colours, etc. to suggest links to nature. 


H&M marketing material


One of the most popular means of being more sustainable is by using recycled materials. Often, garments are only made using a small proportion of recycled material. This can often be as little as 5% to mean they use the term ‘recycled’ on their label, and therefore their marketing. Many brands have used this method, both fast fashion brands and smaller businesses which are more sustainable and ethical all round. However, even though they use materials which are overall less damaging to the environment, their rapid production rates still have a huge impact. If they truly want to have less of an environmental impact, brands should slow down their production rates, otherwise their efforts mean nothing. 

 

The materials are also something which need to be taken into account. It can take 2,700 litres to produce a cotton t-shirt. There are ways of reducing this, as outlined by WWF, for example by using organic cotton. The world’s most commonly used material is polyester, which is essentially a type of plastic and is derived from oil, and takes up 65% of all fibres used in textiles. It is a revolutionary material, being cheap, easy to wash, easy to blend with other fibres, easily dyed as well as having a whole load of different ways it can be used, so it’s easy to see why it’s now so popular. However, it is very damaging to the environment. I would highly recommend looking through the briefing Common Objective did on polyester if you want more detail, but it’s essentially like all other plastics. As garments made of polyester get washed, they shed microplastics which end up in the oceans, being consumed by both humans and animals alike. 

 

The Brands Themselves

 

Then there’s the public image of fast fashion brands themselves. They often use false claims of feminism and ‘girl power’, bandwagoning onto social movements and activism circles when in reality for a marketing ploy. Brands such as Missguided market themselves on their apparent ethos of ‘empowerment’ and body positivity, when in reality their gender pay gaps are at 46% and they are shown to make fatphobic comments in a documentary series which was supposed to be promotional. When you look behind the sparkly smokescreen, the supposed ‘wokeness’ of these brands is nothing but performative. There are so many examples of this, I could go on for ages about brands behaving horrendously. Another repeat offender is Shein, who this year tried to sell Islamic prayer mats as decorative rugs and also used swastikas on necklaces

 

In addition to this, these companies turning over hundreds of millions of pounds each year (and often owned by billionaires) are frequently called out for outright copying the designs of small businesses. From M&S (who are generally better on workers’ rights and sustainability, and are generally slower than other high street brands) stealing designs from Stay Wild Swim, to Pretty Little Thing trying to pass off Do Not Subverge’s designs for their own. This happens across the industry, but particularly with brands who are releasing new designs by their thousands each month. These businesses are often a lot more ethical and sustainable than these big name brands, and black-owned businesses are frequently victims of this kind of behaviour. 


In 2017 Missguided were called out for only
stocking a 'feminist' tee in sizes 8-14
.


As you can see the problems with fast fashion are extensive, and its domination over the fashion industry is an issue which will not solve itself overnight. To find out more, you can check out the vast amount of information in my Fast Fashion 101 Resource Doc, and if you have any questions, I am always willing to try my best to answer them. 

 

It is important to remember that there is not one solution to this issue, and we should not be blaming consumers. Yes, as consumers we should do as much as we are able to slow down our fashion consumption but it is ultimately the responsibility of the billionaire CEOs who are profiting off exploitation to change it. As they are unlikely to make that decision on their own, we have to hold them to account and lobby for change. One way to directly support garment workers is by becoming a patreon of the Remember Who Made Them campaign, a non-profit which supports garment workers to unionise. They have options for as little as $1 a month. 



If you liked this post you might like: Quitting Fast Fashion: Where to Start

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