Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Quitting Fast Fashion: Where to Start

As the climate crisis gets increasingly worse (yes, even with the pandemic), we need to think about how everything we consume affects our environment and the people who have made what we consume. Fast fashion causes extreme damage to both its workers and the environment. The industry is becoming faster each year, increasing production, using more and more resources, more water, more raw materials, more plastic, and more strained working hours. The demand for cheap clothes pushes wages down so that they become practically impossible to live on, sexual harassment and child labour becomes rife, and the cheapening of construction means in order to cut any and all costs, health and safety is often sacrificed. This is seen time and time again with disasters happening in garment factories, most famously the Rana Plaza factory collapse of 2013. With the vast majority of garment workers being low-income women of colour, it is undoubtedly a feminist, class and racial issue. (I’ve linked references at the bottom of this post) 

Whilst I recognise that some people have no choice but to consume fast fashion, it is up to those of us who have the privilege to be able to consume more consciously to do so. If you’re in the position to make more ethical and sustainable choices, you should. And I do believe that whilst there is something each of us can do to limit our consumption, however, whether that’s simply trying to buy less in general, repairing, buying secondhand, etc. And again, I want to reiterate that it is a privilege to do these things by choice rather than necessity. 

 Since making an effort to switch my buying habit so that they are more aligned with slow fashion, I have fallen more in love with fashion and the clothes that I wear than I ever have before. I’ve always loved putting outfits together, trying on new clothes and having a play with new combos, but I love the uniqueness that comes with secondhand and old clothes, as well as clothes from small ethical businesses (even if I haven’t been able to buy many new ethical clothes yet). By basically only buying secondhand clothes, I’ve found items I never would have even seen before and which express ‘me’ a lot better than ones I would find in many sparkly high street shops. Here are some tips for first of all reducing your fast fashion consumption, but also for understanding the issue better and venturing into the wonderful world of slow fashion. 


Look through your wardrobe, how much do you like?


You could take everything out, and put the items you like and would wear again back in, or do it gradually, going through different sections of clothes at a time. It all depends how much time you have available to you. Either way, make sure you like every item in your wardrobe, and that you would wear it at least another 30 times. I have seen some people use a rule of ‘if you haven’t worn it in the last 6 months, get rid of it’ but I find that doesn’t really work for me, because there are some items I know I maybe don’t wear for 6 months because it’s impractical either seasonally or because they’re based around occasions (e.g. thick jumpers, snazzy dresses or light playsuits), but know that I will definitely wear them a lot in the future. Timeframes can be useful as a gage of whether or not you actually do like an item, but I think maybe extend that so it’s something like a year. If there’s an item you rediscover during this progress (we all have those items we’ve found at the back of our wardrobe or drawer that we forgot we had and gone oooohhhh hello), set yourself a reminder or put a note in your planner/calendar to check again to see if you’ve actually worn that item. If you haven’t, get rid of it. And of course, whenever I say get rid of something, I mean donate it to a charity shop, sell it on, give it to a friend for free, exchange it is part of a clothes swap, just DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT throw it in the bin.



Research


Research is something which should never really end when it comes to activism of any kind. We should all be continuously learning, continuously growing and continuously expanding on the way we see the world and our place in it. I believe that learning more about details of the issue we’re seeking to change, we are not only better equipped to challenge the higher systems which cause it, but are also more likely to maintain the smaller individual changes we make as part of that challenge. For example, I now feel incredibly uncomfortable going to a fast fashion high street shop because all I can think about when I see those brand new sparkly clothes are the conditions in which they were created and the walls of Rana Plaza in a pile on the ground. Now that’ll stop you from buying from H&M. 

There are so many ways to do this, and whilst I include some resources here, there are always new articles being published, new documentaries being made, new changes in the industry taking place, and we need to keep reminding ourselves why we consume in the way we do so that we don’t lose track of our goals or slip back into old patterns. 

Here are some resources which should be useful:

Documentaries

 The True Cost
 Bangladesh in Crisis (Part 1 and 2)
Made in Bangladesh
The World Behind a Simple Shirt in 5 Chapters


Books (I haven’t read all of these but they are all on my to read list/I’ve heard good things)

Fashionopolis: the Price of Fast Fashion and the future of Clothes by Dana Thomas
No Logo by Naomi Klein
To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle
Green is the New Black: How to Change the World with Style by Tamsin Blanchard
Fashion Made Fair by Ellen Kohrer and Magdalena Schaffrin


Websites

Fashion Revolution (check their educational resources section, they have so many resources, articles, books, etc. it’s amazing, and definitely a good starting point)

Instagram


I also find apps such as Good On You incredibly useful to compare the differences between brands in terms of their labour, animal and environmental policies. 


Curate your social media


Unfollow all and any fast fashion brands, along with any influencers who heavily promote them. You do not need that messaging on your screen all the time, and I believe this is something that anyone can do. Once you’ve removed them from your feed, you can then rebuild it, to reflect more ethical and sustainable brands, as well as to suit your own fashion sense. There are so many amazing sustainable fashion influencers out there, whether they’re promoting new ethical items or secondhand ones, and many have their own shops. Some of my favourites are Venetia La Manna, Betty Berry, Seasons of Ella and Fierce Petite (but I’ll do a post with more great sustainable influencers and shops to follow another time). Although, if you’re finding following accounts still makes you want to buy items frequently, maybe consider cutting clothing accounts out of your feed altogether to help fight the urge. 

There are also several Facebook groups you could join to help you find sustainable and ethical solutions for fashion issues, most notably Slow Fashion Exchange

Take note of how often you buy clothes


Is this something you do regularly? Or just every now and again? How often do you go into high street stores or browse fast fashion websites online? Take a mental or even physical note of this, and you can use it in the next stage…

Then try to reduce your fashion consumption


Now you know how often you buy something new, you can set yourself a target to make that less. Maybe you buy something every other week, so set yourself the target of not buying something for 3 weeks, and gradually grow that target so that you’re building clothes very rarely and only when you need them.

To recreate the feeling of having new clothes, try experimenting with new combos with items you’ve had for ages. Be daring and try different things, it’s amazing what a different outfit can do for how you feel even if it’s using garments you’ve worn hundreds of times.

If you want to buy something, ask yourself:


Do I really need it?
Will you wear it at least 30 times?
Do I have another item which fulfils the same function?

This may help restraining you when you want to buy things you probably don’t need or actually want, and will eventually become second nature. Similarly, if there’s something you see online, keep the link in a folder or a note or message it to yourself, and if you find you keep coming back to it or are still thinking about it days or a week later, it’s likely that you do actually like that piece of clothing rather than simply the thrill of a new purchase. I like using Depop’s like and save functions for this.



Buy secondhand


As I said at the beginning with clothes, I absolutely love secondhand clothes and all the opportunities and past histories they bring along with them. It’s important to remember that buying clothes secondhand, whilst one of the most environmentally friendly ways of buying clothes, is often a necessity for many people who can’t afford new clothes in whatever form, and that it is a privilege to buy secondhand out of choice. Buying secondhand is a very accessible way of buying ethical fashion, and now certainly takes up a significant portion of my wardrobe and the vast majority of my purchases since I stopped buying fast fashion (I have actually only ever bought one piece of clothing new from an ethical and sustainable company). There are lots of ways to buy/get secondhand clothes and they’re often a lot cheaper that new ethical businesses as well as a lot of fast fashion shops. Whilst I have had a very easy experience with secondhand shopping, it can be a lot harder for people who are plus-sized. I am thin, and most of the items available in charity shops and platforms like Depop will fit me. Lydia Morrow talks a lot about this with Venetia La Manna in a podcast episode, and I would recommend finding fat sustainable influencers, business owners, creators, etc. (I currently don't know of that many but I'm trying to change that) to understand the issue better as I can't really talk about it effectively as someone who is thin. 

Depop is my go-to when looking for specific items, as you can search for something specific easily. It’s also good for a browse or whenever you have the urge to online shop but actually don’t need to buy anything. I’ve bought some of my favourite items from Depop. It has such a range of items, and is a great way to support local businesses as well as sourcing clothes from your local area. 


I bought this dress on Depop not long before lockdown and I absolutely adore it.
 It  makes me feel like Stevie Nicks and a Jane Austen heroine at the same time.

Both of these shoes were found on Depop

Charity shops are my next favourite places to find secondhand clothes. I love wandering in and seeing what I find. It can be very hit and miss, but I’ve found some absolute gems. They can bring up some more issues, depending on which charities you want to support (for example, I boycott Salvation Army for their homophobia) but that’s something for you to decide. A well-known trick is to go to charity shops in more affluent areas to get snazzy or expensive items for a much lower price. I miss charity shop-shopping… I’m excited to have a look through musty clothes racks once this pandemic’s over!


The blazer and the black turtleneck I'm wearing are from charity shops

In addition to charity shops, you can also buy secondhand clothes from vintage shops. These can be a lot more expensive than charity shops, but the items they sell are also more likely to be of better quality. You can also find clothes from specific eras if that’s your jam. They’re always fun to explore. I got my favourite pair of trousers from a vintage shop called Beyond Retro in Brighton a couple of years ago, and I honestly love them to pieces (literally, I have had to repair them several times, and they are in need of a repair at the time of writing). I love looking at Beyond Retro’s Instagram and would love to go back to their shop (they also have one in London). 


This is from the day I bought those trousers. I love them a lot. 

Similarly, you could also have a bit of a browse online. You can also look on places like eBay and Facebook Marketplace.

Swap clothes or take on hand-me-downs


Does a friend have an item they don’t wear anymore but you’ve always loved? Ask them if you could maybe swap it for an item you no longer wear! Be open to taking hand-me-downs from friends or family, or even get a group of friends together with clothes you no longer want and organize a clothes swap. It’s always useful to keep an eye out for clothes swap events happening in your local area, as they can take place for example in vegan cafes, libraries, and other small venues (for example I know Little Green in Newcastle have hosted several clothes swaps before). I often take on t-shirts of my younger brother's once he's grown out of them. So far I have 2 Marvel tops and will soon get a new Wales rugby shirt!

Rent clothes


This is not something I’ve tried, nor something which particularly appeals to me personally, but I know a lot of people are very enthusiastic about renting clothes so it’s still worth me mentioning. Clothing rental companies include Hurr, Onloan and Cocoon Club, offer high end, designer clothes for a certain time for a certain price. Basically like a library. But you pay a lot more, and it’s for clothes… Some people love renting clothes, and I can see how it would give the same feeling of satisfaction if you’re missing that new-clothes-buzz.

Buy new from an ethical brand


There are some things you really don’t want to buy secondhand, such as underwear, swimwear and socks, which can be difficult to find ethically and sustainably. I’m still on the hunt for somewhere to get sustainable socks for when I eventually need to get new ones. The only item of clothing I have ever actually bought from an ethical and sustainable brand (pretty much everything else is secondhand) is an underwear set I recently bought from Brighton Lace. The set I got are absolutely beautiful, and I can’t wait to wear them more. They are comfortable and make me feel proper good about myself when I’m wearing them. There are also several other ethical underwear brands out there including Mojo Lingerie, Lara Intimates and Organic Basics. Over time as my old pants and bras wear out, I hope to make my underwear drawer a lot more ethical. 



Even if it’s an item you could get secondhand, it’s also important to support the business who are doing fashion the right way, to support local businesses and make fashion a friendlier industry. However, it is important to remember that these brands will, by nature, be a lot more expensive, so they're something to save up for and really make a goal purchase. 

Choosing Ethical is a website I found recently which has a catalogue of UK-based ethical and sustainable clothing businesses, which looks like it would be quite useful, especially if you’re looking for something in particular. 

I’m going to give a quick mention to a few brands here, but there are so many clothing brands out there doing great things it’s so fun doing research on these things (or am I just a massive nerd for ethical fashion? Probably). Some honourable mentions include: Lucy & Yak, People TreeGood Strange Vibes, Sancho'sKemi Telford, and Know the Origin.

Repair!


Learn to repair your clothes, and you can make the items you love last a lot longer. If you're bored with them and want to jazz them up, add some embroidery or patches or upcycle them in another way. Admittedly, I’m not great at this and I do need to learn a lot. I usually ask my flatmate to fix things for me (thank you Jude!) or ask my mum for help, but I need to learn how to fix things properly becauseI am a GODDAMN CAPABLE GROWN WOMAN WHO SHOULD BE DOING THIS FOR HERSELF! It does take time and patience though, but I’ll get there. A lockdown summer project, perhaps. 

I got the heels of these boots replaced in February


And remember, don’t be too hard on yourself.


Like anything new, you won’t get everything right straight away. The fast fashion industry is complex and dominates the market, and some brands are now pretty good at greenwashing and tricking customers into believing that they have changed and really care about the environment, when they actually don't. Sometimes a middle ground is needed. For example, when I needed a new pair of trousers for work and also new swimwear slightly over a year ago, I bought items from M&S and FatFace. Whilst not perfect and still a large company, M&S has a reasonable history of worker and environmental welfare and offered trousers I loved made from Tencel (a sustainable material made from wood pulp); and the bikini I bought from FatFace is made from recycled plastics and was the best option available to me (many more ethically and sustainably made swimwear are often very expensive). I wish I could always buy from small, perfectly ethical and sustainable companies, but that’s just not the reality for most people. The important thing is to do the most you are able, and cherish the clothes you already own.



If you liked this post you might like: OOTD // Second Hand

3 comments:

  1. This is such a useful post. Cutting down on fast fashion is one of my biggest goals at the moment. I will definitely give those documentaries a watch as well x

    Roni | myelevatedexistence.com

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    1. I'm so glad this was useful! If you have any questions I'm always open to answering them for you ☺️

      Jemima x

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  2. This looks so informative! I'll change trying to switch to slow....
    Thanks for sharing


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