August 2020 | Monthly Wrap Up

Monday, 31 August 2020

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Somehow its August? Did summer even happen?!



Favourite part?

 

Dare I say it, August may have been my best full month this year? Okay so I may have just cursed myself, but I feel like some things are on the up. I’ve been writing a lot, mostly blog posts that will be published throughout the year on topics I am passionate about. I’ve been trying to pre-writ things while I have both the time and motivation to, so that I’m less stressed about blog content when uni starts back again and I need to focus on my degree. I have also started writing for The Tab! My first piece was all about how students can be more environmentally friendly, and then my second piece – a critique of the recent Inside Missguided documentary - was featured nationally! Writing nationally was a learning experience I’m very grateful for and it was a proud moment for me. 



I actually left the house a few times this month. I know, absolutely wild! I went for an afternoon in my local town centre with my mum, doing errands, having a browse of markets and local shops, and had lunch in a small cafe. I even went into a charity shop for the first time since March! I had a great time and saw I dress I absolutely loved, but didn’t buy anything as we understandably weren’t allowed to try things on. 

 

I also went for a walk and catch up with a friend I’d not seen since the beginning of January. This was so nice, especially as I’ve not seen many people outside my family for months as I haven’t felt comfortable going on public transport, etc. 

 

Apart from that I’ve been reading a little bit, slowly packing my stuff as I prepare to move house, and spending lots of time with my cat!



Best read?

 

I’ve not read as much in August; I think mostly because I’ve been writing more. However, I have read more of Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth, and I started reading House of Spirits by Isabel Allende for a book club I help run. 


 

I picked up a couple of magazines while I was out and about this month. I don’t get magazines laods, but occasionally some issues catch my eye and I have a rifle through. I picked up copies of both Vogue and Glamour, and found it really interesting how they included articles on topics like masturbation, periods and decolonizing beauty. I have a lot of thoughts on them overall, so watch out for a blog post about them. I’d forgotten how relaxing it is to just sit in bed and read magazines. 



I would also like to highly recommend Annie Kelly’s recent article about sexual abuse in fashion supply chains. It can be difficult to read and is harrowing, but it is so important and needs to be shared.

 

Favourite tunes?


Taylor Swift’s folklore. My queen. She makes me feel things. I’ve also been cracking out my old ABBA playlist again. It’s always a good time for ABBA.


Favourite watch?

 

As usual, I’ve done a fair bit of rewatching this month – notably Good Omens, Outnumbered and Dear White People. Films I rewatched include Bridesmaids and Groundhog Day!

 

I’ve also been watching several new series: Umbrella Academy, Mrs. America and Never Have I Ever. I loved all of these, particularly the last two. They’re so brilliant for so many reasons. Honestly, the Mrs. America title sequence is a serious bop and I may have had a small dance party every time I started a new episode. There’s so much to say about Never Have I Ever (which I’ll expand upon in a later blog post). It’s so well written, so heartfelt and so funny. I’d recommend it to everyone!!


 

What did I learn?

 

I can do things and I am capable. I also figured out something I was asked about in therapy a few months ago, which gave me a bit of a boost. 

 

What’s happening next month?

 

I’m moving back to Newcastle! I’m so excited to have my own space again, to spend more time with my flatmates and friends there, and just all the things that come with moving into a new house. 

 

I have a month between moving into my new house and starting uni, so I’ll be using that time to prep for all the other things I do alongside my course (societies, volunteering, blog, etc.), get myself fully settled in to my new house, and start thinking more about getting back into an academic mindset and some kind of routine. 

 

What’s been on my mind?


Can we not talk about the state of the world for a little bit, thank you. (But also, Oatly you disappointed me god dammit.)

 

Favourite blogger/vlogger?

 

I loved Hannah Witton’s Wedding Q&A, especially where she was discussing feminism and weddings. It’s such an interesting discussion to have.

 

Favourite post?

 

August has had a fair amount of blog posts, and I am proud of them. My favourites are We Need to Talk About Privilege and Sustainable Fashion and Why Saving Libraries is a Necessity, Not an Option. They’re both such important discussions to be having and I put a lot of work into both (they’re basically essays). The post about libraries is so personal o me and actually makes me quite emotional as a topic, and I know that topic has the same effect on others too.




Biggest inspiration?


Is it bad to say knowing that I’ll be back in Newcastle soon? It’s been a massive motivator for me. I know I’ll have a new space for a new start, and can hopefully feel less stuck than I have been since moving home for lockdown. 


Any other favourites?

 

I’ve been using up one of my jars of Mindful Bites Dark Chocolate Spread on crumpets and it’s so good, although I do prefer the 'milk' chocolate one. Get me all the chocolatey goodness! Ooh and using dresses as tops! It may seem random, but honestly, this has given me so much joy recently. I have so many new outfits now.


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Why Saving Libraries is Not Just an Option, It's a Necessity

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

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 On 28th July, Hampshire County Council announced that proposed plans to close 8 libraries had been finalised, along with a further reduction of opening hours to those remaining. I first heard about these plans as I watched a Tory councilor on BBC South Today defending these actions the next day. With uni (and being on the opposite side of the country) and the chaos of Corona, I was unaware of these proposals until this announcement. I was unable to contribute to the public survey, the results of which show that public favour is very different from the course of action taken by councils. It is fair to say when I found out about these cuts, I was incredibly angry. 


I am aware that this post is more specific, perhaps, than many of my others, however this issue is not a localized one. Libraries are worldwide resources, which have been treated with contempt by those in power (particularly by right wing politicians). Along with the NHS, libraries are perhaps one of the most radical institutions in the UK. In libraries, lie history. In history lies critical thinking, better understanding of our own and others’ experiences, and even increased empathy. They allow the circulation of knowledge for free. No matter who you are, libraries are open to you. 


Since 2010, and the introduction of austerity measures by the Coalition government (continued and increased by the Conservative majority government since 2015), almost 800 libraries have closed across England, Wales and Scotland. That’s 17% of all libraries. The number of paid library staff decreased 10,000 from 2010 to the end of 2019 – around 64% are left. This has led to an increased reliance on volunteer work to keep libraries going. While staff carry out the more specialist behind the scenes tasks, volunteers are able to do the smaller things which can take up a lot of time and are super necessary for support. For example, shelving returned books, preparing resources for children’s crafts, helping out with events. All this while staff are caring for customers and doing a variety of other tasks, some of which often require knowledge of specific computer systems. 


It is this push towards volunteer work which has allowed Hampshire County Council to avoid using language of ‘closure’ around what is, in reality, just that. Instead, saying that they are simply ‘removing Council funding’ from these 8 libraries. They can avoid definitely calling these moves ‘closures’ by showing their encouragement of volunteers to take over these libraries and to turn them into community libraries. While these aren’t proper closures, I believe it is still very damaging.


I want to make it clear that volunteers are amazing, and their work is invaluable. Volunteering in libraries is a great way for people to become more connected to their local community, for young people to gain new skills and aid them getting jobs, preventing loneliness in older people – I could go on. But when it comes down to it, volunteers aren’t the same as paid, regular staff.  Many library staff have decades of experience. They are well known faces in the community, with vast arrays of knowledge and understanding of not just the books they organize, but also of authors, technical issues, social issues, and are there as support for those who need them. 


And of course, in an ideal world, community run libraries would be incredible. They would get the resources they need to serve the community in the best way possible without question. But alas, capitalism won’t allow community projects to prosper. As these 8 libraries are being encouraged to become community libraries, this same policy move also removes any council support from 4 existing community libraries. Where, you might ask, is the consistency?



In addition to these closures, all libraries that remain are going to see a reduction of their opening times, with a target of 20% county wide. Currently, many libraries’ opening hours are already incredibly inaccessible for many people, opening from 9am to 5pm, and thereby excluding anyone who works during this time (i.e. probably most of the population). Libraries do need to be open at these times, as it is used for activities for babies and parents, as well as allowing unemployed people, retired people and students with flexible working hours to access the resources they provide. By restricting these opening hours even further, they are further limiting access to the library’s resources, not only for people who work 9-5, but also for the arguably more vulnerable groups who access libraries at these quieter times. 


Nevertheless, Saturday hours and late weekday closing times must be kept to keep libraries accessible for people who can’t use them during weekdays, otherwise face reducing their number of users and the number of books taken out on loan. Footfalls are incredibly important to libraries. If you’re a library user, you may not realise that the number of people entering the library is measured each day. This potential use reduction would consequently become a further reason for even more libraries to close, with the excuse that ‘people are just not using them’. And the cycle continues…


When faced with the choice of library closures vs county wide reduction of opening hours, the public chose a reduction of opening hours. Hampshire County Council have since ignored that result, going for a combination of both options with an emphasis on the one less favoured one. I have to ask, what was the point in a public consultation lasting months, only to ignore it? These actions point to the public consultation only being done for appearances sake, rather than for any real desire for meaningful input. As I have highlighted, this is not just an issue for Hampshire, but Hampshire County Council has been one of the libraries which has made a point of keeping their libraries open than in other areas, so this to me seems like a bad omen for what is potentially to come. All regions of the UK are affected differently, with different levels of funding. The North East, for instance, is the area with the fewest number of libraries.



Having worked in a library for nearly two years I have grown closer to the library system and all that it stands for. Of course, I would have argued until I was blue in the face that libraries need to be saved and of their paramount importance before I was a librarian, but afterwards, the issue now seemed more personal – and it still does. I have seen countless times how much a libraries are necessary and have made a difference. 


They provide a warm place for homeless people to go during the day, and Internet access to anyone who doesn’t have a computer, phone or data. Now, the Internet is crucial to so much that we do, especially in terms of finding and applying for jobs, university and even completing school homework. Since the beginning of lockdown, the government has introduced a scheme which means that councils can supply wireless laptops and tablets to children of school age (primarily those in year 10) who don’t have access to computers or Internet at home. This is incredible and means that disadvantaged children all over the country can keep on top of schoolwork and stay connected while social distancing measures are in place in schools, and afterwards. While this is a great start for widening accessibility and to resources, it doesn’t include everyone, not even all children who need them – but the resources provided by libraries do include everyone.


Libraries are a refuge. There’s no two ways about. To me, that is their primary function. They take in anyone who needs it, and can offer them help, support and friendship – something everyone needs no matter where they are in their lives or whether or not they think they do. 


Their most famous resource, and their original one, is the thousands of books they make available to the public for free. Libraries are one of the only (if not the only) public space which does not presume that you will spend money. I am incredibly lucky to have been able to have books of my own as a child, and that my parents were able to sit down and read a wide variety of books with me (including rushing to Aslan’s death in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe so that it didn’t come as a surprise to me when the film adaption came out. I remember feeling very smug that I knew he was coming back), but the reality is that many children don’t have that opportunity. Even with the books I owned as a child, I remember trips to my local library, the excitement they have, and still have my old Lennie the Leek library card (anyone from Pembrokeshire will get that reference). Libraries mean that children get to have bedtime stories when otherwise they wouldn’t have. To have a physical book in your hand is life-changing. Even if it’s only for a month, that book becomes theirs, and I cannot express the importance of that.


Education and reading is so important, whether in a formal institution like school or university, or informal situations like reading for fun. From rom-com books and holiday reads, to recipe books and dense academic texts, all books made accessible by libraries are important and deserve to be shared and read. 


I have no idea how many books I have read as a result of libraries. I just know it’s a lot. During my A levels, I got through loads of library books because I would read them on my way to and from college. I had a long bus journey and library books meant that I could fill this otherwise empty time with information about topics I cared about. I learned so much about feminism and world issues through the books I read on those bus journeys, and I wouldn’t have been able to read as many in that space of time if it hadn’t been for libraries. Those books helped form me into who I am today, and I am in debt to libraries for that.



Of course, libraries aren’t perfect. Charges, for example, are one reason many people cite as a reason they haven’t been to a library in years, and cause many significant problems. I’m not saying I agree with them or how high they can be (in fact I have seen studies which show that removing charges actually improves return rates and many places have now abolished them), but they are there currently and something which does need discussing. One of the most heartbreaking things I heard while working in a library, was a parent telling their children they couldn’t have books from the library anymore because the fines were costing too much.  On the few occasions I heard that, I lost any faith I thought I had. If libraries couldn’t prevent this, what could? Not only do we have to save libraries, we have to do our best to improve them and make them the best that they can be. I genuinely believe that if given the right funds, respect and with the right people working on them, libraries can change the world and make it a much better place. 


This whole situation can feel pretty hopeless. But what can we do to help? 


If you’re in Hampshire, write to your local councilor to let them know how much you disagree with this decision. Yes, it may have already been made, but there’s no harm in showing your outrage to somehow in a position of power. You can find your local counciller here


Make sure you use your local library. They vary massively in quality, depending on the resources they’re given and their place in the country (again, with varying funding levels of local authorities), but if you, I urge you to use them. As I mentioned earlier, footfall is a major factor in keeping libraries going. If you can, physically go into your library. Nowadays, there are lots of resources libraries have made available online (BorrowBox, for example), however, these buildings must stay open, and if most of their use is online rather than physical books, then the people looking to make cuts can use decreased footfall as an excuse to close libraries or reduce opening hours (as they have done over and over again). 


If you’re a student, consider spending a few afternoons studying in your local public library rather than your uni library. It will likely be less busy during the day so you won’t have to spend ages trying to find a seat during exam season. The same goes if you’re a freelancer (and not in a global pandemic and it’s safe to be working in public spaces). Bring a hot drink either from a local coffee shop or from home, and set up a little station for the day. Again, workspaces will vary from place to place, but check it out and see what’s possible. 


If you want to buy books instead of always borrowing them, keep an eye out for sales held in libraries. These often occur at the end of school terms, and have a wide variety of genres, target audiences and formats. The books sold in these sales are books which are deemed unfit to stay on shelves for borrowing. They may be old, damaged, faded, have a couple of pages missing, etc., but many are still ultimately fit for use, and are available for usually around 50p - £2. 


In whatever way possible, make sure you’re doing your best to support libraries. They are vital resources, and it would be a tragedy to see them dismantled even further.




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We Need to Talk About Privilege and Sustainable Fashion

Friday, 21 August 2020

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In recent weeks there has been an increased discussion online about the fast fashion industry and shopping ethically, due to events such as the #PayUp campaign and the increased coverage of the Boohoo sweatshops in Leicester. The fact that these discussions are happening is amazing. It needs to be talked about for so many reasons (the effects fast fashion has on climate change, fighting for women globally, workers' rights, etc.). However, we need to ensure that our discussions on ethical and sustainable consumption (in all forms) are not simplified and do not turn into shaming or elitism. Like any other social issue, fast fashion is an issue which we must use an intersectional lens and attitude towards. 

 

If you haven’t heard of the term intersectionality before, don’t worry, it’s pretty simple. As Audre Lorde once said, it’s essentially the idea that “there is no thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives” – that different systems of oppression work together and manifest in different ways depending on a person’s situation in society. In this post I aim to highlight the different ways certain privileges operate within sustainability and ethical consumption, certain issues which have become more prominent since ‘green’ issues have risen higher in public consciousness, and some platforms which have made certain ways of being sustainable more accessible (even if they’re nevertheless still complex and imperfect in that accessibility). 

 

This isn’t by any means a new topic to the discussions around fast fashion (and I will be linking to people who talk about these issues better than I can, simply based on personal experience), but I felt like this was something I needed to talk about on my blog, especially as I’m now devoting more of my posts to slow fashion and sustainability. It is really important to always have the issue of privilege in the forefront of our minds while discussing any social justice issue, and fashion is not exempt from that. I also want to add that I am very aware of my own privilege. I am a white middle class thin woman, who now lives in areas which are pretty well connected. I am constantly learning and trying to use my privilege to uplift others, and while I always want to do my best and have good intentions, I do slip up and want to be told when I do so I can do better next time. Okay, enough about me, on with the post! 


(If you want to make your reading experience more exciting and are cool with alcohol, have a drink every time you read the words sustainably or ethically, or a variation of them. Enjoy.)



Probably the most significant barrier to shopping sustainably is a financial one. Sustainable and ethical products are infamous for their high price tag - and while that price tag is necessary and just for both the planet and the livelihoods of the people making those products, it does also mean that a lot of these products are excluded from a significant portion of the population. These issues are not separate: we cannot fight for wage increases for garment workers without doing the same for working classes in other countries who buy their clothes. 

 

With secondhand clothes becoming more popular with middle class demographics, prices have increased, and in some places are making secondhand shops inaccessible for the very people they were designed to cater for. Like so many other areas of society, charity shops are becoming gentrified. This is so frustrating, especially when you make a change believing you are having a good impact only see that there are negative repercussions of that seemingly positive change. 

 

Both fashion and capitalism are complex, and there is not one single solution for this problem. A single solution is not realistic and not all solutions are good. Many create other problems in the process. With clothing production having doubled in the last 15 years, and continuing to increase, more and more garments are put into circulation, and many only being worn 7-10 times before being discarded, we have to look at ways to ensure those garments do not end up in landfill. This means that higher income people can’t and shouldn’t abandon secondhand clothes altogether. Whether new or secondhand, we should be treating all purchases in the same way, asking ourselves if we really need this item, if it is something we will love and wear a lot (at least 30 times), and stop needless and overly-frequent shopping. It is so easy to buy something for the sake of it when you have the excuse of ‘it’s sustainable!’ ‘it’s secondhand!’, when in reality you really didn’t need that item and won’t use it as much as you might want to. It is this continuing attitude of needing newness which contributes to rising prices of secondhand clothes. It is not the only contributing factor but it’s a significant one, and a good place to start. Maintaining behaviours of overconsumption while simply switching from new fast fashion items to secondhand ones won't change anything, and will probably only serve to make sustainable fashion even more inaccessible. Unpicking the consumerism we have all internalised goes a long way in terms of ethics and sustainability, and is also a way to give a finger up at capitalism. 

 

I do not have a solution for ensuring secondhand clothes stay at low prices (I’m trying to come up with one but I am just one gal after all). We know capitalism is horrendous, and it is the drive for increased profit which is causing these price increases. We can never get anything perfectly right. We need to create an economy which is much more circular than it is currently, but that takes a lot of time, and has a lot of challenges to overcome. 

 

Those who are in the financial position to do so also have a duty to support the sustainable and ethical brands which have higher price points. This is to show that there is a demand for products made to these standards, support the brands doing the right thing, and to ensure that places to buy cheaper secondhand clothes (charity shops, online secondhand resale platforms) remain accessible and affordable for those who they were intended to cater for. Similarly, if you are someone who is buying secondhand clothes from charity shops etc. and selling them on for triple or even quadruple the original price, please stop, and think about how you’re impacting others and the industry. It may be good for personal gain but nevertheless has a much wider economic impact as more and more people do the same. 

 

Many tips for making fashion more sustainable (and I include myself in those recommending them), are often behaviours which are already extremely common within working class circles. Repairing clothes, rewearing clothes as often as possible, buying secondhand, not buying unnecessarily, wearing hand-me-downs and swapping clothes, are a few common examples. But it is not working class people who are being asked or need to change (or at least they shouldn’t be being asked to change, and if they are it is the people asking them who are in the wrong). It is people who are not doing these things because they can afford to forego them, who need to listen to that advice and who need to act on it. 

 

Size inclusivity is also massive problem within sustainable fashion. Many sustainable and ethical brands only cater to a thinner customer base, and many charity shops don’t have a wide range of sizes, with some not selling larger sizes even if they have the donations with the excuse of not have the customer demographic to buy them. On platforms such as Depop, sellers often focus on smaller sizes, and regularly sell larger items so that thinner people can achieve an ‘oversized’ look. By targeting these larger items at thinner audiences, they reduce an already limited secondhand plus size market and prevent many plus size people from buying secondhand clothes, and therefore from one of the most accessible means of shopping ethical and sustainably. I will admit, I have one or two shirts myself which would probably fit that description, and while they are some of my favourite items in my wardrobe and I will continue to love them for as long as possible, I won’t be purchasing items like that anymore. 

 

Plus size fashion influencers and activists I recommend following include Stephanie Yeboah, Aja Barber, GINA TONIC, Lydia Morrow and Annie Wade Smith. Some size inclusive brands (both new and secondhand) include Plus Babes Vintage, And Comfort, House of Flint and Girlfriend Collective


Plus Babes Vintage


In a similar vein, tall people often have difficulty finding clothes that fit them properly secondhand, with fast fashion often being the most reliable options for their sizes. Menswear is also another area which is more difficult to find secondhand or ethical/sustainable new. Fashion is often seen culturally as the domain of women (despite most high profile designers being men), and more than half of spending on clothing worldwide in 2018 was on women's clothes, suggesting that there are potentially more items targeted to women in circulation. With the patriarchal emphasis on physical appearance, women are encouraged to have larger wardrobes, encouraged to change outfits more regularly (and along with it identity, personas, etc.), which perhaps explains the increased amount of ‘women’s’ clothes in secondhand shops and on secondhand platforms online. And this may just be me, but there seems to be less stigma around men repeating outfits than women, as it’s something I think people seem to take less notice of on men rather than on women. 

 

Obviously, clothes in themselves are just items and we are shoving our ideas of gender onto them, but that still has an effect on production, design and attitudes towards clothes. Many men won’t want to buy clothes that are more feminine, and fair enough. Everyone should have access to the type of clothes they want in sustainable and ethical ways, and who said having fun with clothes was not something men could do anyways?! Some sustainable brands catering for men include Uncaptive, Duvet Days, Just Harry and Brothers We Stand


Brothers We Stand


There are several other barriers which may prevent someone from being able to buy more sustainable and ethical clothing. Geographic location, for example, can be a huge barrier to accessing charity shops, small businesses and other local sustainable and ethical businesses. For example, in many rural areas, charity shops may not be well supplied, or may take a long time to get to, requiring cars or long trips on public transport. Similarly, while many sustainable and ethical businesses do sell online, for anyone wanting to look at an item in store, options tend to be very limited. For example, well-known brand Lucy and Yak opened their flagship store in Brighton (now closed and waiting a new venue). It meant that although people in Brighton and the surrounding areas could get access to these items and whatever in-store discounts and events available, others further away were limited to postal options. This suits everyone differently, with different advantages and disadvantages varying from place to place with different local businesses. As fast fashion companies tend to be huge chains, their physical stores tend to be relatively easy to access even from the most rural areas, and as a result of their wealth and power, they will be higher up in the general public conscious than a small ethical business would, and consequently more likely to be the chosen by someone who needs an item quickly or is pressed for time. 

 

Speaking of: another barrier is time. Being able to shop sustainably and ethical (again, this applies to all items not just clothes) takes up a lot of time, and if you don’t have that time available to you, it becomes much more difficult. Take charity shopping as an example. Charity shops can often be very hit and miss, and you often have to spend a significant amount of time sifting through the rails to find what you’re looking for, or may simply spend hours looking and not find a single item that fits you or fits the criteria you were after. The issue of time also applies to research and other forms of activism. Crafting an original email, for example, can potentially take hours depending on how detailed and well sourced you want it to be. The same goes for learning to repair or even make your own clothes. So much skill goes into repairing and creating, and that can be difficult to set aside no matter what your circumstance. Being able to repair your clothes not only requires the skill to do so, but can also require already owning certain materials and equipment to do so effectively. It can require lots of time to learn these skills, as well as either a friend or relative who is already skilled to teach you, an Internet connection to access tutorials, or indeed, private tuition - let alone the time to actually sit down and repair those items when you need to. 

 

As a student with no dependents, my time is pretty flexible, and any spare time I have I am able to decide what fills it myself. I don’t have to worry about clothing children who are growing quickly and need new clothes regularly. When it comes to children, I can imagine buying clothes sustainably is pretty impossible for most people. You need new things regularly, meaning that clothes do have less permanence than they do for adults. Even if you could afford to repeatedly buy sustainably and ethically made childrens’ clothes, they’re certainly not as abundant as those made for adults, and choices become more limited, and I cannot imagine the stress of being a parent even without the pressure to buy clothes ethically and sustainably. 

 

It is partly due to these barriers, that I prefer using the term ‘slow fashion’ to describe what I advocate for, instead of using the terms ‘sustainable fashion’ or ‘ethical fashion’. For me, those latter terms are still heavily linked with consumerism and the need to buy new, whereas the term ‘slow fashion’, at least for me, suggests a shift away from consumerism and towards a more circular and anti-capitalist lifestyle. Yes, sustainability and ethics in the production process is incredibly important, but it is also due to a culture of over-consumption that these standards have suffered. By using the term ‘slow fashion’, we are moving away from the emphasis on new items and subsequently easing the pressure off people to buy sustainably and ethically made new items when they are unable to, and suggesting a way of looking at the issue holistically. 

 

The barriers of time and location are why I think online platforms such as Depop, eBay and Vinted (and yes, even Instagram shops) are so brilliant. They open up the secondhand market to those who may not have access to good quality charity shops or ethical small business, or the time to rummage around a charity shop to find what they want. Saving time, connecting different parts of the country and giving clothes a longer lifecycle? What more could you want? Obvious, these platforms are by no means perfect. Depop has a reputation for people slapping high prices onto secondhand items which really shouldn’t be selling for so much, some people sell items straight from fast fashion stores without ever having the intention of wearing them prior to selling, and, like any online shopping, items may arrive differently to as expected, not fit or be damaged. But with their many problems, they do make sustainable and ethical fashion a lot more accessible. 

 

These barriers to sustainable and ethical consumption are symptoms of wider problems within the fashion industry but most importantly of a combination of various systems of oppression, particularly capitalism, fatphobic patriarchy, and emphasis on patriarchal gender roles, among others. While fighting for the rights of garment workers, we also have to fight for accessibility and inclusivity for the people who buy their clothes – from campaigning for increased wages and higher taxation of billionaire CEOs to increased size ranges sold across the board and a full redistribution of domestic labour. There is no immediate solution to these barriers. Ethical consumption is complex and frankly disheartening. You try your best, try to buy secondhand, but then see how the rise in secondhand buying drives up prices in some instances. Companies you trust and put your money, support or belief in disappoint you (cough cough, Reformation) and it can turn into a spiral of anxiety, guilt and confusion. But that’s not productive to anyone. As the show The Good Place emphasizes how complex ethical consumption under our current state of capitalism is, and it also highlights how we should still try our best even if we will make some damage, and to avoid ethics and eco-anxiety induced stomach cramps wherever possible (can you tell I miss that show?). Very few people can make choices which are perfectly sustainable or ethical, and those who do have those options available to them have proven time and time again that they do not want to make those changes and do not care about the repercussions of their actions on other people (Jeff Bezos, I’m looking at you). It’s about doing what we can, where we can, and ultimately holding those who can make changes but are choosing not to, to account. 

 

Unethical and unsustainable practices are not the fault of working class people or plus size people who buy fast fashion or secondhand out of necessity, (and are likely using those items far more than a couple of wears). The atrocities committed in the fast fashion industry are the responsibility of billionaire CEOs. They are the ones with the power to grant living wages but refuse to. They are the ones with the power to prevent people from dying in regular factory incidents at their place of work. Fast fashion is an issue which has grown with the middle classes globally, and while it is the billionaire CEOs and the colonial capitalist system who are ultimately to blame, attitudes surrounding clothes do also need to change. Viewing items are one-off, temporary and disposable needs to stop. Clothes are not and should not be disposable. To paraphrase Dogs Trust: clothes are for life, not just for Christmas (or whatever gift-giving holidays you celebrate). 

 

However, just because sustainable and ethical fashion is inaccessible for some disadvantaged groups does not excuse people who have the ability to make sustainable and ethical choices from doing so. There are things that everyone can do, no matter your privilege. From emailing brands, signing petitions, contacting them on social media, to taking action with your wallet and wearing your clothes as many times as possible. Lauren Bravo, author of How to Break Up With Fast Fashion, recently wrote an article which I think talks well about the attitude and perspective change which needs to occur among the predominantly middle classes, who refuse to buy garments at higher prices as they are used to fast fashion prices, and anything above that is seen as extortionate even if it is within their price range. Yes, a £1 bikini will help anyone out budget wise, but frankly do you need that new bikini? Could you use one you got last year still? If you really need a new one, could you buy from ethical and sustainable brands such as You Swim or Stay Wild Swim? Yes, there is a huge jump in price points between those brands and the £1 bikini from Missguided, but if someone is able to afford that more ethical (and ultimately better quality) item, they should choose that one. And of course, there are middle grounds. For example, if you're unable to get something secondhand - for example underwear, swimwear, etc. - buying from companies such as M&S who are still overall unethical but aren't as fast and use better materials than brands such as Boohoo and Missguided, and have price points which don't feel like such as stab in the chest. Apps such as Good On You can be really helpful with this. 

 

Finally, I want to highlight that while I always try to be as inclusive as I can, I will probably (almost definitely) make more mistakes when trying to advocate for slow, ethical and sustainable fashion and consumption. I never want anyone to feel shamed by anything I say, and I am always willing to be called out on my errors and to learn from them to be better in the future

 

If you want to learn more about fast fashion, I have a resource document called Fast Fashion 101: Stay Informed and Take Action, which has lots of articles, petitions, and lists of brands to both support and avoid (if possible), and will hopefully be useful! 



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Sustainable OOTD // 60s Inspired

Monday, 17 August 2020

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In terms of style, the 60s is definitely one of my favourite decades. I'm here for the mini skirts, block colours, patterns and pushed up hair. With that in mind, this outfit is one I absolutely love. It's fun, a bit wacky, and makes feel like I want to have a dance!





Dress – secondhand fast fashion bought at a market in Skibbereen 2 years ago.

Underslip – fast fashion I was given as a present along with a mesh dress several years ago, I use it under at least 3 different dresses.

Socks – bought on Depop 2 years ago.

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

Necklace - bought from a small business (can't remember their name) in Pembrokeshire at least 2 years ago, if not longer. It is made out of recycled beach glass. 

Shoes - secondhand, bought on Depop 2 years ago. 

Watch - over a decade old (wow can't believe I said that). The strap is falling apart and I need to replace it soon. Any sustainable/vegan (and affordable) watch strap recommendations would be really appreciated!




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Making Your Jewellery Box More Sustainable: Where To Start

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

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There’s little I love more in this life than a snazzy earring. Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I the sentiment still counts. Just like clothes, jewellery is a means of expressing yourself, adding a little flair to an outfit. To me, jewellery can also help make or break an outfit, and it’s part of the fun of getting dressed each day! 


Like the fashion industry, the jewellery industry has a notorious lack of transparency, often includes materials that are damaging to the environment (plastics, plastics everywhere), and sketchy ethics, in both high end and high street brands. But just like fashion, there are ways we can make more ethical and sustainable choices. If you're looking into higher end jewellery, it is also important to look into brands' transparency as well as if their practises of obtaining materials for their products (materials such as gems and gold etc.) are sustainable and if they treat their workers. There are ways of doing this relatively easily. For example, for brands selling products containing gold, you can check to see if they are Fairtrade certified

 It is important to add the caveat that everything come with layers of privilege, and there are some ethical jewellery companies which are super expensive and inaccessible, but many unethical jewellery companies are also super expensive and inaccessible, so it’s about looking into companies when you’re able and asking yourself the questions you would with clothes: do I really need this? Will I wear it at least 30 times? Do I already have something which functions in the same way? If the answer to the first 2 questions are no, you maybe don’t need the item you’re thinking of buying. It’s all about your own judgement and doing whatever you can to make a difference and show companies and workers that you care. 

Secondhand


Like with anything else, going secondhand is a great way to acquire your jewellery in a way that is both ethical and sustainable, as well as getting items more cheaply. Some of my favourite items are secondhand – I love imagining their past lives before they came to belong to me. 

There are lots of ways to find jewellery secondhand. For example, I bought this necklace in a market in Skibbereen, Ireland, just over 2 years ago and I still wear it all the time. 


This pair of red beads are also secondhand, and is probably the closest thing I have to a family heirloom as it used to belong to my great-grandmother. I wear it with basically anything black and white striped and as a combo with red lipstick. Can you tell I like the colour red at all?



You can also keep an eye out in charity shops, on sites and apps like Depop and eBay, and you can also swap with friends! I was given the necklace below by a friend who no longer wore it and knew that I liked it. Just like a clothes swap, jewellery swaps can be great as a means of clearing out your desks/boxes/wherever you keep your jewellery, and ensuring that your space is filled by items you really love and use.


New from small businesses


Let’s be real, just like some clothes, there are some types of jewellery you may not want to uy secondhand, like earrings for example. It’ll depend on individual people, but I know I prefer having earrings that are new rather than secondhand. And it’s important that we support creators and we should all be doing the most we can to support small businesses, particularly those with an ethical and sustainable ethos, and owned by women of colour and other marginalized people. When looking for new jewellery, I try to ensure that they are as local as possible to reduce the impacts of shipping, so I prioritise sellers based in the UK, and sometimes from mainland Europe.

There are lots of ways to find these businesses, particularly online. Instagram, for example, is absolutely full of independent jewellery sellers. You can find absolutely anything on there, and many small businesses use it as a platform to share their products even if it’s not the main platform they sell on, so it can be a great place to start if you just want a browse rather than anything specific. I bought these keyhole earrings from Pomsha at the beginning of lockdown, with the proceeds going to Covid aid in Syria. They also do lots of other cool designs, including others in aid of other causes.


There are also lots of small businesses selling new jewellery on places like Depop. I found the below pairs of earrings (silver-look moon and compasses) on Depop sold by an independent seller in Cornwall called Soleil Store



You can also find new ethical jewellery in real life too. These can include events, markets, etc. For example, I bought what is now one of my favourite necklaces at an event to hear several people speak about their experience as Palestinians. One of the speakers runs a small cooperative called Women in Hebron, which aims to empower Palestinian women by selling the items they create, like this one, and they sold some of their products at the end of the event.



Other honourable mentions include Tatty Devine, Han Makes, Felt Fancy, Zo Jewellery, SM Jewellery and Yassieuwu. If you have any recommendations, please comment below!

Old


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it gain, the most sustainable way of consuming anything is to use and love what you already have. I don’t know about you, but I have lots of old stud earrings I haven’t worn in ages, but I’ve recently been going through them all and trying to wear and appreciate them all more than I did when they were out of sight. 

If you know me or have seen any pictures of me online (for example in an OOTD post) you’ll know that I wear one pair of earrings a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean most days. They’re my favourite pair, and I’ve had them for so long that I can’t actually remember where I got them from, which is a frustrating answer for anyone who ever asks me about them.


I also still wear this pair of rose studs, which were the first pair of earrings I bought after I got my ears pierced over a decade ago. They may be old, but they still feel like they fit my style. 


Repurpose and Repair


Sometimes things get broken, or you may have an old item that you find you don’t particularly like anymore, so rather than throwing something out we can repair (if you’re able to do it yourself great, or if you’re able to get someone else to do it for you, also great). It doesn’t have to be perfect, and will be different for each item you have. You can also use that opportunity to change an item, and make it even better. For example, when the chain of a sentimental necklace broke, I put the charm onto a chain I was given as a present and which I liked but didn’t really fit with many of my outfits. It as a great way for me to continue wearing the sentimental necklace and to make sure I was using that other chain!


You can also repurpose other items so that they become jewellery. For example, when some friends of mine got drink charms in our crackers at our annual Christmas dinner, we found we wouldn’t really use them for their intended purpose and then used them instead as Christmas earrings. Yes, it may sound a bit weird, but it worked and we still wear them!




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