The words ‘sustainable’ and ‘fast fashion’ have become ever-more present in the news, on Instagram and have found themselves to be the topic of many books of late. I knew bits and bobs about clothing fibres and I thought I had a semi-reasonable awareness of what went on in clothing factories, in countries such as China. I’ve come to realise, however, that I really didn’t know the half of it.
Over the last two weeks I’ve watched Stacey Dooley Investigates Fashion’s Dirty Secrets on the BBC and The True Cost on Netflix. If you haven’t seen either of these then I’d highly recommend a watch. Do be prepared though, as they are shocking. To say I was horrified would be an understatement. As a society we are fed, through advertising, retail outlets and directly from the media, that new clothes are a necessity. We are directed towards a lifestyle that is fuelled by fashion and one where we are told we need new clothes all of the time. Consumption is a must. Something that really resonated with me on The True Cost was when Lucy Siegle spoke about fashion in terms of seasons. She said that, effectively, instead of four seasons we now have fifty-two. New stock and styles and ‘trends’ are being fed to us every, single week. Meaning these fifty-two ‘seasons’ are what we’ve come to expect. Most people don’t even consider the cost of this, and I don’t just mean in monetary terms. I mean the toxic chemicals which are being fed into the water system of the people who live near the factories, or the Aral Sea which is now almost solely dust but was once a huge body of water.
In terms of my own habits, I don’t consider myself the worst offender, but there is definitely room for improvement. For example, I’ve never thrown clothes away. Ever. I didn’t even realise that was a thing until recently. I couldn’t comprehend that people would throw perfectly wearable clothes into the bin just because they didn’t like them anymore. I’ve always donated unwanted clothes to a charity shop or, as I’ve gotten older, combined it with selling them online. Also, I’d never buy clothes that I would only wear once, even when it comes to clothes for an ‘occasion’. I’ve also become more aware of high street’s sustainable lines, such as things like ASOS’ ‘eco edit’ and H&M Conscious.
I have, in the last year or so, made myself aware of fashion brands that are more sustainable. Brands like People Tree, Thought and Mud Jeans are all ones to look out for. As a student, however, it can be really difficult to make sustainable purchases. I am not going to deny my love for Primark due to its cheap pricing and ease of access. Although knowing now the true extent of what goes on to produce the clothes, I am going to be more mindful. I’m going to continue to wear my clothes as much as possible, but I’m also going to make sure I truly love my purchases and to see them as even more of an investment than I was before. I’ve also never been one to shy away from a charity shop purchase, and I think it’s time to start investing more into them. It’s something I can start doing now and whilst lessening my own impact it also doesn’t have too much of an impact on my very low student budget.
When I’ve discussed this with people, I’ve frequently heard comments similar to, “Even if I make a change then no one else will”. I think this is the point though, even when you think you won’t make be making a difference, you will. If you’re someone who consumes a lot of fast fashion, then that will definitely have an impact. When one person does something, tells other people about it and then it carries on in such a way that it becomes a sort of chain reaction. It takes one person to make a difference, but together people can make a change.
Fashion blogger’s, quite literally, influence people to buy clothes. (Obviously there is much more to it than that, but in terms of the basics, that’s a part of it…) I know it’s only early days for me but I think it’s a really important topic and one that as bloggers or influencers there is an opportunity for education. Education is key. I think making people aware of topics that most don’t realise, or even think about, is essential. The majority of fashion bloggers and influencers appear as though they only wear clothes once. Even if you look on my feed there’s not much recurrence (with the exception of my teddy coat from last year – that was a fab purchase. One which, I have to admit, I almost sold earlier this year, until my boyfriend talked me out of it. I’m very glad he did!) In reality, that isn’t the case. I will often wear my jeans nearly every day in winter, for ease and warmth etc. It’s just the way it is. Social media isn’t reality and don’t let it put you off considering more sustainable purchasing options and habits.