A Realistic Conversation Around Fast Fashion and Sustainability
The subject of fast fashion has been a particular hot potato of late. For a while now, there has been an increasing awareness around sustainability, with a growing proportion of bloggers marking themselves out as ambassadors for eco-friendly buying choices. Highly selective around brands they work with, their approach to fashion is reflective of today's wider public shift towards being more environmentally responsible. In a world where weekly YouTube hauls and unboxing videos are go-to content pieces for many fashion influencers racing to endorse countless new lewks, it was already clear that the frenzy around disposable trends could be reaching peak saturation.
However, the conversations around fashion's effect on our planet have soared through the roof since Stacey Dooley's BBC documentary a couple of weeks ago. The realities Stacey exposed were shocking to say the least, with the eyes of millions suddenly opened wide to the fact that our own consumption actually leads to serious devastation elsewhere. While we can all blissfully enjoy our easier-than-ever online shop without any real sense of the repercussions thousands of miles away, there's no real excuse for total ignorance once we've all seen the real impact screened right into our living rooms from a primetime show. So, as fashion lovers, we're left with quite the conundrum.
Of course, none of us are overjoyed at potentially contributing to the horrors which unfold from factories dumping toxic substances into the surrounding area, and we want to do our bit to help make the world a better place. In an ideal world, fashion would be something we could take guilt-free pleasure in, whether that's buying from wherever we please or enjoying content from whomever we like. But now that everyone who wasn't already aware has been forced to sit up and notice what's going on, there is a growing feeling that all of this endless, oblivious consumption isn't the way forward.
However, let's be honest, it takes time to make a change and we're not realistically all going to suddenly ditch unsustainable brands en masse. But it suddenly feels like anyone choosing to buy from certain brands will be judged heavily for their preferences, with implications of helping to keep in business the third-world suppliers who are carelessly inflicting all of this devastation. The thing is, it will take baby steps to change the way we approach fashion.
Obviously, we aren't all going to delete our accounts with any brands who aren’t totally green overnight (and it's worth noting that not everyone can financially afford to be more selective but hey, more power to you if you can). Yet there are ways we can adjust our habits to be a little more mindful, show some love to what we already have hanging in our wardrobes, and start to consume less.
I myself have always been a huge second-hand fanatic, and I tend to cherish my vintage pieces the most for their uniqueness, but I'm certainly not going to get on my high horse. I still buy from fast fashion brands and probably won't commit to stopping entirely anytime soon, but I do think twice before buying into the latest fads - I wouldn't want anything gathering dust because I've tired of it after one wear. And this is coming from someone who, in her uni days, would rather spend the last of her student loan on a new outfit than a food shop (and then boost my hauls even further with store cards - I know; the shame).
Anyway, my point is simply that we can make our purchases go further, removing the necessity for a whole new outfit whenever we've tired of wearing what we already own. In these photos I'm wearing Zara, New Look, ASOS and Jayley - I could have featured imagery where I'm wearing more of my vintage items, or gone out and sourced some items from entirely sustainable brands, but that would have felt forced and a little disingenuous. My outfits do usually feature at least one vintage item; in these photos it's my boots, which I bought on Brick Lane a few years ago and still adore. But if we can't commit to buying only from 100% ethical brands, or don't want to part with everything we already own which isn't completely fairly sourced, then it's about doing what we can. This can include researching what the brands we wear are committing to do for their part, so that we can at least make informed choices.
Jayley’s mission statement (NB. The coat I’m wearing is one of their faux fur ones)
I've owned the tee, turtleneck, skirt and bag for at least a year or two. Though I'm sometimes guilty of worrying that my clothes won't get much wear past the season I bought them in, and am somewhat a slave to new trends, I always end up realising that fashion doesn't actually change as often as we're made to think. We can still wear our purchases from last year, the year before, and the year before that without looking at all silly - imagine that! I've always worn whatever I wanted anyway and been noted for not being afraid of looking 'different' (which has often been the source of much entertainment for my friends over the years!) making any worries about my clothes not being 'fashionable' enough even more illogical. This is all indicative of how much we're conditioned to think that trends move on at lightning speed, so that we will buy more.
Even wearing your past-season pieces in a different way can completely renew their potential, breathing new life into them and making you realise that you don't need to shop more, more, more every time you want a new look. So for now, I think the way to sow the seeds of change is to start changing the way we look at our purchases, committing to a longer-term relationship with our clothes and contributing less to the problems mankind are now facing in our relationship with the planet. This way, being a little more creative with our outfits means we get to have fun with our fashion – which is the whole point in the first place, is it not?