As promised, I continue my reflections on today’s fashion and the necessity to review our attitude to it.
I hope I’ve managed to – if not persuade you of the necessity of a fashion revolution – then, at least, make you think of it as a possible way of solving some of the global ethical and ecological challenges.
And now I’m going to contradict myself… I won’t ask you to stop buying clothes. First, because we all know it’s impossible – at least until the “bright future” arrives when the humankind will 3D print their frocks rather than sew them… Second, because not buying clothes will rob their makers even of those insufficient wages… They’ve got it bad either way: the more you buy, the harder their working conditions (longer hours, higher production rates, shorter delays – and the lower the quality of both their products and their lives), but the less you buy, the less they earn – if anything at all… It’s a vicious circle and there aren’t many alternative solutions, that’s why the whole thing continues, in spite of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse that the fashion industry won’t be allowed to forget.
The solution we found during the discussions on the Future Learn forum is to completely change the production method, replacing the infamous sweatshops with cooperatives owned and managed by the workers themselves (something in the spirit of Oxfam): only in this way can we ensure that the money we pay for our clothes goes directly to the people who made them, and not to the multinational hight street fashion chains. Is it doable? At a smaller scale, yes. Is it worth doing? Definitely so! Just think about the diversity it will bring into the modern fashion! And at a fair price, too.
If you ever have the occasion to buy directly from the makers (or with as little mediation as possible), please do! If you can afford “sustainable” clothes (that is, clothes made in a way that is respectful both of the workers and the environment), please give them preference over mass-produced ones.
Many of my former Ethical fashion course classmates are already working on their projects, so there’s hope for all of us. But not everyone is a fashion designer with big dreams, or dedicated enough to spend a fortune on the (often) excessively expensive and (sadly and incomprehensibly) less visually appealing sustainable options, so let’s think what can be done here and now (and within our powers) to lessen our landfill score… I’ve jotted down a couple of ideas that might appeal to the new revolutionary fashionistas you have become by now:
- Know your closet. Make a list of all your clothes. Pinterest boards are fabulous for this task because they allow you to see all your frocks at a glance: perfect when you’re learning to create capsule wardrobes, too! Find/take pictures of every single piece you own and upload them to Pinterest – you’ll thank me later.
- Learn to buy what you need, not what you want, based on what you already own. When you know exactly what you have, it’s much easier to determine what’s missing or needs to be replaced.
- Before you go shopping, know exactly what you need and stick to your plan. If you see a super cute tee that wasn’t on the list, consult your logic: if it’s love at first sight, you may as well go for it – but do try to stick to one extra item! If you go shopping without a list, ask yourself these questions before you put an item into your shopping cart: do you already own a similar item? Will it match the rest of your wardrobe? When and where are you going to wear it? Can you do without?
- By all means, don’t throw away an item that can be mended, donated or re-purposed. Learn to sew on buttons and mend/disguise small holes – these two skills will save many an item from ending up in the waste bin. Take your favourite skirt to a mending shop when its zipper breaks or try to fix it yourself. If you feel creative, use old clothes to practice your sewing skills (before you cut up anything of value…). Even if you’re not crafty, you can easily turn old tees into cleaning rugs or pet nests (just take a pair of scissors and cut out a rectangle). It’s true that a custom-made kitty bed from a pet store looks much better than a home-made one, but it makes no difference whatsoever to your cat if it sleeps on a mattress with its name embroidered in golden thread or on your old sweatshirt (but it does make a difference to your wallet – and to your carbon footprint).
- Buy second-hand. Personally, I don’t mind wearing “pre-loved” clothes at all: having an elder sister whose clothes I regularly inherited cured me of any such scruples long ago. I buy lots of second-hand clothes for my son: kids outgrow them before they wear out (except pants: these literally disintegrate on anyone older than two!), so it would be silly not to profit when an occasion arises… If you haven’t been tempted yet, consider this:
- you spend less (you can even dig out designer pieces for a fraction of a price),
- you buy items that have successfully passed the test of wearing and washing (which is often a sign of a higher quality),
- second hand clothes are often nearly new (if you bought an item and never wore it or only wore it a couple of times, it’s considered “second-hand” but technically, it’s brand new),
- buying second hand widens your choice far beyond the latest collection (by the way, did you notice how quickly the garments that are out of season disappear from the stores?) and the latest trends, thus allowing you to choose what you like and not what fashion brands want you to like!
- last but not least, buying second hand lessens your impact on the environment: you’d be surprised how much energy and water is needed to make one t-shirt!
All right, now that you have all become convinced eco-fashionistas, I can confidently leave you to your business and go back to mine. See you soon!