If you love a good Penneys haul then maybe look away now...🙊 But hopefully you'll read on and see why I'm abandoning fast fashion for good.
My style posts from now on will be focused on slow fashion; exploring what that means to me, why it's so important and how I am adapting it to fit my lifestyle. I was never one for the ''hauls'' but I'm definitely guilty of running out last minute to buy a holiday wardrobe and coming home with half of H&M in my bag. I'm still finding t-shirts and skirts bought for honeymoon but left rolled up unworn in the back of my wardrobe.
However this is a no judgment zone!
What you choose to wear and where you spend your hard earned cash is your own business. I'm just hoping that you'll read along as I start my own personal journey towards more sustainable style and that perhaps you'll be tempted to give slowing down a go.
So let's start with the why.
Did you know that the fast fashion industry is the second most harmful to our environment, trumped only by the oil trade? I didn't.
More importantly, I didn't realise the human cost of our obsession with cheap clothes. I'm not stupid; I knew that someone somewhere in Asia made much of my wardrobe but I pushed away any mildly uncomfortable thoughts about that. I'm embarrassed at how long it's taken me to stop and question how a garment (say, a pair of jeans for €11 or an embroidered shirt for €6) can be produced, shipped from across the world, marketed in Ireland and yet cost us so very little.
If, like me, you're new to the concept of slow fashion and wondering what the fuss is all about then I'd recommend watching The True Cost on Netflix.
One of the most hard-hitting parts of The True Cost is when Shima Akhter (who is 23 and moved to Dhaka, Bangladesh at age 12 to work in the factories) cries and says: "I believe [the clothing] is made with our blood. I don't want anyone to wear anything produced by our blood." After the Rana Plaza disaster (where over 1000 people died in a badly run garment factory) Akhter started a union in her own factory, for which she was violently assaulted and beaten by her bosses.
I can't ignore my creeping discomfort anymore. Much like some people will not eat animals in good conscience, I will not wear clothes made from the blood of another human. I now cringe when I see Facebook and Instagram posts about a fast fashion item for a fiver being a "steal" or a "bargain" because I know it's neither of those things. It's just that someone else paid the price.
I'll be researching the brands I buy from now on and asking #WHOMADEMYCLOTHES
That said, I'm not advocating a wardrobe cull where you dump your Primark and hit up Prada because: a) that's not what slow fashion is about and b) a conscious wardrobe does not mean only buying designer. It means respecting the clothes you buy and the human capital involved in their production. It means wearing something more than a handful of times and not throwing out clothes as if they are consumable.
Do I own fast fashion? Of course I do. I wear some River Island jeans and I even have a Boohoo top I like for nights out. I'm not a Penneys fan so I don't shop there but I've spent a fortune over the years in Uniqlo and H&M. But that's all about to change!
My mission now is to only buy clothes that I love, that fit with the rest of my capsule wardrobe and not to treat them as disposable. When I buy new clothes I'll buy ethically and I'll be investigating the possibility of second hand items. I'll still wear the Boohoo top because throwing it out is the opposite of what I'm trying to achieve (and I really like it!). It's a shape that suits me and although it's cheap fabric, I'm looking after it so that I can continue to wear it. That, to me, is a way of respecting the garment and wearing it ethically even though it was mass produced cheaply. Will I buy another Boohoo top to replace it in due course? Probably not.
So this is my first baby step in the right direction. It'll be a challenge but I'm determined to revolutionise how I shop for and style my clothes!
Some tips if you are starting to think more about the provenance of your clothing and you want to make a difference:*
1. Start slowly by shopping in your wardrobe. No need to throw anything out or buy anything new; just do a wardrobe appraisal and surprise yourself with how many outfits you already have in there. It's a cliche but a scroll through Pinterest can inspire you to style some old pieces differently.
2. Don't beat yourself up about the fast fashion you already own. You bought it. Now wear it!
3. Rethink the mindset of wearing an outfit only once. This is the curse of Instagram and Snapchat. Sometimes it's easy to feel everyone has seen your look before and that you need something new. I don't subscribe to this theory. If it looked great on you last week at brunch it'll look great again in a week's time with different shoes or jewellery.
4. The controversial one...spend a little bit more when you can. If you spend €50 on a t-shirt (I know, I know - easier said than done) but it's good quality, washes well and lasts for ages, then it was a better investment than ten similar tops for a fiver each that stretch and fade. And you'll have saved those other t-shirts from landfill. (Much of what we donate simply gets dumped anyway so shoving old Primark into a clothes bank doesn't solve the problem).
5. Try pre-loved. Admittedly this isn't for everyone but I LOVE digging around in second hand designer shops in Dublin and when I'm abroad. It's like poking through someone's wardrobe but it's been nicely curated and organised by size! I've bought silk scarves, bags, and cashmere from designer consignment shops in the past (at amazing prices!) and I'll do a post soon of my favourites in Dublin.
So, there it is. I tried my best not to be too preachy and I'm looking forward to the challenge...let me know what you think!
*Yes you are just one person but by voting with your money and how you to choose to spend it you will be making a difference.
Images courtesy of Fashionrevolution.org