Updated: Jun 9, 2018
I was always a fast-fashion junkie. I adored labels and getting my shopping fix from the high-street when the latest must-have trend emerged. It wasn't until two years ago when I became vegan that I started to also question what impact fashion was having. It struck me that I questioned so much about what food I was eating — was it organic; vegan; cruelty free, but not ‘who made my clothes?’ and 'what, how and where were they made?' — never mind the impact on animals, people and the planet!
The more I looked in to fashion production, the more horrified I became. Chemicals and toxic dyes are regularly dumped into natural waterways without treatment and put us all at serious risk. If we buy something with chemicals like NPEs — not only are we wearing these close to our skin, but once washed these toxic chemicals are then released into our home water supplies. Each year in China alone, 200 million workers are subject to brutal working conditions, resulting in severe occupational illnesses — all for an unfair wage. I remember when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in 2013, I felt a pang of guilt for all my fast-fashion purchases.
Annually, the textile industry uses around 100 million gallons of water and if this is kept up we will continue to be well above a sustainable water level for the planet. I'd never thought about fashion in this way and it was such a shock to find out that the average cotton T-shirt takes around 700 gallons of water to produce! This is without even delving in to the fact that billions of animals are mistreated and killed each year. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) states on their website, "an immeasurable amount of suffering goes into every fur-trimmed jacket, leather belt, and wool sweater." To put all this information simply, the sheer volume and speed at which we are now producing clothing is killing the planet: using too much water, polluting the planet, and resulting in factory workers and animals suffering horrendously.
The other side to fast-fashion is its disposability. I remember reading an article published by Huffington Post last year that stated that collectively we buy over 80 billion items of clothing a year. We need to change how we think about fashion. It used to be an absolute luxury to have something made or buy that special item, but the art of shopping and coveting has been lost. Perhaps the trend of not wearing the same thing twice has something to do with this.
That being said, I adore fashion and always will.
It has always been really kind to me and I have had some fantastic career opportunities to which I will be forever grateful. It's not my intention to run the fashion industry in to the ground as fashion does a lot of good. As a stylist I have seen how transformative fashion can be in someone's life — those red heels for the mum that's been having the worst year imaginable, the new clutch bag on that much-needed night out, the perfect capsule wardrobe for the busy woman who needs functional pieces that work just as hard as she does.
Time for change.
There are some fantastic projects out there that are fuelling change. Greenpeace is running a campaign called 'Consumer Revolution' that is fighting for zero hazardous waste and a living wage for factory workers. Organisations such as 'Fashion Revolution' run an all- year-round campaign to ensure that our clothes don't come at the cost of people or our planet. Not to mention PETA's continuous efforts fighting for animals.
So here's my pledge. I pledge to shop and style more mindfully moving forward. In the words of Vivienne Westwood, "Buy less. Choose Well. Make it last." I have always worked with clients to go through their wardrobes mindfully, selling items on for them that weren't quite right or altering pieces for that perfect fit, before we work on where the gaps are and go shopping. But moving forward, my approach will have a strong focus on ethical and sustainable fashion, with an emphasis on supporting local businesses.
"I need to point out that I am in no way perfect and still have a wardrobe with lots of labels and fast-fashion. I have angsted over this and have come to the conclusion that this process is a marathon and not a sprint. I will continue to wear what I own, but will be more mindful moving forward."
Our vote counts.
As consumers we have an opportunity to vote with our money and make a positive change — every purchase we make is voting for the kind of world that we want to live in. So moving forward I will be asking ‘who made my clothes?’ and 'what, how and where were they made?' I'll be altering existing pieces and when I find items I absolutely love I will covet them the way they were meant to be. I'll be sourcing pieces from ethical and sustainable companies and will continue buying labels second hand from sites like Vesitaire Collective. Together I really think we can make a positive difference.
I hope you will stick around and watch my progress and I'd love to hear your suggestions on how I can make a positive change.
Image sourced from http://fashionrevolution.org