Hello everyone! Welcome to my non judgemental and open space for discussion. I didn’t originally preface this (in the hope that you would feel this way anyway) and largely I refuse to do this to my thoughts however I want people to be comfortable with contributing to the ‘argument’ whether you agree or disagree.
I think with addressing any topic of this nature it is important to stress that change and evolution is only natural. Something I think ‘cancel culture’ tends to forget.
I did two post at the start of my blogging journey that spanned across my Website, Facebook and Instagram called ‘A Student’s Perspective on Sustainable Fashion‘ and ‘10 Affordable Sustainable Fashion Brands‘. The latter being more of a campaign, which I still get comments on today. I put A LOT of work into them both and it was greatly received, however I think like anything, my mindset has progressed and changed, an outlook I’d love to share.
My first post mentioned above is one I still highly relate to, whether it is the misconceptions of my generation or the easy steps I mention to make your lifestyle a better one, however I wish I went into the feeling of guilt I still get when considering where I shop. After posting the above posts I felt a pressure to represent the words I had written, to become some sort of poster girl for sustainability, and to zone in on my purchases. Yet this did more harm than it did good.
I suddenly felt watched and guilty. Whether that was by the people who follow me, the media or this image I had created in my head. When in matter of fact I was doing my best, I stopped shopping at the likes of Boohoo, PLT etc., I bought once last year from Primark, I rarely purchased clothes and made more of an effort at wearing my already purchased clothing in different ways.
In retrospect I probably should be proud of myself but instead I concentrated on the fact I bought once from Primark and hated myself for it. Who am I? What have I done to my head!? I must mention that yes, shopping at Primark is not great, they disregard their workers and pay them a fee way below their needs, however if those few items I bought from Primark are handled with care and used as part of my staples then I should not hound myself for it. Instead I appreciate the fact that I shouldn’t buy from there and I never will in an excessive manner, it comes to a point where you should acknowledge that as long as you are not adding to the waste and assess your needs, rather than judging anyone else’s, then you aren’t necessarily adding to the problem. One step at a time you know?
The only person that was expecting anything from me, was me. I think the joy of wearing your wardrobe differently and looking at fashion in a better, more ethical way is taking pride in your clothing and yourself. Something which I was never doing.
We can’t all be poster girls for Sustainability. In fact the more I say that the more it gets turned into a fad or a trend, a sentiment which is not productive to the bigger picture.
I recently read a quote from Aja Barber (who promotes sustainable practices and highlights inequality in the industry);
‘One thing that no one can really make an argument against with fast fashion is that we’ve turned our back on the various copyright infringements that happen to independent designers. And that has created a market where indie designers cannot compete or survive.’Aja Barber, Saturday 30th January via Twitter (@AjaSaysHello)
This in its entirety sums up for me why brands such as Shein and Misguided are not worth the money (of course not including the fact that they pay their garment workers next to nothing). I would never, ever want a small business owner to see a large company reap the benefits of their hard work. As an argument we zone in on the poor quality and standards of the clothes and the unethical standards they produce while not thinking about these smaller brands and the pain they have to endure. As a repetitive cycle, none of these factors should make you want to shop at these brands, at least not in a manner which is harmful to the environment (excessive shopping), encouraging copyright (harming small businesses), or promoting these brands (to family members, friends or on social media).
The fact I could link this many articles discussing copyright claims from a quick look is disgusting.
Like many people pointed out on Aja’s thread, these small brands have families to feed, bills to pay and certainly can’t afford giant AD campaigns like the larger companies. Thus, they are ruined before they even get the chance to get off their feet. Many of them in fact spend their entire lifesavings on trying to pay fees for a lawyer/court case.
On the other hand we also have to consider if liking or sharing these disastrous events on social media achieves anything? Instead understanding and appreciating how this affects business owners and actually doing something is much more valuable. Whether that is not buying the select items (from those that copied the designs), not buying from the stores or helping the independent retailers with their costs.
However, that’s not to say you should feel guilty for your choices, they are yours to make at the end of the day. Personally, I have a lot of respect for people who are even doing the smallest part in combatting the issue. Something small is better than nothing at all.
I also wanted to mention my inclusion of H&M in my guide last year, a brand which is obviously more main stream and have far to go in their efforts. Yet I wanted to include them because they are getting better. No one is perfect and I would love to see a better wage payed to their garment workers and an all around better approach to their clothing. My reason for including them was because they were one of the first brands to take a large step in the right direction and I would prefer you to buy from them than PLT if you had to.
Greenpeace released an article on the detrimental affects of Covid-19 and fast fashion alongside highlighting the terrible attitude of Britain compared to the rest of Europe;
We buy more clothes per person in the UK than any country in Europe. Around 300,000 tonnes of used clothes are burned or buried in landfill each year. Even worse – loads of this incinerated clothing has never even been sold or worn. It’s retailers or manufacturers disposing of unsold stock in the most ‘cost-effective’ way possible.‘The Uk’s fast fashion habit is getting worse – and it’s destroying the planet’, Helle Abelvik-Lawson, Greenpeace
It’s important to note that facts like this aren’t there to make you feel guilty, they are there to shed light on the truth and the fact it’s becoming a huge issue. The more we support these brands the worse it gets. Thats why I highlight the importance of making the best decisions possible in your predicament. For example, if you have the time to source out sustainable brands do that, if you have the money to invest in one off pieces then buy them, but if you can’t, find other ways of creating a better lifestyle; buy less, leave certain brands alone, look at your clothes differently, help local environmental causes out, support your local small businesses. There is an abundance of ways to do better, what’s not difficult is choosing at least one of them.
I think the more you do it and the more you look kindly upon yourself and your decisions the better we will all become at shopping sustainably. It’s not a competition and you’re not going to be berated for slipping up every so often. But you will be apart of the issue if you do nothing, and why do that when it is so easy to do the right thing.
Becoming more sustainable with my fashion choices hasn’t been easy and I still grapple with shopping and the feeling of guilt. However my task for the year is becoming kinder to myself and appreciating the effort I do make.
If you’ve got any tips on being more ethical or you want to share your own opinion on the topic let me know below!