Today I bring you the first guest post on Cassiethehag.com, written by Alba.
Alba is the content writer of Femicate, a lifestyle blog about intentional living where she shares: Frugal and minimalist lifestyle advice – Slow fashion styling hacks – Sustainable & zero waste tips and tricks that made my life easier – Yummy, healthy recipes that are ready under 30 minutes.
This post includes:
- a look into how we can make sustainable more accessible for all
- an explanation of what ‘fast fashion’ is (and why it is so damaging)
- how our shopping habits have changed over the years – to the detriment of our planet
- how we as individuals can shop more sustainably
- a list of sustainable fashion brands
What we can do to make sustainable fashion consumption more accessible?
The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, relying upon unethical and exploitative means of producing their products and contributing to landfill waste in most of the developing countries in which garments are produced.
Sustainable fashion has become more and more popular lately, thanks to the growing climate change movement, which is helping to build awareness on the issue.
Customers are urged to avoid fast fashion brands and shop more consciously.
SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS FAST FASHION?
“Fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing. Garment production utilizes trend replication and low-quality materials to bring inexpensive styles to the public. These cheaply made, trendy pieces have resulted in an industry-wide movement towards overwhelming amounts of consumption. Unfortunately, this results in harmful impacts on the environment, garment workers, and, ultimately, consumers’ wallets.” Audrey Stanton from the Good trade
That clearly shows that the majority of large brand retailers on your high street are considered to be fast fashion.
Like everyone who cares about the environment, upon hearing about the devastating effects of fast fashion, I wanted to make changes to participate in more ethical consumption. However, the process of no longer buying fast fashion and embracing sustainability is not as easy as it seems. Since I started my minimalism journey and after that, aiming towards a zero-waste lifestyle, I suddenly saw how challenging it can be when your salary is below the London average.
Nevertheless, I was determined to reduce my consumption as well as choosing better-quality items made out of organic materials.
When I started to browse in ethical shops looking for clothes made out of organic cotton and lyocell, just to mention the most famous eco-friendly fabrics, I was put off by the substantial price difference. I felt frustrated that I couldn’t afford the popular but very expensive conscious brands.
As a result, I started to wonder if sustainable fashion is just a privilege for wealthy people. The conflict between fast fashion and slow fashion has become a moral issue as shown from the quotes below:
“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness” Mahatma Gandhi
“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere, is paying.”Lucy Siegle.
With fast fashion increasingly under scrutiny, consumers are considering changing their shopping habits to favour ethical and sustainably sourced clothes…
WHY IS SUSTAINABLE FASHION SO INACCESSIBLE?
The truth is that the vast majority of people don’t have a bad attitude towards slow fashion, it is just that they can’t afford to invest in ethical products even if they wanted to. Especially young people who want to keep up in today’s image-conscious, social media orientated world.
It is estimated that 80% of current fast fashion customers would happily buy from conscious companies but their financial situation won’t allow it, no matter how great the quality of the item in question is.
The upfront cost is simply not manageable, and this is especially true for ethnic minorities, which brings us to face another major issue: the link between racial equality and sustainability.
The fashion industry as a whole needs to expand its horizons not only about having less impact on the environment but also in being more inclusive towards ethnic minorities.
Racism is widespread in all sectors of the fashion industry starting from the chain supply, up to the business board. The vast majority of exploited textile workers in the supply chain of fast fashion factories around the world are people of colour.
Retail jobs only have 0.8 and 1.8 per cent of Black representation, while Black-owned small and emerging brands were often ignored before the BAME movement.
“It isn’t enough just looking for the quality of the products we buy, we must ensure that there is quality in the lives of the people who make them.” Orsola De Castro
What can be done by companies to make fashion less elitist?
Sustainable brands are slowing down the production process to improve working conditions as well as providing fair wages in the supply chains.
Retailers are finally stocking more Black-owned brands and hiring more Black designers and creatives making the fashion world a bit more inclusive and diverse.
Despite the great improvements to the quality of garments, on the environmental impact and the inclusivity issues, sustainable brands remain inaccessible for most people. It has become a class barrier, where white rich people can afford to pay to be sustainable, while the working class can’t.
Not being able to align your values to your actions can be very disheartening, as Anne Lappe pointed out:
“Every time you spend money, you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
People don’t want to feel guilty, alienated or left out. That’s precisely what brought to the fore the main fast fashion brands in the first place: the low price tags has granted all people, regardless of socio-economic status and race, to participate in fashion trends and street styles from which they were previously excluded, allowing everyone who wanted to emulate the designer styles and to recreate celebrities’ looks to be able to do so.
People tend to have an inherent desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves.
Now that sustainable brands are in trend and they are not perceived as “fashion for hippies” anymore, more affordable brands are venturing into eco-friendly and conscious collections made out of recycled polyester or organic cotton.
FAST FASHION – CAN IT EVER BE SUSTAINABLE?
Although it is admirable that some of the biggest fast fashion companies have been making some efforts to have less impact on the planet, this is usually only a marketing strategy to get more customers to buy their products.
High street names that launched their sustainable lines have been accused of greenwashing, which means “to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.” (definition from the Cambridge Dictionary)
The first thing to bear in mind is that massive production is not sustainable for our ecosystem.
We produce 400% more clothes than 20 years ago.
High street brands produce 52 micro collections per year rather than the usual 4 seasons.
As a result, our shopping habits have changed: we now own 5 times more clothes than our grandparents had, however, we actually wear only 20% of the clothes in our wardrobe.
The main reason is that fast fashion allows us to buy cheap but poor quality items that we constantly need to replace because they become worn out/damaged very soon.
On top of it, trends are changing so rapidly that we cannot keep up with them, so we repeatedly purchase because we feel that our clothes are outdated.
On average we only wear garments 7 times before getting rid of them.
This vicious cycle must be responsible for an unbelievable amount of textile waste that eventually gets dumped in the landfills.
Doing the right thing can be intimidating and overwhelming, however, there is light at the end of the tunnel if we choose to have a positive mental attitude.
What can be done realistically to boycott fast fashion and to make sustainable fashion consumption more accessible?
There are plenty of affordable ways of being involved in more responsible ways of shopping that will allow us to be kinder to mother earth without exceeding our budget.
This will enable us to align our values to our actions, which eventually leads to not feeling bad about ourselves and achieve peace of mind.
“Act as if what you are doing makes a difference. It does.” – William James
HOW TO MAKE YOUR WARDROBE MORE SUSTAINABLE:
1. Reduce consumption
Reconsidering our shopping habits is the first step towards being more sustainable without spending more money.
Having a more minimalist approach towards our wardrobe, wear each item more, and live with just those items that are necessary will surely help to avoid the poor choices that are the result of waste and it will be beneficial both for our pockets and for the planet.
“Buy less, choose it well, make it last” – Vivienne Westwood
Below there are some useful tips on how to build a great sustainable capsule wardrobe:
- One in one out rule
Shop only when something needs to be replaced or,
If you think of purchasing an extra item, then you need to be willing to discard another you already own.
Of course, decluttering has to be dealt with responsibly, trying to avoid binning clothes and accessories in good conditions that can be sold.
- Setting a budget
Write down a specific amount of money to spend and stick to it.
- Embrace the idea of one
Consider owning just one item when your lifestyle consents it: one coat, one swimsuit, one handbag…
- Avoid trends
Investing in timeless and classic pieces will reduce the tempting of buying more only to keep up with fashion
- Project 333
Courtney Carver and her book are the pioneers behind the idea of a capsule wardrobe, which is a small collection of items, including jewellery and accessories.
Pick 33 items from your wardrobe and dress with those items for 3 months.
To know more, check out:
how to find your own personal style and build the perfect capsule wardrobe for you
2. Thrift shopping
Thrifting is a great method to shop more responsibly.
Buying second hand was considered embarrassing when I was a kid, at least where I come from, but nowadays it has been normalised and it is one of the “good” trends that we can easily follow to be stylish and sustainable.
3. Swap parties
A swap party is a great idea to update your wardrobe without spending money and at the same time being sustainable rather than purchasing new clothes.
It is a party where you and each of your friends bring an agreed-upon amount of clothing and accessories that you can trade and exchange.
Note from Cassie: As a tiny human who grew up with less money than my friends, ALL my best clothes growing up were hand-me-downs. Even at 30, I still have many hand-me-downs, and 3 years ago borrowed a one-size-two-big dress for my big brother’s wedding. If you have friends who are a similar size to you, this works really well and saves money too!
4. Learn how to sew
If you can’t buy it, then learn how to make it!
Sewing is a very relaxing and productive hobby that will help you be more sustainable while spending less money on clothes. It is also an amazing way to acknowledge how much work and effort there is behind making a good quality garment, which will only maximise your satisfaction when wearing it.
It is a useful skill that will help you to care for your existing clothes and lengthen the life of what you already have.
Note from Cassie: So true! I’m dyspraxic and can’t sew. If you’re the same, consider having your friend over for dinner and treating them to a nice meal, or gifting them a pair of gorgeous pair of shoes you don’t wear any more in exchange for their help.
A LIST OF SUSTAINABLE FASHION COMPANIES
Sustainable fashion brands in the UK:
ORGANIC BASICS – eco-friendly basics, such as jeans and tees
International and USA-based sustainable fashion brands:
Sustainable fashion companies in Australia and New Zealand:
Check in soon for a full list of sustainable and conscious companies in based in Australia and New Zealand!
How do you think we can make slow and sustainable fashion more sustainable?
Let us know in the comments below!
Hi, I’m Cassie, and I’ve been solo travelling the globe since May 2018. In this time, I’ve backpacked around Southeast Asia, Japan and The Balkans, alongside spending a year living in Australia. Currently isolating in New Zealand.