'Ethical', 'sustainable', 'eco', 'green', 'transparent', 'slow' - there are numerous buzzwords within sustainable fashion, but the message that this niche part of the industry is trying to portray still seems to exist within a vacuum. This is the year we all really need to step up and change things.
Do you wear clothes? Thought so. Fashion is a huge global issue, and anyone that wears clothes needs to sit up and pay attention to the harm that our increasingly rapid purchasing is causing, and then do something about it. It's not enough simply recognising that there's an issue; we need to act. News stories about safety breaches in garment factories, and women working for far less than a living wage, are commonplace. I worry that shoppers are disengaged with these tragic stories because they simply don't know how to change their habits in a society where we're overwhelmingly told to keep buying.
I work in the industry, yet many of my friends still don't understand the concept of sustainable fashion. On a one-to-one level it's easy to talk about and explain why the way we currently engage with fashion is harmful, and that we need to start changing this very quickly, but it's difficult to communicate this message en-masse. After I explain why fast fashion is harmful, the next question from friends and family is always 'but how can I shop sustainably?' No matter how often I think about this, it's still a difficult question to answer, but there are more and more ways we can start. Here are my top three reasons to start pro-actively supporting sustainability in fashion:
1. It doesn't have to be expensive
My generation of millennials are earning less, with rent costing more, so saving up what's left of any disposable income to spend on pretty sustainable fashion brands like Everlane or Reformation is an unrealistic goal. I'm also awful at sewing, despite having tried countless times. I can just about mend a few holes but I won't be turning an unwanted dress into an amazing top any time soon, although I still won't give up, and nor should you. It's hard to make a big difference as just one person, but knowing that lots of people are also trying to change their attitude towards fashion is empowering. We all need to become part of this movement, to empower ourselves, and to empower the most vulnerable workers within the fashion industry.
2. Don't give in to impulse buying
A quick Google search on tips to embrace ethical fashion will bring up some really great articles. Whenever I feel the urge to impulse buy I think of Lucy Siegle's wise words from The True Cost (a must-watch if you haven't already) and ask myself if I would definitely wear that item at least 30 times. Usually the answer is no, and I happily move on.
Talk about sustainable fashion amongst your friends, swap and borrow clothes for nights out and special events instead of buying something new. Embracing sustainable fashion will give your clothes greater meaning and lead you to enjoy them more. Well-loved clothes are clothes with a story, not cheap dresses we bought, wore once, and forgot about. When it comes to our wardrobes, quality really needs to reign over quantity.
This is difficult advice when it's become normal in our society to buy new clothes weekly, and to never wear some of these items again, but once you start shifting towards sustainable fashion you'll feel so much happier with, and in control of, your sartorial choices.
3. Quit following fast fashion on social media
The best thing we can do is become pro-active. Follow empowering accounts on social media, such as Fashion Revolution, and get rid of or unfollow all those #OOTD bloggers and fast fashion accounts. Someone I know recently captioned an Instagram photo of themselves posing before a night out with 'love this outfit, shame I can't wear it again now I've got a pic!' This kind of throwaway attitude is alarming, but sadly not surprising. Social media is becoming increasingly image based, and instead of promoting the idea of re-purposing, re-styling, re-enjoying, sharing, and generally getting the most out of the clothes we already own, the loudest message on social media is to constantly present something brand new, no matter what the cost.
This doesn't have to be the way, and I strongly feel a positive turn in the tide is coming. All we need to do is start questioning why we are buying something, and asking where it comes from. Social media can be a positive tool to help spread the sustainable fashion movement. Wear that amazing dress again and proudly post more pictures of it. Make use of apps like Not My Style, which launches this year, and will tell us how much information brands share about the women and men who make our clothes. Reach out to fashion brands that don't measure up.
There's no time like the present, so make 2017 the year you commit to making more ethical wardrobe choices; when we all start to embrace the sustainable fashion movement, 'eco fashion', 'green fashion', 'ethical fashion', or 'slow fashion', will simply be known as 'fashion'.