I’m addicted to buying clothes.
There, I said it. But the thing is, that’s normal. For most millennials, for most adults, it’s normal. Spending one hundred pounds on some impulse buys from a chic online boutique because they have a sale on? That’s normal. Splurging on new clothes from Asos that you can’t afford, but get anyway because they’re so on-brand? That’s normal, too.
Except it’s not. And it’s only recently that we’ve started to realise just how damaging that habit can be to the planet. The ‘fast fashion’ industry is the second biggest industrial polluter in the world: in fact, only oil ranks higher. It produces 10% of the world’s carbon emissions every year. And the worst thing? The garments being churned out of factories across the world will remain in our wardrobes for only two years, meaning that £140m of clothing will have gone to landfill by the end of 2019.
I read these articles with mounting trepidation. Like most people, I do my bit to try and cut down on waste. I recycle. I use cotton carrier bags and have my own reusable water bottle. I’m trying to cut down on my meat intake, like a third of Brits are also doing. I consider myself to be ‘woke’. Eco-conscious.
But fashion is a different ball game. We don’t think about our clothing; we’re always being told to buy the next big thing: the statement piece you absolutely need in your wardrobe. Veganism is trendy. Cutting down on your clothing budget isn’t. And I like to dress well. It makes me feel confident; it makes me feel trendy and sexy.
And yet, how could I consider myself to be an environmentalist if I continued to spend money on fast fashion? I couldn’t. So this year, I’ve been challenging myself to do more.
My new year’s resolution, starting from January, was to curb my outgoings. No new clothes, unless they were essentials like socks, tights or underwear. No sneaky trips into department stores ‘just to have a look’, only to walk out with an item I’ve convinced myself that I absolutely need. This year, I was going green.
It’s been hard. It’s only when you stop buying clothes that you realise how ingrained the desire to do so is; how very good shops are at selling you the latest shirt, or cut of jeans. But I’ve found ways around it. I’ve discovered the joys of charity shops. They can be an absolute goldmine of good-quality, discounted items, and the amount of compliments I’ve received from friends from pieces I’ve thriftily found on the high-street has been amazing. What’s more amazing is watching their mouths flop open as I’ve told them where it’s come from.
Spending time away from buying clothes has forced me to look at what I’m buying, too. Millennials are turning to buying more durable pieces from brands that favour eco-friendly practices: in fact, 90% would be more likely to buy from a sustainable clothing label than from one that isn’t. Brands like Allbirds, Reformation and Alice Early are taking fashion and going green with responsibly sourced cotton and recycled fabrics. There is a market for this, and I’m definitely a new convert.
Three months into my battle with fast fashion, it’s amazing how quickly my challenge has become habit. It’s been better for my wallet, but far more importantly, I feel like I’m making a difference, however small. After all, how different is this really to cutting down on plastic? When it comes down to it, it’s the same principle.
Fast fashion is tempting. It’s easy to buy, and it’s almost always on-trend. But it’s also destroying the planet.
We need to be better than that.