A topic I’ve been passionate about for quite some time now, is the fight against fast fashion. It all started around two years ago, when I watched possibly one of the most groundbreaking and eye-opening documentaries I have ever seen: The True Cost. Only after watching what can only be described as a harrowing expose against the fast fashion industry, did I realise, shamefully, that I had never really thought about the people who made my clothes, what their lives looked like or how much they were paid.
The upsetting truth is that the majority of clothes hanging in glossy high-street stores and multi-million dollar shopping complexes are hand made by garment workers who live in poverty. Many of them suffer verbal and physical abuse, work in unsafe and dirty conditions, barely able to earn a living wage. Many are exploited against their own will, without the freedom to speak up or unionise.
Within a mere 92 minutes, my entire perspective on fashion changed, forever. Not long afterwards, I was introduced to the incredible movement that is Fashion Revolution. It is, in their words, a global movement calling for a farer, safer, cleaner and more transparent fashion industry. Following the events of the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse five years ago in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in which over 1,138 people (mostly young female garment workers) were killed and many more injured, Fashion Revolution now urges consumers to hold the industry accountable and demand greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.
So in honor of Fashion Revolution Week – I’m sharing with you my top five ways to fight fast fashion.
1. Stand up and speak out. While you may not think that your voice matters when it comes to something that is practiced on such a massive scale – it does, and it is our collective voice that will be key in affecting positive change. My first tip for you, is to educate yourself. Watch The True Cost (it’s available on Netflix), visit the Fashion Revolution website and learn why we need a fashion revolution. Secondly, join the cause, and speak out in any way you are able to. Whether that’s using your voice on social media, e-mailing one of your favourite brands to understand more about their supply chain and manufacturing practices, or lobbying your community to educate them about fast fashion – every individual effort is a step closer. Not to sound like a broken record, but Fashion Revolution’s website has some great templates and pointers to help you get started with taking action.
2. Capsule your wardrobe. I won’t go into too much detail on this, since I’ve written a whole blog post about it already – but I firmly believe that developing a capsule wardrobe (or a variation of the same concept) is life-changing, and can really help shift your mindset when it comes to fast fashion. Capsuling helps you pare your wardrobe down to just the items you wear and love, teaches you how to harness your own personal style and sheds some much needed light on your (probably undesirable) shopping habits.
3. Buy less, choose well, make it last. And on that note, my next point is particularly pertinent. Once you’ve taken stock of your wardrobe, try to hone in on your shopping habits. Whenever it is that you do feel inclined to buy something new, ask yourself if you truly need it. Consider how it would fit in with the rest of your items, and if its something that you would wear seasonally or year-round. Examine the quality, and ask yourself if you will still love and wear this item in two, three or even 5 years time. Consider the high human and environmental cost of modern-day clothing, we need to move away from the notion that clothes are “disposable” and really learn to care for and cherish the clothes we buy. If you have a favourite dress or shirt that has an unfortunate stain, rip or tear – try to repair it first, instead of throwing it out and replacing it with a new one. Consider the care labels on your clothes and make sure you are washing and drying them as directed.
4. Shop from more ethical brands where you can. After watching The True Cost, I completely swore off shopping from all of my favourite stores including Zara, H&M, and Topshop to name a few – it turns out they were some of the worst offenders according to the Fashion Transparency Index and the Ethical Fashion Report. In time, I learned that boycotting offending brands is not a solution. Often times, in some of the world’s poorest countries, sweatshops are a substantial part of the economy. Studies have shown that boycotting may do more harm than good for those living in developing countries, taking them from a poor job to no job at all in the event of factory closedowns. That said, I do believe that companies championing ethically and fairly produced clothing deserve our support, especially as they lead by example, paving the way for a fairer and more sustainable fashion industry for all.
Personally I am still not comfortable buying the bulk of my clothing items from fast fashion brands, however I don’t believe that shopping from only ethical brands is achievable or sustainable for everyone at this point in time.
5. Thrift or swap! Shopping at thrift stores or attending clothes swaps is a great way to sustainably and ethically add to your wardrobe. Although the idea of thrifting may conjure up images of dinky little vintage stores that smell like a storage closet – the truth is that the sheer volume of clothes being purchased year on year, and our consumerist society has given rise to a lot of millennial-friendly shopping apps for pre-loved fashion like Depop, Poshmark and, (if you live in the UAE) Shedd. Much of the clothes at thrift stores or online sites/apps are in great condition, still in style and priced at a bargain rate to boot. For my UAE based readers, I’d also highly recommend a visit to Shop RETOLD in Dubai.