Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Starting my personal fashion revolution

My dissatisfaction with ‘fast fashion’ began several years ago, but I hadn’t thought to blog about it because I didn’t think I was doing anything special or noteworthy, and I certainly don’t have the perfect ecologically sound, sustainably sourced wardrobe. I wanted to make more positive, thoughtful choices, but the more I read about the problems with the fashion industry (waste, pollution, destruction of the environment, exploitation of garment workers, the list goes on…), the more I began to wonder how my personal buying habits could possibly affect such a vast global industry. I worried that even making ‘good’ purchases could be full of hidden pitfalls- would organically sourced cotton clothing be made by workers who were paid a fair wage? If I buy from the ‘Eco' range of a fast fashion retailer have I just been hoodwinked by their marketing? Tansy Hoskins, the author of ‘Stitched Up- the anti-capitalist book of fashion’ describes this as ‘ethical calculus’ and argues that it doesn’t address the underlying problem of overconsumption.

It seemed like there was no perfect solution, and I have definitely been part of the problem: for years I was one of those people who viewed shopping as a hobby, and bought far more clothes than I really needed. In fact, I owned so many clothes that I didn’t really wear most of them all that often, and I was washing items carefully and mending things I really liked, so nothing was wearing out. With my clothes storage at bursting point, and new financial responsibilities to take into consideration, something had to give.

I don’t think I made a deliberate decision to scale down my clothes purchasing, I just stopped enjoying a certain kind of shopping. I’d browse ‘must have’ lists in magazines and do some window shopping, but fast fashion had suddenly become uninspiring. By contrast, finding something unique and unusual in a charity shop or vintage market felt fun and exciting, and removed the stress and inevitable disappointment I’d sometimes feel trying to track down a particular trend on the high street.

Taking part in Labour Behind the Label's Six Items Challenge in 2014 was a big turning point for me, as it made me really think about what makes a piece of clothing a ‘must have’ item for me, and how important it is to appreciate and care for the clothes I already have. As a dressmaker myself, I thought about the disrespect I had shown to my fellow garment workers (working harder, faster and in far more dangerous conditions than I would ever be forced to) by viewing the clothes they made as disposable, while I expected the things I made to be cherished and valued.

Finding different ways to rock a jumpsuit during my Six Items Challenge made me realise how much I'd undervalued my accessories in the past! 

My focus for my wardrobe this year is to make sure I am enjoying my extensive clothing collection to its full potential- altering things to fit better, mending things before they wear out beyond repair, washing and storing everything carefully. As and when things wear out, I’ll think carefully about how best to replace them, and how to recycle or responsibly give away items I no longer use.

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