When I think of my first fashion icon it was definitely my mum. She’s always had a love for clothes. Whether it’s bohemian, 70s style maxi dresses or fit and flare ditsy floral print ones, it’s something she’s always found joy in. Much the same way I have also always loved the fun of expressing myself through my clothes.
However, I remember being affronted with the harsh realities of the fast fashion industry at school when I was told of the Rana Plaza Collapse. When an 8-story building in Bangladesh housing 5 clothing factories collapsed killing 1100 people (the majority of whom were garment workers). Brands linked to these factories included many high street staples such as: Primark, Mango, Zara, Pull&Bear and Stradivarius. Suddenly it had become all too clear that the enjoyment I took from clothes wasn’t a universal experience. For many it was a cause of grief.
And the shouts of injustice from the fast fashion industry have only gotten louder. In the past year social media has been flooded with the likes of the #PayUp campaign and #BoycottBoohoo. Alongside the warning cries of many influencers calling out the wave of greenwashing from brands like H&M and Primark with their ‘conscious’ and ‘cares’ collections. Leaving consumers like myself in a state of confusion. And shockingly if nothing is done emissions from this industry are set to rise to 2.7B tonnes a year by 2030, an industry already responsible for 4-10% of global Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
Unravelling the thread
As a Christian these injustices break my heart because Jesus calls us to love others. In John 13:34, he says:
‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’
But how are we loving our sisters and brothers across the globe if we’re supporting these industries that hurt them? And how are we looking after this God given gift of a planet by supporting those polluting it?
Thankfully, we’re not powerless. Far from it. As consumers we hold power in what we buy. We can vote for what we believe in with our money. Here’s what that could look like in action:
- Buy second hand; charity shops, eBay, Depop, Vinted, Vestiaire Collective and other platforms are all brilliant resources
- Rent clothes instead of buying a formal/party dress to wear once try a platform like By Rotation
- Avoid buying an item if you already own something similar (I’m talking to myself here and my unsatisfiable love of fleeces)
- Choose a sustainable brand (perhaps use an app like Good on You to get some background on brands you’re unsure of)
- Invest in new pieces that will last years to come
- Change expectations of what clothing should cost (factoring in fair wages, material sourcing and transport).
- Wear things until they fall apart and then repair them!
Something I’ve learnt in the quest of sustainable fashion is we’re never going to be ‘perfect’ consumers. And things like buying from sustainable brands can often only be solutions available if we have the financial privilege to afford it. It’s important to recognise where we have privileges like this and use them to create change. Importantly, making changes where we can (no matter how insignificant seeming) is far more powerful than we think.