I’ve had something of an epiphany regarding fast fashion.
A week or so ago I watched War On Waste. In that very same week I attended Peppermint Magazine’s ‘Pep Talks‘. I laughed my way through the most epic talk by my good friend, former boss and slow fashion activist Leah Musch – The Unmaterial Girl.
The combination of her speech and The Chaser’s exploration into waste in this country, left me wondering “WTF AM I DOING!?”. I found myself reflecting on how bloody complacent I have become when it comes to mindlessly making fast fashion choices instead of shopping smart. Then last night I watched The True Cost on Netflix. The doco about clothing, the people who make our clothes and the impact that the garment industry has on the world.
Something needs to change. I thought I was a pretty mindful individually and that I was across all this stuff. However, I am embarrassed that it has taken me this long to really delve into the facts around the human rights issues and environmental impact that the fast fashion industry is having on our world.
Generally speaking we are not really all that big on shopping. I am a huge fan of hand me downs and I have no shame in calling a friend or my sister for permission to raid their wardrobe for a fancy event. I spent the better part of my 2004-2014 shopping time rummaging through ‘fill a bag for $5 bins’ at Vinnies. This was partly out of necessity, because I was a broke student, but also because it was kind of trendy and I happened to be a total pro at it.
Then somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to cut back on collecting everyones sloppy seconds and kind of fell back into shopping in the mainstream fast fashion outlets. Babies and a tight budget mean I have had some pretty adequate excuses around why I don’t have the time/energy/patience to shop second hand these days. However if I am truthful, the $7 kmart kids tracksuits just made things way too easy. What a sucker for fast fashion I’ve been.
In the spirit of realigning my actions with my values, here lies a commitment to kick the recent shopping sloppiness, and purchase more consciously because: A) this fast fashion situation is out of hand, and B) I have the op-shopping skills – let me tell you.
Here is my brain dump of ways our family can take a step back from contributing to this overwhelming problem and truly try and live a little more gently and compassionately.
Get Back To The Op Shops
I might not have the time to endlessly wander the oppys looking for the perfect vintage piece these days, but when it comes to play clothes for the kids or basics for the grown ups, there is always an abundance at the local salvos. I need to remember to go looking for seconds first.
I happen to have a handy diploma in fashion design and an entire teenagehood of tinkering with mums sewing machine worth of skills that I rarely use. This little dress I made for Story recently was the first time I have whipped out the sewing machine in years.
Hustle For Hand Me Downs
We’re lucky to have a couple of excellent ‘handers-me-down’ that always send bags of clothes our way for the kids (keep them coming my friends).
The hand me down chain is an extremely valuable tool to tap into and from my experience friends love off loading their old clothes (especially kids clothes) and love seeing them re-worn, even more.
If you don’t have a hand me down hook up, find one. I tell my friends give me all of the things you don’t want, then I will sort them and donate the rest. It saves them time sorting through or doing an extra trip to the charity bins and we get a fresh batch of clothes.
Pay It Forward
Whether you’re on the receiving end of a hand-me-down train or not, it’s worth finding someone to pay it forward to. If you don’t know anyone directly, there are plenty of places you can donate. I know at my cousins son’s daycare they have clothes swap rack in the entry way where you are free to add pieces too, or take bits for your kids. Genius! Wish I thought if it myself, might have to send a little email to our kindy tomorrow.
I haven’t been to a clothes swap in years but now that I think of it, it was a bloody hoot. One persons trash is someone else’s treasure and it is also a nice excuse for wine and some kind of lounge room floor picnic hang.
Beg, Borrow & Steal*
(* Stealing not actually recommended)
Lucky for me I have a sister with impeccable taste, so I am usually pretty confident that I will find something in her wardrobe to wear if I have something fancy to go to. However one time, years ago, my friend was getting married and I had nothing to wear. I had seen my sisters friend who I no longer really knew wear a dress in a picture that was gorgeous. So I went out on a whim and asked how she would feel about me borrowing it.
She was thrilled to see it get worn, I felt a million bucks. I returned it to her dry cleaned and with a box of chocolates. She got an unexpected sugar hit, I saved myself $100 and everyone was happy.
It might sound kind of desperate but I reckon most people I know are the sharing caring type. Maybe we should all be a little less coy about asking to borrow or sharing our stuff and share a little more free love with our clothes? Just an idea.
On that, friends, or distant friends, if you spot me in something you want to borrow, just ask. It’s likely I will say yes – unless of course it’s my sister’s – but she is pretty friendly too.
Start a Capsule Wardrobe
Have you heard of this? Anna (one of my British Blogger crushes) from The Anna Edit first got me onto the idea, but basically it is a minimalist fashion challenge. The goal, to condense your wardrobe (including shoes and accessories) to 33 items only for 3 months. Sounds a bit outrageous at first but actually when you think about it, its not half as outragious about filling an entire 3/4 of wardrobe space with clothes you never wear.
Dressing with a small selection of season appropriate mix and match clothing makes so much sense. I am so keen to give this a real shot.
Quality Over Quantity
Jai is forever telling me ‘the poor man buys twice’ and he is totally onto something. It has taken me quite a while to come around to the idea. For some reason I still always twitch when it comes to spending-the-money. But I really think a big part of the answer for us lies in investing in the good stuff, ditching the fast stuff and buying pieces that we love and that will last.
Shop Small and Support Local Brands.
I don’t know about where you live, but around here I know of a handful of quality clothes makers using ethical manufacturing and sustainable materials. My favourite undies and basics in the world happen to be made by a friend down the street, Lis Harvey from Nico.
This is all I have got.
Friends, lets get creative and conscious about our clothing. If you have any other ideas to slow things down and boycott fast fashion that I have missed, and I am sure there are many, please send them my way.