Well hello and happy Sunday, you lovely lot!
Yesterday I asked over on Instagram about your biggest issues when it comes to shopping sustainably and ethically, and one of the most common responses I received was how difficult it can be to resist the temptation of the fast fashion brands that fill our high streets.
And I get it. I really do. The industry has turned shopping into a pastime, for some it’s even a hobby. But just as it would empty our bank account to constantly be spending its contents, we’re emptying our planet by demanding its resources.
So here it is: the ultimate ( if I do say so myself ) guide to avoiding fast fashion for good.
You deserve better
Fast fashion is like that ex-boyfriend that you know you shouldn’t go back to. Fast fashion is the boy with messy morals that you laughed off to avoid confrontation; the one that let you down every couple of months but you kept going back for more; the one that you know deep down isn’t in it for the long haul. Yet somehow every time you see them, your feelings are steppin’ out the box like Shangela. Again.
But I see you there. I see you keepin’ tabs on what’s new with him and who he’s hanging out with.
And I see you doing the same thing with the High St stores, honey! Eyeing up that SALE rack; scrolling through those Instagram ads knowing how that’s going to end; dreaming of how cute that silk skirt would look with your new heeled boots.
So it’s time to shift your attention away from the f*ckboys of the clothing industry. [ To the tune of Olivia Newton-John’s 1981 hit single ] Let’s get ethical, ethical.
It’s cool to be creative
Now this isn’t an ‘I’m going to make you feel bad about buying from fast fashion brands’ post. In fact, it’s the opposite; I used to be seduced by the High St’s sweet talk too. To be honest, if you enjoy fashion, you’re always going to be drawn to check out trends and try out styles simply from a creative perspective - it’s unavoidable. It’s a whole lot of fun, too!
But you and I both know that it stops being harmless when we endorse the damaging companies that care more about their monthly cheque than their garment makers.
So here are a couple of ways to channel that fashion-focused creativity elsewhere within the industry, without having to suddenly cut out shopping completely.
Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow
The same way you blocked that guy on social media, do the same with any brands that are not making any effort to incorporate ethical and sustainable practices into their process and products ( okay blocking is a bit harsh - maybe just unfollow! ) .
Obviously with many high street stores having been around for decades, they’re not going to be able to switch to fully eco-friendly overnight after taking such trivial actions for so long, so take note of the brands working to make a change and keep ‘em on your radar - I’ve got a good feeling about where they have the potential to be in the next few years alone!
Curate your email inbox, too - unsubscribe from the newsletters from brands you know used child labour to make that vinyl-style bodysuit; the brands that are pretending to have lived under a rock for the past couple of years and heard nothing about the fact that WE KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING, and it’s pretty damn sh*tty.
money, money, money
Write down how much money you spend on cheap fashion each month. It’ll be a bit gruelling the first time you check your total amount because even if you’re buying ten dresses for six pounds, you’re rustling up a fair amount on some materials that aren’t built to last ... and you’ll probably have to do the exact same the following month to replace them … which would be £120 in two months, on less than six months’ worth of clothing. That was more of a thought process than a sentence, sorry about that!
Take whatever cash figure you end up with at the end of the month and head to the slightly more expensive brands that you’re a fan of, but that are always slightly out of budget. Even if you pick up just one or two pieces from them instead, you’ll be buying higher quality pieces which will: last longer physically, last longer aesthetically, be far more comfortable, and created by a brand you’re proud to wear. It’s more of an investment, sure, but as a result you’ll be keen to put in the effort to take care of the piece so you can wear it for years to come.
You’ll still be buying clothes, of course, but you’re buying less and you’re buying better. It’s a huge step in the right direction!
Facing up to the planetary effects of your shopping habits might be the push you need to make a change - that’s what did it for me!
When I was still at school, I remember happily shopping at Primark weekly with my friends - even if it was only picking up two tshirts for £6 - it was like a day out in itself! I headed there thinking about what was in store and how I was going to wear it when I’d taken it home. But my mindset shifted when I began to think about each purchase as a tiny step within a much bigger process and discovered what exactly that system entailed.
No longer did I think of it as: the shop has a cute dress and then I buy said cute dress.
But when I read more into it, I discovered the steps taken for the garment to get to the shop, as well as the parts of the story that took place once I was bored of wearing it. And it turned out that they were both pretty dodgy ( I’m not specifically referring to Primark here - I mean brands in general within the traditional fast fashion industry ) .
I started to think about how the piece came into existence - who made it? What is it made of? How is it made? When was it made? - as well as what would happen to it when I no longer wanted it - where does it go if noone wants it at the charity shop? What will I do if I can’t sell it? Is this material even recyclable?
I found it extremely crushing when I realised what I’d been contributing to for years, but as soon as I flicked that switch in my mind I realised how empowering it is to be able to play the tiniest role in a movement towards a better future for the planet and its people. It’s never too late to give slow fashion a go.
For many people ( myself included ) there’s a thrill that comes with picking up a new item. Like I said earlier, for me it turned into a bit of a hobby. So when I found out that one of my favourite pastimes was hurting the environment and other people, it was a lot to handle. At the same time - though I hate to admit it - I had no idea how I was supposed to just stop going shopping. It was part of my weekly routine, whether it was scrolling through the new in section of my favourite stores before going to sleep, or wandering through the SALE racks on my lunch breaks.
But it turns out that there are ethical equivalents to fast fashion habits.
Firstly, if you’re seriously still stuck to it, challenge yourself to only shopping within the ethical ranges of the high street stores you love. If your favourite store doesn’t have one, check the material compositions of any pieces you particularly adore and allow yourself those that aren’t made from harmful ingredients like leather or non-organic cotton.
Next up, if you can’t resist the urge to splurge ( I need to trademark that ) , I’d suggest scouting out your local charity shops - particularly if it’s the accessibility of the high street price tag that tempts you, because you can find some serious steals for bargain prices.
Look out for your nearest second-hand / vintage stores. These are great places to search through for pieces that will last quality-wise - hey, if someone’s already worn and washed it countless times and it’s still going strong, you’ll get years’ worth of wears out of it! There’s also something really exciting and special knowing that someone else’s experiences and stories are attached to your piece and not only that it’s one of a kind on that front, but it’s also a million times less likely that you’ll bump into someone on the street wearing the same thing.
If you don’t like the idea of a pre-owned piece, buying at independent stores is a good way to shop ethically because you’ll be able to find out every step of every garment’s value chain - you might even get to meet the maker! - and you’ve got the knowledge that you’re not only contributing to your local economy, but to another creative’s dream project!
Finally, have a look for ethical and sustainable brands - some are even channelling their ethos into the world of social change, which is pretty awesome - they’re usually independent, too, and are extremely conscious and aware when it comes to being mindful every step of the way, from drawing up designs to avoiding any chance of landfill.
Figure Out Your Why
Why do you find yourself constantly wanting to consume, consume, consume? Is it a bit deeper than just wanting a new tshirt? I know that when my mental health was at its lowest I would constantly turn to fast fashion as a way to subconsciously feel like I was moving forward, as well as a great way to spend time to distract myself from what was on my mind. And whilst this sounds like an easy coping mechanism, it wasn’t just damaging my bank account or the planet, it wasn’t getting to the root of what was going on in my head and therefore never solved anything. The only time it gave me satisfaction was the first time I’d wear a new piece and, after that, I’d have to find a new new piece. You know what I mean?
Take some time to reflect on what it is about constantly consuming fashion that you adore. Is it the thrill of a new addition to your wardrobe? Is it a subconscious source of distraction? Consider alternative ways you could get that feeling or get to the root of what’s driving you to do it.
Trust me, your mental health and your credit card will thank you!
Figure Out Your Style
This is one of the best ways to minimise shopping sporadically or for a ten second boost in your mood when you’re on your lunch break. If you know exactly the styles, shapes and colours of clothing that you enjoy wearing, it’s going to be a whole lot more difficult to just pick up what you see and, meh, kind of like enough to spend a fiver on. From here, make a note of what you’ve got in your wardrobe and the pieces that you feel you’re missing - for example, tailored trousers or a spring-appropriate blazer. From their figure out which colour, cut or material you’d best like for that piece. Be as specific as possible. Keep that list somewhere handy, like the notes section fo your phone, and next time you’re out shopping and you see a piece you like, only pick it up if it fits exactly into one of the categories on your list.
Drop me a DM!
or comment here on the blog about how your journey is going - it’s a much easier when we’re doing it together! I only started my sustainable / ethical clothing journey around 18 months ago and the exciting thing about conscious fashion is that you’ve got to be constantly curious to learn more - not only about what’s happening, but how you can help. It’s a really fun movement to be part of and I really hope that you like the sound of at least one of my tips above.