Since putting together Building a Conscious Wardrobe alongside my lovely friend Lexi Keelan, I have radically revaluated the way I think about fashion. I am buying less and buying better, I am caring for what I have and I am being more mindful about how I dispose of what I no longer need. And I am feeling pretty darn good.
A by-product of all this change is the debate about ethical and sustainable fashion I now find myself engaging in regularly with my friends and family and in particular with my mum.
Here is an excerpt from our latest debate:
Mum: <Link to Fashion Journal Article ‘H&M and Zara are more transparent than some of the world’s biggest luxury brands’>
Me: That is true. Luxury brands are notoriously opaque.
Mum: Then not buying from H&M or Zara but buying from Gucci and Burberry is hypocrisy.
Me: But just disclosing doesn’t mean that they are actually doing a better job. Disclosing is only one part of the problem. There is still the whole problem of the fast fashion cycle and the total volume of clothing brands like H&M produce vs. a brand like Gucci and then how it lasts, how it’s valued and where it ends up. Gucci pieces are less likely to end up in landfill because they have resale value they stay in the cycle much longer.
For this is where the ethical fashion debate gets murky. It is incredibly difficult to determine what is and isn’t good practice and where to draw the line.
Trying to build a conscious wardrobe can be like walking on a tight rope over shark infested water; it’s about constantly trying to move forward, balancing all options against their outcomes as your faceless peers on social media and the internet wait below, ready to punish you as soon as you make a false step.
To once again appropriate the words of Emma Watson as I did in a recent article I wrote for Hercanberra:
‘… the fashion revolution isn’t a stick with which to beat one another.’
Too often we can feel shat on by someone who is further along the journey than us and this needs to stop. We need to accept that we cannot be perfect and instead strive to do the best we reasonably can. The way we each consume needs to align with our own ethics and values so that we can make decisions that we can live with and sustain.
Here are my suggestions on how to become a conscious consumer, borrowed from Building a Conscious Wardobe of course.
Decide on Your Values
There are so many problems in the world that trying to make a difference as an individual can feel overwhelming. Do you want to support labels that pay their workers fairly? Or maybe the use of organic textiles is more important to you. How about the use of harmful dyes that pollute our waterways? Take the time to consider what is important to you and in what areas you might realistically be able to make an impact.
Be Informed. Do Your Research
Once you have decided which issues are important to you, do your research. There are lots of resources out there to help you (see a list in the back of this book) identify which brands and labels are doing a good job when it comes to considering their environmental and social impact.
Put Your Money where Your Mouth Is
Use your money and purchasing power to support industries and practices that align with your values. It’s as easy as that.
It may seem like shop assistants exist to convince you to buy things, and for the most part they do. However, as well as facilitating sales, shop assistants are also experts on the products they represent. Pick their brains, ask if they know where a garment was made, or how was it made. Ask whether a beauty product is vegan or cruelty free.
Use your voice. Don’t bang people over the head with your beliefs, but talk to your friends, family and colleagues about issues that are important to you. You never know, you might inspire someone else to make a change in their own life.
Don’t be afraid to publicly engage with a business either by contacting them directly or calling them out on social media. Holding a business accountable is a great way to drive change. And it doesn’t all have to be negative; give a shout out to a business you think is doing a great job.