Now lockdown is starting to ease here in the UK, shops and businesses are starting to open up again. Soon, we’ll be back to a world where lockdown becomes a distant memory.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
I think it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the past 10-12 weeks and think about what we’ve learned during this time. Some of us have probably perfected the most beautiful banana bread recipe while redecorating our homes and working out to Joe Wicks every morning. While others have done the best that they could do during that time by simply getting out of bed and making it through the day. We’ve done what we can to get through it through meditation, exercise, learning a new skill and so on but one thing is for sure is that COVID-19, the lockdown and the changes that it brought to our daily lives was and is defining.
One thing that is worth taking a moment to think about though is what we’ve been able to live without – I personally have struggled without my family, not being able to see them has been excruciating but in terms of the material aspects of my life. I’ve actually been fine without them, it’s actually been liberating. It is the experiences with the people that I love that I have missed the most. Not getting married sucked too but it’s fine, it’s postponed to next year and I’m so grateful that all the vendors that we’re working with have weather the pandemic and we’re able to continue to support them
This feels like the most apt time to write this post.
Do we just return back to our old habits or do we take a moment and pause and think about the choices we want to make for our future?
GOING BACK TO NORMAL
Fashion is the topic that I want to cover in this post. I’m going to talk about this from a work perspective and I hope that makes this more relatable.
I remember years ago when I started my first corporate job – I went on a shopping spree with my mum to buy my work wardrobe and for years after that – I would continually buy new clothes every couple of weeks to make sure that I looked ‘fashionable’ in the office, to make sure that I looked ‘trendy’ and to make sure that I was someone that people looked up to. I thought it was my clothes that defined me. If I looked good and looked the part then people would take me seriously. Imposter syndrome well and truly took over. What that meant in reality was that I spent a lot of money on clothes that went out of fashion quickly because I was always trying to keep up or be ahead of the curve. IT MADE ME MISERABLE. It also got me into unnecessary debt too.
One things for sure – buying clothes to make yourself look cool wastes a lot of money and realistically, it doesn’t make you happy. It means that you’re constantly seeking approval when you don’t need it. It took a long time for me to understand what ‘fast fashion’ meant and when I look back on all those years – I feel a sense of anger and almost pity for myself. Not only were my choices unethical, they were damaging to myself. Often when we talk about sustainability or ethical living – we are so quick to judge or shame people that don’t share our values, that we don’t reflect back on when our eyes were opened or even consider ‘why’ people do the things they do.
WHAT IS FAST FASHION?
I like this definition by Good On You: Fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed. It’s simple and completely encompasses exactly what it is.
Until I actually starting to think about the clothes I was wearing, I didn’t think about the impact on the planet. The impact is huge. Think about it, if you’re trying to keep up with the latest trends and offer ‘low’ cost options to consumers to ensure they maintain demand then the pressure to ensure efficient costs and reduce production time means that it’s 100% likely that environmental corners are going to be cut. Fast fashion’s negative impact includes its use of cheap, toxic textile dyes—making the fashion industry the second largest polluter of clean water globally after agriculture.
The amount of waste due to fast fashion is incredible. More than 501m kg of unwanted clothing ends up in landfills across Australia each year. This doesn’t include the 94m kg exported overseas. That stat is astounding.
I think it’s important to mention the people that produce their garments as well. They work in dangerous environment with not even the basic of human rights for stupidly low wages. The True Cost is a great documentary to watch as it goes through the impact down the supply chain too and looks and the impact on physical and mental health.
Now let’s think about us as consumers. We’ve been nurtured to now follow a throw away culture. This has been driven continually changing trends and the speed at which products are produced. I have to highlight marketing here too. Fast fashion brands have made us believe that we need to shop more and stay on top of the latest fashion trends. They ‘use’ the people who influence to help perpetuate that too. Are you telling me that if you didn’t see your favourite influencer wearing a certain ‘style of clothing’ that you wouldn’t be tempted to go and buy it or something similar. I love the example of the ‘Meghan Markle’ effect – clothes selling out the minute she’s seen wearing something. While it’s great for the ‘designer’ or ‘brand’, it’s not good for us as consumers as it continues to create that ‘wanting’ society who think they need material objects to make them feel a certain way.
WHAT HAS LOCKDOWN TAUGHT US?
How many of us during the pandemic have stayed in our pyjamas all day? Or while working from home have chosen to stay in our jogging bottoms and only put on a smart-ish top when we’re on for a video call. I’ve actively chosen to ‘get dressed’ during the pandemic because for me, I needed to. I needed to keep a sense of routine and wearing ‘day clothes’ helped me get through the day and keep some semblance of normality. I didn’t buy new clothes though, in fact – I started experimenting with different outfits and that in itself spurred me onto right this post. During this time, fashion trends haven’t got us through this, what our favourite influencer is wearing hasn’t got us through this – it’s the collective effort of the people who have been taking care of us, the key workers.
So the question I pose now is this – if we know that we can survive without buying ‘new’ trendy clothes to keep up with the latest styles, do we need to go back to that habit? Or can we be more conscious and think about the clothes that we’re wearing and what they actually symbolise. If we’ve learned one thing from this pandemic, I hope it’s this – we need each other and we have a duty to take care of one another and we have a duty to think about the choices that we make and the impact that they have on the wider community and the environment we live in.
It’s very easy for me to preach about ‘sustainable’ fashion and making ‘ethical’ fashion choice but in many cases that is not easy. Fast fashion is cheap and accessible and it makes it easy to get what you want at low prices. So I wanted to share some actions to hopefully help:
- When you’re buying something whether it’s new or second-hand. Take a moment to stop and ask yourself if you actually need it. Do you have space for it in your wardrobe, do you have anything similar already in your wardrobe or is it replacing something that you can’t wear anymore? When you think about ‘why’ you’re buying it – if it’s impulse or an actual need, that will help you to make mindful decisions about your purchases.
- Are you trying to keep up with the Joneses? One trend I would like to talk about briefly is headbands. I have worn ‘headpieces’ of some sort since I was a kid and for me it’s a way of maintaining my crazy hair but what I’ve found it that it’s come full circle and everyone is wearing them. I know a couple of ladies that I work with who have a new one every couple of days. If you’ve never worn something before and you’re just buying it because everyone else has one – think. Do you need it? Be individual and don’t follow what everyone else is doing? I guarantee in a few months, you won’t be wearing whatever it is you’ve chosen to buy to keep up with everyone else.
- People buy ‘new things’ for numerous reasons – either because they need it or as it is for many…to fulfil a materialistic ‘want’ that fades very quickly and brings no meaningful pleasure. Identify ‘why’ you want new clothes – if it’s out of boredom then choose to channel that feeling into something worthwhile and productive.
- If you are going to buy clothes, then buy secondhand or save up and create a beautiful capsule collection of your own. Clothes and accessories that complement each other and work together to create unique outfits without having to continually buy new clothes. I personally have a summer and winter wardrobe that I alternate during the seasons. It’s VERY rare that I’ll buy something new but if I do it will either be second hand or from a brand that is ethical and produces their clothing in a sustainable way.
- Bookmark something that you like online and leave it for a few weeks. If you still want it 2-3 weeks later then go for it. More likely than not, you’ll have forgotten about it.
- Try a 1 in 3 out approach to minimalise your wardrobe over time. I went through a process a while ago where I had to sell three items of clothing through secondhand outlets e.g. eBay, Depop before I could buy something new.
- Ethical Unicorn suggested asking yourself these questions as well before you choose to buy something:
Who made it and where did it come from?
What is it made from?
Is it timeless and does it match other items in my wardrobe?
Being honest, choosing to actively voice my opinion through Artiscado is a new avenue for me, I only started actively writing what I thought in early 2020. I chose this after realising that change cannot happen without choosing to walk the walk and actively standing up for what I believe in. I’ve read a lot and taken inspiration from some of the incredible activists out there and one of the things that always stands out to me is that they ask you to advocate for what you believe but live it too. Artiscado is a representation of that – it’s walking the walk, giving credit where it is due and creating a community of change. Therefore an important question I ask myself, is if the clothes that I am wearing, the beauty products that I am using actively advocate what I believe in. It’s still a work in progress but it’s a work that is worth doing.
I urge you to read these articles as well because I think they generate more questions but also help to educate us on why ‘what we wear matters’.