In an age where we want all that we want, and we want it now, there has been an increased discontent in our consuming of products and an increased disinterest in where it is that these products come from. Perhaps the biggest industry we see this in is fashion, and it’s what we call ‘fast fashion’. Fast fashion is the reality of a fast turnover of trends resulting in a faster turnover of products and the constant need for companies to keep up with the demand is resulting in practices that are questionable at best and deplorable at worst.¹ There are some companies that have resisted the pull, but I for one fall into buying from the places that are the worst culprits again and again – simply because they can provide what it is that I want, at a good price, when I want it. I say that with shame.
Companies, however, are big and the mechanisms within them are something that it’s hard to shift. We’ve got options about how we respond, and one of them is to rally the companies to do better and support those who do better, but we can’t expect the companies to change if our consuming habits won’t budge because we simply must have an item we saw somewhere.
The biggest change we can make is on an individual level. Here’s three ways I’ve been making changes without it feeling like a burden that I carry everywhere I go.
- Buy from the good guys.
There are companies that are doing a good job of being ethically aware. You can check them out in a few places but one of my favourite sources is Baptist World Aid, who have put together an impressive list that grades each company based on different factors. I take a quick look there before I purchase and if they’re below an A, I walk away or close the tab and find myself a tasty tea or coffee which sometimes costs more than the item itself (which, when you think about it, is tragic for the people who made that item and were paid basically nothing). It’s a bit of a pain sometimes, to be honest, but in the end I know it’s the right call to make.
2. Buy less, buy better
I’ve got a wardrobe of clothes that are similar cuts, but different patterns. I’ve got no regrets about this and most of them are from companies that I 100% trust with their processes and ethics. But it comes to a point where I look at something I want to buy and ask, “is this item going to do the same thing as something else I own?”. I don’t just mean in terms of shape and fit, but what it expresses. Clothing is for most people in Western society a form of self-expression and we use our clothes to show something of who we are and how we feel and so if there’s an item similar in shape but different in colour or expression, I’ll think about getting it. But I buy less and I make sure I buy quality when I do buy, because it lasts longer, costs less in the long run, and fosters contentment in what I do have rather than discontent in what it is that I don’t have. If we buy less, we remember that what we do have is more than enough and maybe even that we are more than enough, even without that shirt that everyone else seems to have.
3. Get creative!
This is my favourite, and I’m surprised at that. About a month ago James and I sat down and talked about the idea of investing in a sewing machine. I’d been thinking that perhaps a way to let go of fast fashion was to learn to get creative with clothes myself so that I’m less reliant upon stores. We found a decent quality machine on sale at Spotlight² and visited a few op shops one day to pick up some cheap fabrics (see: old sheets and fabric people had donated to the stores), and even got a men’s shirt that was gigantic and super cheap. I’ve spent time tinkering with the sewing machine and learning how to do things. The men’s shirt is now a skirt, and I’ve made a few other items with the machine or altered some to fit better so they can be worn more. I’m loving it. A cup of tea, a few hours of my time, and I get to expend some creative energy. If you’ve got the time, please do this! It’s fun to throw energy into it and at the end you have something that only you own.
That’s what I’m going to slow down my fashion. It wont change the world, but it changes my little part of the world and one thing that I’ve learned is that if we each make changes it contributes to a much bigger change that’s happening. If we take small steps to slow down our fashion, then maybe fast fashion wont have a place in the world anymore and even if it doesn’t, we as individuals are loving the world and loving other people better – and that’s a pretty big win, if you ask me.