I am recent university graduate who lives with my mum and loves fashion. This combination means that, yes, I have fallen for the temptations of fast-fashion. Unable to purchase the pricey designs from brands I admire, such as Chloe or Isabel Marant, I have attempted to structure similar looks using clothes from the likes of Zara or H&M. I am one of millions of fashion lovers who turn to “high street” (Do Canadians have an equivalent for this term? Let me know.) brands as a way to look “fashionable” without breaking the bank.
Yet, as someone who calls herself an “environmentalist”—I use reusable bags when I shop, I bring my tin water bottle everywhere I go, I recycle, I don’t drive— I am a hypocrite so long as I ignore the profound effects of every cheap cardi I pick up on the fly. For every item I buy at these shops without pausing to think of the consequences of continuing to support fast-fashion, I am not contributing to the change that needs to happen.
It is time to change my mind about fashion. Changing one’s mind is the first step to effecting bigger change, as noted in Sarah Hay’s interview with activist, Naomi Klein, in her article “Naomi Klein on Fashion vs Climate Change” for i-D.
“[Use] the same skills that convince us that everything we currently have is out of fashion and that happiness lies just around the corner with all these new things that we’re about to see. The same skill sets that are so good at creating those desires are capable of creating other desires. It’s not a different skill-set, it’s a different mind-set.” -Naomi Klein.
The most major event that cause a lot of people to change their minds about fashion was the devastating 2013 Raza Plana tragedy, in which 1129 workers at the clothing factory died under the weight of the building’s collapse. This event brought a glaringly bright light on the terrible conditions that result from the demands of disposable fashion. As a result of the tragedy came the annual Fashion Revolution Day, which takes place on anniversary of the tragedy every 24 April. Fashion Revolution Day is a brilliant effort to raise awareness about the true cost of the fashion industry, sustain the the memory of consequences of the current climate of the industry, and encourage people to ask “Who Made My Clothes?”.
The conversation about sustainable fashion is growing within the industry. For Earth Day, Brie Welch from Garance Doré Studio added her voice to the cause with an article on Doré’s blog about sustainable fashion brands such as Organic by John Patrick, Amour Vert, and, of course, Reformation. Pandora Sykes, my idol, also contributed to the conversation in a brilliant article for i-D magainze called, “Can Fashion Save the World?”. These bloggers are adding to the conversation that long-time visible activists, such as Lily Cole, Livia Firth, Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney have been promoting for years.
My “May Day Challenge” is my first step to changing my mind. Writing about it will hopefully encourage others to do so too. Changing the minds of the entire fashion industry and most of the western world who buys into fast fashion is a big ask, but it is an important one. Even if we all try to reduce the amount we buy per year by one or two items, a big difference can be made. Luckily, there are wonderful things happening in the world of sustainable fashion and the gap is slowly closing between the fashion industry and ethical-environmental issues. For now, I am going to try to help reconcile the fashion industry with our planet and the people on it by changing my mind about what I wear.
Image source: rêve en vert