We’ve all heard of ethical fashion, sustainable fashion, eco-fashion, organic, green, slow and circular fashion, and we’re now hearing more and more of the umbrella term conscious fashion, yet there’s no dictionary definition out there. What does conscious fashion mean to you?
My name is Laurie, I’m the Co-Founder of Mindless Mag. If you’ve read my bio you’ll know I was working behind the scenes in the fashion and retail industry for over ten years. Until I had some sort of conscious awakening.
Up until that point, I could be found spending enough for a rental deposit on a Cacharel cape. I enjoyed post-brunch Saturdays twirling around charity shops looking for second hand treasures. And I’d be queuing up in Zara once or twice a week for a fast fashion treat.
I was, and still am, totally enamoured by the fabric form of art we drape ourselves in.
For a while now I’ve been one of those annoying people who call themselves vegan. Added to that I’m totally teetotal – so basically I’m the last person you think to call up when you’re throwing a party. But I’m alright with that. In fact, I’m not just alright with it – I’m proud.
And I’m also proud of the fact I can call myself an advocate of conscious fashion.
I spent yesterday afternoon with a best friend of mine telling her all about my eye-opening experiences. I talked about Mindless Mag and how my own seismic transformation in mindset can be seen rippling out across the world of fashion.
“But you’re wearing a leather watch, leather shoes and carrying a dead Ugandan cow in the shape of a satchel” she said. “Surely you can’t call that conscious or vegan?”.
There’s something about human nature in that when somebody tries to do something good, our inner Fault Finder works themselves up into a frenzy. Our thoughts get their detective cap on, we grab our metaphorical magnifying glass and go off in search of the flaws.
I’m guilty of it too. In the past I’ve sniggered at big fast fashion retailers when they release sustainable collections yet continue to focus the other 99% of their business on pedalling fast fashion.
I’ve nitpicked at animal-loving, vegan friends who always wear their favourite leather brogues.
And I’ve laughed at my yogi friends that spend their weekdays promoting health and wellness but at weekends can be found chain-smoking rollies and shoving white stuff up their noses.
But when we launched Mindless Mag earlier this year I was forced to reconsider my views on conscious fashion by stripping back my judgement and trying to think about what it really means.
I played Devil’s Advocate to my own thoughts on those big brands like H&M with their Conscious Collection, Zara with their recycling bins.
While yes, they continue to drive the fast fashion phenomenon and some may still be purely profit- not planet-focused, at least they’re doing something rather than nothing. Because that something from a global brand that turns over billions is actually a lot.
These retailers have a seat on the global stage. They have hold of the microphone. Their voices are much louder than the whispers of sustainable micro-brands. And as much as I am a total advocate for those small pioneers and what they stand for, they just don’t have the reach – not yet anyway.
One single advert or campaign from a big fashion brand can have a direct influence on our shopping behaviours, on our Google searches and our lifestyle in general.
So I would sincerely like to revoke my former cynicism towards the accused greenwashing and say that any effort, whether big, small or seemingly hypocritical, should be acknowledged and praised for whatever goodness it brings.
Then, when it comes to people like me – the conscious fashion advocates, the voices of the fashion revolution, the sustainable consumers and anybody else doing their bit for positive change in such a mindless industry, I’d like to say the same.
Don’t expect us to run off into the woods, build a self-sustaining hut, eat wild foliage and wear one organic cotton loincloth for the rest of our days. And don’t expect us to boycott the shops completely or abandon our style.
And as for the fast fashion paraphernalia we’ve already bought…
Well, we could have some sort of ceremonial burning of all our former non-vegan friendly, fast fashion wardrobes; setting alight thousands of pounds worth of clobber just to go and replace it all with new ‘conscious’ stock, but I’m pretty confident this would have much more of a negative impact on the world than just using out what we’ve got.
Instead, we’ve just decided to do things differently to how we’ve done them before. We’re being conscious consumers and making mindful lifestyle tweaks that can be sustained. We’re changing our mindsets and we’re encouraging others to do the same.
So maybe we need a little bit of praise when we put at least one foot in the right direction and should give each other a little bit of space to be human.
So what is Conscious Fashion?
I came to the conclusion that, for me, Conscious Fashion is a term that could lower those pointing fingers and save us from our fears of committing Fashion Fraud.
It does not yet have a definition in the dictionary and perhaps that’s because its meaning is just as much basic as it is complex. And just as static as it is ever-evolving. It’s a difficult one to articulate.
I see it in its simplest terms; that Conscious Fashion refers to the application of critical awareness in all things relating to it. It covers everything from ethical, sustainable, slow, green and circular and doesn’t need a tickbox exercise to prove its point.
It’s every aspect of a product lifecycle from design and development through to disposal and it involves every one of the hundreds of pairs of hands it passes before it’s plonked inside a bag and being marched out of a store.
It’s about the honesty that comes with cognisance. The recognition that nothing and nobody is perfect and that all we can do is continually strive to improve. It’s just about getting curious, asking questions and starting conversations.
It’s about making mindful change in our mindless world.