I was born in the eighties. Born ’87. Cue Calvin Harris. I rocked The Sweater Shop jumpers with lime green and cerise pink cycling shorts for a few years. Of course I accessorised with my thick velvet hairband with big handwritten ‘Joanna’ in fluorescent colours. I was the bees knees.
My first memories of ‘disposable fashion’, whether I knew it at the time or not, were my first trips to Primarni. The 4-floor bargain heaven was instantly a shopping challenge for me. Hunt for items that look ‘expensive’ to style up and create affordable outfits, fit for a 15 year old Welsh valleys girl, on a part time Avon rep wage.
Why would I buy something for £50 when I could buy something that looked similar for £10, or 5 things for £50? I mean it’s just common sense isn’t it? Buy more for less? This is definitely a mindset I’ve carried with me without question into my adult life. 20 years on, that which was harmless fun has become a bit of an addiction, a habit.
Craving The Trends
Why do we like disposable fashion? Is it mainly the cost? Do we mindlessly shop? Do we love the thrill of adding a new piece to our already crammed wardrobes? Do we crave trends, the freshest styles out there? The must-have items ‘suggested’ on social media every other post? Social media has definitely bred the ‘you can only wear that outfit once’ rule…leaving numerous perfectly wearable outfits gathering dust.
In the 80s there was simply less fashion to choose from but we were happy, right? We no longer have a colour or style of the season, we can get our greedy little mitts on any style at any given time.
Do we have more disposable income than we did in the 80s? What were people even spending their money on before Asos and Net-a-porter? Casserole dishes and perm solution? Disposable fashion is a habit we’ve developed.
How Can We Make It Stop?
Whether it’s subconsciously or consciously, we’ve developed it. So what has facilitated this habit and what can we do to make it S T O P?
Subconsciously people develop habits over time. I used to bite my nails badly, all the time, including picking/biting/gnawing the skin around my nails. It’s disgusting but when the habit’s got a hold of you, there’s no easy way out.
I tried to kick the habit so many times and failed miserably, but one day, like the flick of a switch – I stopped doing it. I 100% committed and just simply stopped (ok so there was a boy involved, a fleeting remark about how he thought biting nails was gross…) So yeah, I was no longer a nail-biter and never looked back.
Let’s Ask For More
We’re not going to flick the fast fashion industry switch overnight but we can, as consumers, start making changes. We have more power than what we might think. We can ask the fashion industry to give us a more sustainable choice. Will fast fashion disappear as soon as the habit is blocked? Can we help play a part in making fashion more sustainable?
I listened to a ted talk by Eva Kruse, which was suggested by my daily dose of happiness, All My Heroes Are Weirdos, and Kruse talks exactly about this.
“…we have the power to make the change. If we move the money, we move the industry. That’s a golden rule. And sometimes it might take a conscious choice from you guys, to even choose an organic t-shirt over a conventionally produced one if it costs $2 more, do it because it makes a difference. It sends a signal. And we need to kick start this.”
Circular Fashion System
It’s adventure season. I’ve recently relocated to Sydney. As part of my settling in period and purchasing of home comforts I very quickly bought my very first copy of Australia Vogue. Sigh. I was bit skeptical but I was pleasantly surprised.
There’s an article about the ‘circular fashion system’ that really resonated with me, I actually read it twice in my first sitting (of course after flicking from front to back cover in less than a minute to absorb the visual treat in time-lapse mode, my speciality once purchasing every issue. Like a caffeine hit to the bloodstream, I crave that moment every month).
Clare Press reports that, according to ABC’s ‘War on Waste’, “Australians throw away 6,000 kilos of fashion and textile waste every 10 minutes, while some estimates suggest that up to a third of all the garments produced annually around the world are never sold. Where do they go?”
This shocked me. Where do they go? Surely they’re not all in TKMaxx?
When I packed up my cases from living on a narrow boat in central London, to move to Sydney I had to minimalise everything, even more than I had for boat life. Shoes – I somehow stupidly only brought one pair of heels, that aren’t really dressy enough to call heels. Clothes – I mainly packed like I was going on a trip to the Bahamas only to arrive in the wettest and coldest end of winter Sydney’s seen for a long time.
So since I’ve been here I’ve bought a few key pieces but been mindful of what I’m buying and how much I’m spending. Mainly because I have plenty more clothes back home in storage that I can’t bring myself to duplicate over here, and I’m currently jobless so shopping is at the bottom of the priority list much to my dismay.
It’s allowed me to re-think how much mindless shopping I’ve previously done, and how much I donated to charity shops every couple of months to create more space for more stuff. I always walked out of the charity shop, after donating at least 1 over-spilling bag feeling a bit smug like I’d actually saved a life.
Consumers (that’s me!) throw away shoes and clothing (versus recycling) at an average of 70 pounds per person, annually. And from the few communities that have textile recycling programs, about 85% of this waste goes to landfills where it occupies about 5% of landfill space and the amount is growing. It’s scary stuff.
Start The Change
We should buy less often, buy better quality, buy second hand/vintage and commit to items for longer. If we all started to think and act this way, I’m sure this would start to slowly make ripples in the fast fashion ocean and we’d start to slowly see a change.
Change starts with us. Change starts with me.