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?
Conscious Fashion: A Simple Definition
Fashion Conscious vs Conscious Fashion. Is it possible to be on both sides? Or are they mutually exclusive?
Proposing a decisive and technical definition of ‘conscious fashion’ is a challenging task. The garment industry is an entangled web of ripped-off designs, dubiously procured raw materials, fierce outsourcing and severely underpaid sweatshop workers all compounded by a lack of transparency in the corporate headquarters of big clothing brands.
As wardrobe warriors and activists, what we can do is fight alongside collectives within the larger umbrella of ethical fashion – those who champion organic cotton and labour rights, or those who are anti-fur and so forth. But we can only battle on so many fronts so we align ourselves closely with the social injustices that compel us the most and we advocate fiercely for the causes that are closest to our hearts.
Not quite. Not for me, anyway.
The lack of a dictionary definition is not what stalled my many forays into conscious fashion. What ultimately derailed my ‘noble’ intentions was my (very) problematic relationship with clothes.
Being Fashion Conscious Got In The Way Of Being Conscious About Fashion.
Ten years ago, ethical fashion brands were difficult to access and so, when I found one, I would go bonkers, immediately making a long, long, long wish-list of clothes I wanted, dreaming of how I’d look oh-so-chic and how I’d feel oh-so-confident. Bonus – I’d get to label myself an ethical consumer and I was ‘fighting the power’.
Every time there was a party or a wedding or a special event, I would excuse my shopping binges at high-street brands, chalking it up to a ‘once-in-a-blue-moon’ indulgence.
When I realised that most truly ethical brands didn’t always come with a modest price tag, I gave up and thought ‘oh well, at least I tried’, because I didn’t want just one pencil skirt: I wanted five pencil skirts and that cute button-down.
Fail, fail, fail.
Wearing Just One Dress
Being truly conscious about fashion began when I was finally willing to re-assess my fashion consciousness. Why did I feel inadequately prepared for life with just two pairs of jeans? Why was I so easily seduced by those painfully stylish magazine editorials and perfectly preened Instagram models? Why was my self-esteem tied to the perfect outfit?
When broken down into its element components, I came face-to-face with my unhealthy relationship with clothes. I needed them to look and feel a certain way. My feelings of empowerment, sensuality, identity and confidence were all derived from the clothes I wore. Stripped naked, who was I?
This year, I finally decided to cut the (fashion) cords and launched #JustOneDress – a campaign where I wear one black dress (that I sewed myself) for a whole year. I wear this dress in the hopes of liberating myself from the clutches of societal pressure to look and feel a certain way, particularity when it comes to my femininity. And I finally feel like I’m truly and slowly learning the meaning of conscious fashion.
What is The Way Forward?
Am I advocating that we all wear just one dress for a whole year? No, not at all. However, it’s time to re-evaluate the role of fashion in our lives. Clothes are a meaningful way to express and manifest our personalities but modern consumption habits and increased exposure on social media has radically inflated our need for clothes.
Mass consumption is rising, and even though Keynesian economics considers consumption to be a necessary factor for growth, there are a whole host of negative consequences which are eclipsed in the furore. These include the destruction of the environment and the systematic exploitation of developing countries.
The advent of conscious fashion is, of course, promising. But no matter if we subscribe to slow fashion, circular fashion, green fashion or eco-fashion, we still need to stop and reflect more critically about why we’re consuming at this current rate.
Trimming back all the unnecessary layers is the best way to decipher what exactly clothes mean to us and what pushes us into continued consumption. Equipped with a deeper knowledge about ourselves, our conscious fashion journey will be easier and a lot more honest.