A Letter to the West

A Letter to the West

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?

Dear Followers of Conscious Fashion,

Yes, we’ve heard it. Some of us. That whole “eco” thing. Selective waste collection, straw-free August, slow lifestyle, veganism. That our planet is at risk. And we do strive to preserve nature – this is one of our values here too – in Eastern Europe.

But here there is also fashion, especially fast fashion. This is a whole different idea.

Imagine a teenage girl, who has just realised that she is finally grown-up enough to wear her mama’s clothes. A whole, sparkling new world opens in front of her eyes. The endless aisles of women’s clothes are waiting just for her. From that day on, she will dislike everything which is considered girlish and put everything on herself that is said to be womanlike.

I was similar to this girl.

Here, in Eastern Europe, if you were a teenage girl in the 1990s or early 2000s, all your options were either clothes from second-hand shops or clothes from shops with lower quality, all-elastane clothes, using plastic in the fabric.

In these countries there were no multinational companies that imported fast fashion clothes. As we had outgrown the previous regime and finally become independent, fast fashion shops quickly spread to our countries.

Finally, we could purchase all those new Western clothes that our mothers only saw in foreign magazines!

Buying anything which was sewn, created or designed in a Western country is considered fashionable here. The more expensive it is, the more fashionable it is considered to be. When most of my friends get their paycheck, their first trip leads to the mall to buy the new blouse or trendy boots on sale. I am no exception.

The higher your salary rise, the less likely you are to repair your clothes if they are torn . Throwing away and buying new ones seems to be easier. Most young people do not know any shoemakers, seamstresses or silversmiths. If you own a business where you sew clothes or make jewellery, you are considered rather brave and exotic.

Caring or even thinking about where your clothes have come from is not a common idea here. We have no apps and websites to inform us about ethical fashion. What clothes to buy and which brands to abandon. These websites are never translated to Polish, Hungarian or Slovakian.

We can only hear about conscious and slow fashion on some social media platforms or in little, remote shops only available in capital cities: Bratislava, Zagreb or Budapest. And then if – and only if – we speak English at an advanced level. Here only 25% of people speak any foreign languages at a proficient level.

So, what is conscious fashion for us?

Firstly, it is heritage. Teenage girls wearing their mother’s blouse. Sons wearing their first tie given by their fathers. Wives and husbands wearing the wedding ring. We never throw these items away.

But, secondly, our conscious fashion is all about and is dictated by money. If we cannot afford a clothing item – we will not buy it. And, unfortunately, this is my main problem with ethical fashion. Here, it is unaffordable.

Therefore, I cry out to all the followers of conscious fashion. Please be patient with us.

Educate us. Translate studies that deal with ethical fashion, slow fashion, minimalism and conscious fashion. Organise workshops for us and promote second-hand, self-sewn clothes. Open shops in our countries and advertise them heavily – this way you can lower the prices and make this fashion affordable. Make conscious fashion a trend!

Because conscious fashion is a heritage. The heritage of our precious planet: Mother Earth.

by Noémi‬ Dolinka

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