On the surface, you would assume that I am a sustainable person. I’ve spent hours trawling YouTube for the best ways to go zero waste. I lecture my friends on their leather bags and choosing to have a meat-feast over a margherita. I have metal straws for god’s sake. Yet despite these efforts, my fashion choices are far from sustainable.
A couple of weeks ago in University we completed a project on sustainability, and I’m ashamed to say that whilst my tutor was slagging off Missguided and the like for their ‘disgusting’ practices, I was trying to conceal the massive Boohoo parcel in my bag that had been freshly delivered to my door that morning.
‘Sustainable’ is a scary word, especially when it is associated with fashion. For me, it has always conjured up images of beige, shapeless cotton, which I consider in no way fashionable. Fourty two pounds for a plain white t-shirt when I could get one for two pounds in Primark seems inherently ridiculous, and I must confess that my go-to choices for fashion is fast. I have often asked the question, “surely nowadays there are ways to buy nice clothing that doesn’t literally and metaphorically cost the earth?”
I study fashion communication, and it’s obvious that there is a dark side to the fashion industry. Issues such as slavery, animal cruelty and unthinkable wastage to name but a few are some of the horrific practices that carry on today, and it’s bizarre to think that I’m contributing to this.
‘Sustainable’ is a scary word, but when you consider what goes on behind the scenes, those are even scarier. That the one-off outfit I bought for my friend’s 20th was most likely made in a sweatshop where the worker that stitched my polyester jumpsuit was paid less than a cent an hour. The neon crop top that I bought just because it was three pounds and have ultimately never worn lurks in the depths of my wardrobe. The money I have put into buying loads of cheap, poor quality clothing instead of investing in a piece that would last me a lifetime… it’s not pleasant to admit, but I am part of the problem.
I can, however, say a few words in my defence. I love thrift shopping. Charity shops, despite the musty smell, are wondrous places. To think you can excavate hidden treasures from the rails of forgotten shirts and find the gems amongst the discarded shoes is truly magical. I unearthed such a prize a couple of weeks ago and haven’t been able to shut up about it since, a Ralph Lauren jumper, in brilliant condition for a mere ten pounds. Ten pounds! That’s over a hundred less than its original price tag, and I am extremely proud of myself for discovering it.
It’s baffling to think how many items of clothing are sitting unloved in charity shops, purely due to snobbery around the concept of buying second hand. Although I am not encouraging you to go and buy armfuls of thrifted clothes only to never wear them, I will say it’s always worth a look when you’re dipping in and out of your usual high street retailers, as you never know what you’re going to find.
‘Sustainable’ is a scary word, but in this modern age with so much knowledge at our fingertips, how can we excuse being ignorant to the issues surrounding fashion? All it takes is to read an article, do a google search or even discuss the topic with someone to expand your own understanding and develop an opinion. Sustainability matters, and it’s your responsibility to educate and be educated.
By Shona Radcliffe