Between Net-a-Porter and Knock-offs

We all have Skeletons in our Closets and Dirty Fashion Secrets: If Stacey Dooley investigated yours what would she find? Write us your confession.

My ultimate style sin: I had actually given up on conscious fashion. Turned away from my once zealous (and possibly a bit snobbish) love for sustainability.

Despite the articles, Instagrams and YouTube videos, until spotting Mindless Mag’s poster for a writing and sustainable fashion workshop on the back of a coffee shop toilet door in Liverpool last Monday (classy!), it had made me feel quite alone. With a very real mixture of relief and reluctance, I’d left it behind in Manchester when I moved back home in September 2017, following my disastrous attempts (there were three) at a Master’s in sustainable fashion.

Instead, I’d made do with scouring Depop and eBay for early 2000s ‘vintage’ treasures (anybody that knows me is clear on the fact that, yes, j’adore [Galliano era] Dior). Sort of (conveniently) mindful; mainly, rather gloriously, mindless. How sustainable really is flying in second-hand clothes from Japan, Australia or the United States, par exemple?

For a recovering toxic perfectionist, the overwhelming muddle of pure, unadulterated sustainability certainly remains a minefield.  

Yet, to be conscious, one choice at a time – that is something I can manage. I can and will live mindfully – even minimalistically – and still be my flawed, style-loving self.  

Before writing this article, I googled: “giving up on sustainable fashion” and “giving up on sustainability”, mainly to see if any other writers had experienced the same journey with mindful/mindless living. Nothing. By contrast, I found countless articles on parting with fast (and rapid) fashion for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

Fast fashion has never really been my thing; I’m too tactile to bear the feel of some of the fabrics. [I also can’t handle Reformation’s georgette fabric, to be fair, but that’s just me.] I’ve always preferred Net-a-Porter to knock-offs – and, if I ever can’t afford it (i.e. most of the time) nothing at all. This has necessitated a rather ‘capsule’ wardrobe for the last decade or so, but I do love and feel good in all of my clothes. If I don’t, I sell or return them.

Is this good enough?

Again, I’m stuck – because it’s not, really, is it? I need (and am ready) to start digging deeper again.

There’s just so much to unpack with sustainability; it means different things to different people, too. [Read my thoughts on sustainability + veganism here.] That’s why I find Mindless Mag’s conscious slant so appealing. There’s no judgement.

So, if fast fashion isn’t in my bag, then what is?

Clothes I’ll cherish, yes – I’ve proven that much to myself – but do I know who made them? Must we really be that transparent, anyway?

I would say that the majority of my clothes are a cotton spandex (or Lycra or elastane, whatever you want to call it!) blend, with some 100% cotton in the mix.

It may be up there with my favourite, most comfortable, body-hugging materials, but the former isn’t good news for the environment, unfortunately. According to a Design for Longevity article, it’s incredibly difficult to recycle spandex blends mechanically. Cotton spandex fibre mixes do not serve a circular purpose, in terms of meeting the needs of the idealised closed-loop fashion system.

Another conundrum.

What can I do? What should I do?

My response today is much more relaxed than it would have been, say, 19+ months ago.  

Ultimately, I’m a fashion consumer, as opposed to a creator. There’s a limit to what my untrained hands can achieve. Knowledge is power, though.

Now that I’m on the conscious path, I’ll buy less, buy better (or as well as I can) and focus on creating – and maintaining – a tightly edited wardrobe, reflective of my personal style ethics, cotton spandex or no cotton spandex.

By Charlotte Robson

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