It has been two years, in fact over two years since my journey with ethical fashion began. I’m not sure if I have really gone into this yet but originally my journey began with makeup, finding out about all the different ingredients and what cruelty-free and vegan logos really meant.
My blog was going to be about deciphering product labels… and part of me still wants to bring that back.
Following on, in December of 2016, I watched a documentary called ‘The True Cost’ and I don’t think I touched fast fashion after that. I had never been that interested in fashion before… I knew I liked skinny jeans and would live in activewear if it wasn’t so expensive but ethical fashion actually started to make me give a damn so I thought it would be cool to impart some of my findings, my wisdom and hopefully, it can help you out.
I would also love to have a discussion about your questions and your journey.
Cheap doesn’t equal a good deal
This was a huge re-wiring for me. Even now advertisements pop up and shops all promote their huge sales and low prices. This used to be the best thing ever, so many deals, they will never be this good again. But now all those low prices say to me is, “this is how much we don’t care about our workers.” In fast fashion models, the people who actually make your clothes end up being the ones who get paid the least. That $10 top has to pay for advertisement, shop workers, rent for the store, transportation for the clothing to the store, rent for storage… It has to pay every single person in the company and the actual worker who made the item you paid for gets the smallest cut usually because they live in a developing country with no laws to protect them. So now when I see a small price tag, I wonder who is really paying the price.
Another rewiring has definitely happened over time and I don’t know quite what to call it, I’ll explain and maybe you can tell me…
Because I know a lot more about the behind the scenes side of fashion now, whenever I see… a beautiful dress for example, as soon as I find out the brand and that they are not ethical, I just switch off. I have no attachment to it and I have no desire for it.
I felt the exact same way about makeup once I found out it’s tested on animals. Because I know the tests those animals have to go through and I know that once they have gone through it they are terminated. They are killed. They don’t even get a chance of a life; and for what, for our face to look slightly different? I don’t care how pretty that makeup is if an animal had to die and I don’t care how beautiful a skirt is if someone suffered to make it. Aesthetics is not more important than peace and free will of other living things. Looking good at the cost of another’s life or health is not a fair trade.
This is now so ingrained in me that I really don’t struggle to stick to my guns and only buy ethical, local and pre-owned items. But it used to be a struggle and if it is still a struggle for you then just think back to this and think about why it is important to you to shop this way. If you know in your core what you stand for; it will get easier with time. I promise you.
Charity shops are awesome
In the UK I just didn’t get it. My mother is a big fan of TK Maxx (end of line store) and car boot sales so I ended up with a lot of second-hand things in my childhood. I basically rebelled and would only buy new things, complaining about weird smells if I was ever dragged into a charity shop. The only things I liked at car boot sales were the chip van and the stall that sold old Nintendo games.
Ohh how times have changed. Maybe I just grew out of it or maybe “op shops” (Charity shops) in Australia are better than in England but I love them now. If I buy something from an op shop and I get a compliment; nothing in the world can stop me from replying “THANKS IT WAS FIVE DOLLARS AT SALVOS”.
I get so much joy knowing that half of the items in my wardrobe cost me a fiver and I wear them all the time. I love shopping through ethical clothing brands but this often means a high price tag (not overpriced, it is usually worth it, but it is certainly higher than fast fashion) so for those of us who want to shop on a smaller budget, charity and thrift shops are key.
I still own and acquire fast fashion… and that’s okay
Fast fashion is still in my life, even if I am not the one buying it.
I still occasionally get gifts that are from brands like New Look or Top Shop that I used to love. While I still like the styles, I wouldn’t even enter those shops now unless a friend wanted to. But I appreciate it so much when someone goes out of their way to find me a Birthday or a Christmas gift that I don’t get mad about where it comes from.
My friends and family know about my ethical journey and support me wholeheartedly, but they may not have the same strict standards as me when it comes to buying a gift. Sometimes it can be a money thing, sometimes it can be lack of options and sometimes they just don’t know. Not everyone will know or quite understand why you are making the changes you are. If you find you are receiving things that you either don’t like or won’t use; the best thing is to be grateful and honest. Maybe you don’t want any gifts at all. The more I talk openly about ethical products and fashion; the less of these fast fashion gifts I seem to receive, which is its own kind of present.
I am so much more thoughtful with my purchases
I make a lot less impulse buys because it isn’t as simple as falling in love in a store and making a purchase. I take my time to research the brand, look at their ethos and their processes, and while all this is going on it; allows me to take the time to think if that item of clothing is really going to be a good addition to my wardrobe or if it is likely to hang there for months at a time waiting to be worn. Because of this, I make smarter decisions with my clothes, I save so much more money and I love each item so much more.
There are even items that I know I will love and wear if I buy them; but I actually don’t need them for a specific purpose other than I think it will look good. So while I am saving up for things like events and trips I just don’t buy those things and before I know it; months have gone by and I still want that playsuit or those shoes but I think “wow… I have survived perfectly well without them”. I’m not sure why but that little bit of restraint makes me pretty proud.
I had my weaknesses…
There have been a couple of fast fashion items that stick out in my mind that I did buy in the last two years… and I do have my reasons.
One is a pair of Cotton On running shorts. It was extremely hot and I knew running in leggings would be a bad idea. At the time I was still new to Australia, new to ethical fashion AND didn’t have a full-time job so my options were slim. The pair I chose isn’t extremely flattering, but they didn’t ride up, they felt light, and they had an underwear lining so you knew nothing was ever getting exposed. Two years on and I still wear them, They still look good as new and I haven’t bought any other pairs of shorts because I just don’t need to. At the time, I didn’t know nearly as many ethical sports brands as I do now, especially not ones where I could go into a store and try them on and I felt like I needed them quickly. So I don’t feel bad for making that purchase, but I do know exactly where I would find some ethical activewear for the future.
The other item is a pair of suede black boots that were around $70 from Miss Shop in David Jones. I had been searching for a pair skinny black boots for the LONGEST time and when I finally found these I thought about them for a week and went in to buy them. I have now worn them to death. The quality isn’t great but I am going to fix them where possible. I have a grand plan for the big tear in the suede and I’m trying to work out what to do with the front scuffs on the toes. I could look for some other shoes in an op shop but shoe shopping is honestly my least favourite activity (because I think I have fat feet) so I have kept wearing them! I even coloured in the ripped parts with a black pen months ago and kept wearing them.
The best thing you can do, instead of feeling guilty for old purchases or the odd fast fashion thing now and then is to make sure they are items you will use for a long… long time. Wear them and love them to death, or give them to someone who will.
Its been two years… and I still don’t have a green closet
Or atleast it doesn’t feel like it. So much of my wardrobe is still pre Coco stuff… I love these items and wear them all the time and I feel like the damage of those fast fashion items has already been done. The best thing I can do is give these fast fashion pieces the longest life span I can.
As much as I want to have an ethical wardrobe so I can show off all the brands who prove that being ethical does not mean you have to be a hippie; wearing linen and dancing through a field (although that is certainly one way of doing it and linen has certainly grown on me) I am aware that actually, the most ethical closet is the one you already have. So now I am trying my best to focus on loving my wardrobe, finding what suits me best and going from there.
I fix clothes instead of buying replacements and I look for second-hand before buying new. If there is one thing I have learned that it is too easy to keep consuming more and more new things and we already have enough. We consume way too much energy as a society and clothes are just another form of it. If we all stopped buying new clothes and shopped at charity shops it would take a LONG time before we ran out of things to wear.
I love that I am learning so much and it is a super exciting journey
I love that I am discovering so many amazing brands. I am finding out so much more about how my clothes are made, I pay attention to the man behind the curtain and I think about the consequences of my purchases. I believe now that each dollar I spend casts my vote for what I care about and what I want the world to be like; it tells businesses what I care about. So I am prepared to take my vote away from fast fashion and bring it back to local makers, independent designers and brands who actually care about the environment. Because whether you live on a farm or in a big city; we are all still a part of the environment.
That just about wraps up the last two years of my ethical fashion journey. I hope you enjoyed it and might take a piece of something, or tip, with you. Even if I can make you think a few seconds longer about those spur-of-the-moment purchases, I will sleep a little easier.