My breakup with fast fashion

Well, it’s a little bit more painful than others, but like with every breakup, it’s for the best. And my split with fast fashion is a journey I’m actually looking forward to.

I swear this always happens, but the beginning of my sustainable journey started with social media; I saw a tweet that showed a receipt for a company which is just the epitome of fast-fashion; Romwe. On the receipt was a printed “help me”. My heart dropped, knowing full well that I had not only given my money to them but also their sister companies, Shein and Zaful. The thing is, unethical practices in fashion are something that we all know exists but choose to be ignorant about…because it benefits us, just like the meat and beauty industry. Believe it or not, I became a vegetarian after watching a Facebook video…social media really does create movements.

So, I tackled it head on and decided to disgust myself – I got up and looked at my own cupboard, knowing exactly what I was going to find. The labels read one horror story after the other; Boohoo, Shein, Primark, Topshop, Zara, Pretty Little thing. I was horrified. I knew that something had to change.

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Researching into it, I found that it hasn’t always been this way – you always knew exactly where your clothes were coming from. You know the name of the designer, the worker, the materials used…literally everything. So, what changed?

Basically capitalism. I’m going to put it as short as I possibly can; we’ve been fed these ideas on fast fashion and beauty in the form of propaganda. You’re probably thinking “well, that’s a bit extreme.” but, that’s literally what it is. Everyday propaganda from fast fashion companies is pumped out on billboards, video adverts, magazines and, of course, Instagram. We’re told to believe that we need another piece of clothing or else we’ll be seen as lesser by others and be unhappily deprived. But who really benefits? We buy more clothes, keep them for a short amount of time and then buy some more. We get poorer and they (being the big companies) get richer.

We might be being played for fools, wasting our money on momentary pleasure but it’s the people making the product that really carry the brunt. With the low costs of clothes and high demands, about 97% of clothing is now manufactured overseas. The workers are mostly women and are paid about £2 a day, overworked in horrible conditions, sexually abused, violently attacked and exploited. I came across the story of Suzette Pierre, a Haitian lady who used to work in a garment factory. She experienced sexual abuse from her manager for about 2 years she quit her job after a refusal to perform certain acts with her supervisors and remained unemployed since – “blacklisted” from all over textile factories in her local area. Upon reading this, I was heartbroken, but I soon realised that, as bad as it sounds, Pierre is actually kind of the exception; many women feel they cannot quit as they need to support their families, thus remaining in abusive conditions.

Not only that, hundreds have died as a result of fires across the factories and in 2013 the Rana Plaza building collapsed, killing 1,134 people. All of which were completely unnecessary deaths caused by carelessness and putting profit before the lives of real human beings. And for what? So we can look really great on a posed Instagram photo? It just really isn’t worth it.

And, if you’re not all that bothered about the lives of vulnerable women (I mean, like, what’s wrong with you?) then, you should take a look at what your fast fashion addiction is doing to the environment…directly affecting you and the generations of your family that will come after you.

United Nations Economic Commision for Europe (UNECE) stated that the garment industry is one of the largest users of water, in fact, the creation of one cotton shirt uses 2,700 litres of water. Remember, fashion generally isn’t a topic of discussion in the UN, and the fact it is right now is a promising move in itself but also an extremely telling sign that things are, like, really bad. Summarised up,  if we can make changes to the fashion industry, we can reduce poverty, reduce the gender gap and help the environment.

And on a much more personal note, breaking free from the cycle of trying to achieve unattainable expectations of my body, wardrobe and life was the most freeing thing I ever did. Scrolling through Instagram to see hundreds of girls that looked better than me, had nicer clothes than me, more money and exciting lives was a weird personal trauma I put myself through daily. Looking through that with a different perception has made me feel a lot more grounded and happier in myself.

I’ve slowly started to find my own personal style, and my interest in unique clothes has really started to shine through. Where’s the fun in wearing something thousands of other girls are wearing too? Now, when I choose an item of clothing, I always picture myself wearing it hundreds of times, for hundreds of situations. Washing machine’s exist guys.

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I bought these dungarees from an independent designer. I customised and adjusted it myself.

My mind instantly jumps to Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing when I think about clothing on Instagram. They market their entire inventory on Instagram, using pictures of gorgeous (but very filtered) women from very good angles, commenting very cringy things on the Kardashian’s images, and use patronising rhetoric in an attempt to make them feel like our friend. They’re not our friends, they’re using our insecurities and voyeurism to make sales on their unethical, cheap clothes.

So, it’s pretty obvious something needs to change. I soon realised that this lifestyle change might not be as black and white as my transition to vegetarianism. Like, I’m obviously not going to throw away all the clothes I bought from fast-fashion brands – that would be extremely counterproductive in environmental and economical terms. It’s just a case of overcoming personal mindsets, and it’s slowly happening. I now know that I don’t need a new outfit for every single minor event in my life, I’m aware that cheap clothing brands are not trying to help me and through this, I’m truly discovering my personal style and taste. I’m no longer going to buy a top because some influencer on Instagram was wearing because they were sponsored by a clothing brand. By the way, propaganda tends to brainwash you in these ways. So here are very simple ways I’ve started to give myself a more sustainable wardrobe:

  • Shop from sustainable shops – they do exist and a lot of them are non-profit, charity organisations. Win, win.
  • Charity shopping helps a lot, stop the cycle of “out with the old and in with the new” and embrace the “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” mantra.
  • Buy smartly. This one might not be for everyone, but spend more money upfront on nice investment pieces and wear it loads and loads of times.
  • Buy less. Seriously, you don’t need new clothes every week, it is so unnecessary.
  • Buy independently. I’ve started shopping at independent designers. The price range varies from shop to shop, so just explore.
  • Stop buying from the ‘big ones’. Romwe, Shein, Boohoo, Primark etc. Try and make it as minimal as possible. If you absolutely love something then, by all means, don’t restrict yourself – but consider how many times you’ll wear it, and how long it’ll last you.

This is a big deal for me. For anybody that knows me, they’ll know that I literally spend hundreds of pounds every single month, on items of clothing that I’ll wear once or twice and then replace with other items of clothing that I’ll wear once. It’s damaging the environment, people’s lives, my bank account and my mental health. I just remind myself that the only people who benefit from this diabolical cycle is the people sitting at the every top. I’ll keep you updated with my progress.

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