Fast fashion was once known for its fast profits, now it has the earned reputation of being fast in environmental and human destruction. With almost the entire fashion industry geared towards constant consumption, what’s an ethically minded person to do?
Thankfully Orsola de Castro has some advice for us. She’s a fashion designer who’s embraced ethical fashion and has made a great career around making and keeping good clothes. She co-founded Fashion Revolution and worked to expose the dangerous behaviour the fashion world is a part of by providing alternatives. One easy and cost-saving alternative is to just keep your clothes.
“Some people love rescuing pets. I started off rescuing clothes – and have never stopped,” she says. Her design process was initially creative, not ethically driven. A eureka moment came while she was “climbing mountains of rubbish in a warehouse” to source holey jumpers. “I thought: OK, I am not just designing – I am recuperating,” she says. “There is a purpose. It is not just aesthetic, it is also profoundly moral in many ways.”
Hide your clothes
“I have a game I play with myself. I hide things from myself for a long time. I put them in a bag and put it under the bed,” says De Castro. “I hide things that are not right for me, whether that’s because your body changes, your mind changes or trends change.” She says that, when she opens them, after about five years, she often loves them “beyond description”: “Two years ago, I rediscovered a skirt – I could never remember hiding it in the first place. Now I wear it incessantly.”
If you’re like me then you’ve stopped wearing nice clothes to work because you never leave your house for work. Us “office workers” don’t need to buy clothes because the social situation around us has changed. If you work in an environment where you physically have to be there you too can stop being clothes.
Mend!, new book by Kate Sekules explores the concept of repairing our clothes in fun ways. Yes you can fix your own clothes no matter your skills.
You love clothes, but do you know where yours came from? I don’t mean Uniqlo or “stolen from my sister,” but their fundamental origins and what it all means. Clothes can be complicated creatures. They are not inert, but become unique with wear, even from the first time we take them for a ride, and then they gain in individuality with each outing. Our collections become extensions of us (“That dress is so you!”), combining in their own special, comforting ways and routinely performing magic tricks. Many of us own a results dress or lucky socks for sports, or a coat that’s gorgeous on the hanger but ghastly when worn. Clothes “change our view of the world and the world’s view of us,” wrote Virginia Woolf. The “why” of visible mending is all about that personal nature of clothes. And, while extending their lives, it also acknowledges their origins.
Want to save the planet? Reduce how often you wash your clothes, you don’t need to wash your shirt that you wore for only one day. This is something you can start doing today to help make a better tomorrow.
When it comes to your wardrobe overall you can alter what clothes you buy to ensure that you barely need to do laundry at all. There are new companies and clothing lines that focus on making clothes which are designed to survive multiple wears without getting dirty. I think it would be great to never have to launder anything again!
Decades of marketing from the cleaning industry has conditioned many people to throw their clothes in the laundry after one day’s wear, even though this is rarely necessary. So one of the biggest challenges for brands pitching clothes that don’t need to be washed frequently is to convince people that they will not be gross, smelly, or dirty if they aren’t constantly doing loads of laundry.
Bishop, for his part, decided to create wool blends with other materials, including nylon and linen to achieve different effects. Synthetic fibers, for instance, are able to make clothes more durable because they are hardier. This was a difficult decision, because while wool and other natural fibers are biodegradable, nylon, polyester, and other synthetics are plastic-based so they will not decompose, but sit in landfills forever. “We had some difficult decisions to make when it came to sustainability,” Bishop says. “But we decided that our goal as a brand was to make it easier for people to own fewer clothes, and keep them for longer. So we decided to incorporate synthetics.”
Fast fashion relies on mass production and mass consumption in order to survive. The fashion industry as a whole requires a lot of energy, water, and logistics to function in its current form, which means the days of current fast fashion will have to come to an end. People are catching on that disposable clothing isn’t good for the environment or for your bank account. To circumvent fast fashion consumers are turning to vintage stores for clothing and some new styles that come out of combining old fabrics into new styles.
Clothes come and go at the Basingstoke home of Sarah Fewell, too. In fact, so many parcels come and go that she knows her postman by his first name (Jay). Fewell has always loved cutting up old clothes, sticking on studs, even at 14 when most of her friends were into Hollister. But now she has turned her passion for preloved clothes into a sustainable version of fast fashion. Fewell runs a shop called Identity Party on the website Depop, which since being established in 2011 has offered its 10 million users a blend of eBay-style trading with Instagram-style posting.Her brand is “a lot of 80s, 90s, quite bohemian, grungy”. She especially loves “selling things with animals on, a good old ugly jumper and anything by St Michael.”
By wearing the same style, not necessarily the same article of clothing, you can make your life easier. Its one less series of decisions you have to make throughout the day and will let you get your day off to an easier start. Plus you can save money!
So if you look at the direct costs of the outfit I wear every day, and the indirect layering-and-replacing costs, I’ve spent about $834.95 in the past 18 months on my work clothing. Which you know what? Is probably what I spent over the course of six months before starting up this whole crazy idea in the first place.
But here’s the thing: this was never about the money. (Or, lol, the “fashion.”)
This was 100% about not having to think about what I had to wear to work every day. Eliminating that one decision saved me hours of stress, and piles and piles of feeling uncertain and awkward and less-than-totally-confident during my day to day. Decision fatigue is real, friends, and I’d rather spend my limited decision-making energy on things that make a real impact, like my work or my relationships or literally anything other than my clothing. I just don’t care about it enough to spend any more time than I have to thinking about it.