25 Jun Confessions of a fashion-holic: What I learned when I quit fast fashion
We live in a world where t-shirts cost less than the average latte.
You can pop into town on your lunch break and pick up a cute little outfit for date night, Saturday drinks, or just because you’ve had a bad day for less than the cost of your lunch.
Our wardrobes are overflowing with clothes that we’ve already worn on our Instagram feed so are unlikely to ever wear again. We’ve gone from ‘Sunday best’ to disposable fashion, but at what cost?
On average, British consumers waste £142 a year buying clothes we’ll never wear, but our shopping habits aren’t slowing down.
This fast fashion addiction is taking its toll on the planet and the people making our clothes.
A few years ago, I was your stereotypical 20-something fashionista. Every occasion was an excuse for a new outfit – which meant ordering 10 different options on ASOS and promising myself I’d send some back (I never did).
If I’d had a bad day at work retail therapy was all I needed – a flash of the credit card and I’d stumble home weighted down with bags from New Look, River Island and H&M.
In my coffee break I’d flick through glossy magazines to try and keep up with the latest trends. When I moved house I had 3 suitcases and 4 boxes full to bursting with clothes – many of which I’d never worn.
I never once stopped to think about how my clothes were made. Despite being a campaigner for ‘Say No To Sweatshops’ in my university days, I’d got swept up in fast fashion and become addicted to chasing the latest style.
When I travelled to Cambodia in 2015, I was getting dressed one morning when I noticed my New Look trousers said “made in Cambodia” on the label, and it finally made me stop to think.
Somewhere in the world, someone is making these clothes – not a robot, an actual person with real skills (making clothes is something I can’t do but my Grandmother was a dressmaker and even worked for the Queen’s dressmaking team many years ago).
That’s when it really hit home. If I was paying less than the cost of a coffee for my clothes, what was the girl making them getting paid?
I thought quitting fast fashion would be hard, but it was actually easier than I thought. I started by cutting out the fashion magazines – I realised I was barely reading them anyway and they’d just become a habit.
I switched to reading Psychologies which is more focused on mental well-being, productivity and self-care – all the things I was seeking but never finding in my fast fashion habit!
Rather than chasing trends, I concentrated on finding my own style, so the clothes I wear become an expression of my personality. I started choosing pieces that fit better and made me feel happier.
Although I still love Instagram, I stopped being scared to be seen in the same outfit twice – in fact I wore the same dress to 3 weddings and an awards event last Summer and I’m planning on wearing it again!
Nobody noticed I’d worn it before and I got plenty of compliments on it every time, because when you feel good on the inside that confidence shines through.
I always thought ethical fashion would be more expensive. It’s true that individual pieces cost more than we’re used to – but that’s because someone’s being paid a fair wage to make it!
Since giving up fast fashion I’ve discovered plenty of ways to shop ethically (I love a good charity shop rummage), and I’ve actually saved money overall because my weekly shopping haul is a thing of the past.
We’re sending 300,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill every year and killing the planet for our fashion habit.
Around the world, garment workers are living and working in unsafe, unsuitable conditions and even slavery to keep up with the demands of fast fashion trends.
Meanwhile, we’re buying more, wasting more, chasing trends and comparing ourselves on social media which is giving us anxiety and causing a mental health crisis.
Fast fashion is truly toxic and it’s time we changed our lifestyles to break the cycle. Otherwise we’re going to shop ourselves to extinction!