I’ve given up fast fashion

I decided – and partly because founding a new business is costly and doesn’t leave much room for anything resembling couture – not to buy anything fast fashion-y. That included high street retailers and online behemoths.

I just couldn’t square away the carbon footprint, water waste, toxic pollutants, animal cruelty, human cruelty and just plain old overconsumption anymore. Take your pick of any of those issues, fashion doesn’t fare well and the rise in fast fashion (60% over the last 15 years according to Greenpeace) is often to blame. No one needs a weekly new outfit, a T-shirt in a rainbow of shades or 52 different pairs of shoes and yet we feel as if we matter less if we don’t engage, consume and indulge.

A lady walked past me in the street yesterday. In the rain, her Primark bag ripped open and out tumbled a stack of T-shirts. Part of me (the writer part) thought that was a wry metaphor for the lack of durability in fast fashion, part of me could feel her pain – I’d been there before.

Two years ago I set up pebble, a digital platform for stylish, sustainable living advice. I’ve been down the fast fashion rabbit hole, (via books like Slow Fashion by Safia Minney and To Die For by Lucy Siegle) and come out the other side unwilling to have the clothes I wear cause harm to others or the planet, all for a short dopamine ‘shiny new thing’ boost which researchers reckon lasts just three days.

So what happened? Well the sky didn’t fall in, no one rang the Style Police and dobbed me in and no friend abandoned me (I think..).

I no longer think about a quick Saturday shopping treat or a too-much-wine quick-click purchase and my world hasn’t really changed. It’s not that I don’t want to look presentable – nice even – or that I don’t want to feel unstylish, but there are different ways to do it without constantly consuming.

I haven’t stopped shopping altogether. The first thing people say when you say you only buy ethical or sustainable (words I hate) fashion, is ‘what about the price?’. True some pieces are more expensive – but if you’re planning on loving and wearing them forever (Olivia Firth recommends the 30 wears test – would you wear it 30 times or more? No, then don’t buy it), then it means changing your mindset not just the money spent.

I buy a mix of secondhand and vintage pieces – I’m not particularly thin and life would probably be a lot easier if I could live in 40s pencil skirts and 50s tea dresses, but I love not knowing what you’re going to come home with from a charity shop. And let’s face it, post-Marie Kondo – your local Crisis, Barnardos or Oxfam is awash with things that didn’t spark joy for someone else, but might do for you. Just extending a piece of clothings life for nine months drastically reduces the carbon and water usage associated with it.

I’ve knitted things. Ok, so they’re not going to win any design prizes, but knitting is a route into mindfulness (so double tick for you) and I’ve also been to a local Repair Cafe to shorten some jeans rather than donate them. Repair Cafes exist all over the UK and you can pop in and be shown how to mend your clothes by volunteers. Apart from anything else, there’s tea and cake and chat and community.

I also do invest in the odd thing that’s made by an ethical fashion brand and while they might not be on the high street or in your apps, the ethical fashion industry is booming and becoming a lot more affordable. Birdsong London make incredible organic cotton T-shirts for under £30, you can pick up work ready dresses at Thought for under £50 and sustainable trainers from Allbirds for £95. Mud Jeans offer a lease your jeans service for under £10 a month where you wear a pair of their recycled cotton, low impact jeans for a year, send them back and they send you a new pair.

Like any good fashionista, I mix and match quality, secondhand high street and vintage bits, some days successfully, other days just about managing.

It’s been two years now and my wardrobe has changed. I didn’t do a sweep of everything I already owned, declare it unusable and throw it all away but as and when it’s been time to update or replace items I’ve chosen more thoughtfully, had to save to buy the odd piece and filled out the rest with secondhand.

I’m doing more podcasts and interviews about ethical fashion and living sustainably and I love nothing more than being to look down at my outfit and explain the story behind each piece. It might not be catwalk fashion, but having a meaningful outfit is still pretty fashionable.

Want to find out more about ethical fashion, hear from eco-brands, learn to make your own clothes and shop vegan, plastic-free? Head down to eco festival, pebblefest, on Saturday 27 April at Flat Iron Square. and scroll down for the best ethical clothing brands…

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