At the beginning of the year, I pledged to give up fast fashion once and for all. After years of dipping in and out of ethical fashion, I resolved in January to only buy clothes made fairly, or second-hand. Now that we’ve blinked and half the year is gone, I thought it’d be a good time to check in and chat to you about where I’m at with this goal, and what I’ve learned along the way.
First, I’ll let you in on a secret: this wasn’t supposed to be this month’s ethical fashion post. Initially, I tried to put together a style guide on consciously made occasion wear; it’s wedding and graduation season, after all. As I trawled the web, frequenting my usual ethical fashion hot spots, my heart began to sink: I could not find anything I’d want to feature on here, let alone wear, in terms of style, price and location of production. I’m definitely not saying ethically made occasion wear doesn’t exist; I’m sure it does, but I just couldn’t find anything I liked that was within the price range I would want to promote. I ended up frustrated, and abandoned the post.
Finding clothes that are made ethically, align with my personal style and don’t break the bank has, at times over the last 7 months, been trying. Despite there being plenty of well-known brands and sources online, I sometimes feel like I’m browsing the same pieces over and over, never really seeing anything that wows me. I pop into my local charity shops now and then, cautious to not just spend for the sake of it, but keen to feel the buzz of finding something I like. Because I am still that person: clothes make me feel good, and the pret-a-porter, just-within-reach styles that call to me from the windows of Topshop et al are still a pain to resist.
So, where am I at?
To my memory, I’ve bought two items from fast fashion outlets this year: a pair of black jeans (my old ones were no longer wearable) and a pair of culottes. I looked for these items in charity shops and on the sites of ethical retailers but my efforts, sadly, were for nought. Still, when it came to the purchases, I tried to think ethically. For the jeans, I went somewhere I know I’ve found well-fitting jeans that have lasted me years; for the culottes, I went for a simple style, avoiding any trend zeitgeists that’d see my new buy fall out of fashion mere months down the line (not that I care about being so last season).
1 Jacket – H&M, t-shirt and skirt – American Apparel, boots – Vegetarian Shoes, backpack (just seen) – Matt & Nat | 2 Coat – Trinity Hospice (originally Zara), shoes – TK Maxx | 3 Jacket – American Apparel, t-shirt and jeans – Monki, shoes – Trinity Hospice (originally No Label), backpack – Matt & Nat | 4 Dress – Traid (originally Miss Selfridge), shoes – as before, tote bag (just seen) – All Glamour No Guts 5 | Jacket – as before, vest top – American Apparel, culottes – New look, shoes – as before | 6 Jacket, vest top, backpack, culottes – as before, sandals – Melissa | 7 Jacket, vest top, backpack – as before, mom jeans – American Apparel, sandals – Fashion Conscience
My wardrobe at present is made up of roughly 70% ethical or second-hand purchases and 30% fast fashion pieces I’ve had for some time. The outfits I’m wearing in this rather amusing mash-up of photos are all 80% ethical, which is something I’m very proud of. These are outfits I’d typically wear in a week (excluding the coat pic, which is from 2015). I know I could be doing better, and I want to. But for now, I’m happy with this balance.
If you’re learning about the horrible human and environmental impact that throwaway fashion has, and are keen to stop contributing to it, I want you to know that you don’t need to get there overnight. You don’t need to throw or give away all your fast fashion steals. You don’t need to build a capsule wardrobe, compromise on your personal style, or stop consuming fashion altogether. Know that it’ll take time to find brands that you like, and can afford. Know that you’ll make mistakes along the way: buy things for the sake of it, which you don’t like and won’t wear, or slip and fall into Topshop. It’s a steep learning curve, and you’re changing a deeply-ingrained habit. Just like switching your diet, you won’t get where you want to straight away.
Aim for half of your outfits to be ethically sourced. Aim to buy only eco-friendly underwear going forward, and ethically made accessories. Aim to go shopping less, or only when you need things. Mend items when they break. Give things new leases of life. No one can be perfect, but we can all try our best.
| Rhian gives some great tips on getting into ethical fashion
| Kristen recreates popular celebrity styles entirely in thrifted finds
| Tolmeia shares her 60% ethical, 100% cool outfit