But I’m not into fashion.
I get this quite a lot. I'll be telling someone about what I do ( running Slowclothes), and I hear… ‘oh, well, I’m not into fashion’.
To which I reply (as often as is socially acceptable), “oh, you’re a full time nudist?!”
Cue puzzled look.
Lovely people, unless you are in fact a full time nudist, you are part of the global fashion industry. Like it or not. Not being interested in trends or fads doesn’t let you off the hook.
Frivolity…. Or is it?
The fashion industry is responsible for producing around 2% of the world’s income (in technical terms, it contributes around 2% of global GDP). It also employs an estimated 430 million people globally (that’s 1 in 8 of ALL humans in the global workforce!)*.
The fashion industry is a significant employer, user of resources, polluter and waste-producer. It has HUGE impacts on environmental and human systems and wellbeing (positive and negative). This isn't just a frivolous conversation about style. In fact, I'd suggest that conversations about style are rarely frivolous - they are rooted in history, social norms, beliefs around the value of nature, and global and local inequity.
From the growing and producing of fibres, to the dying and processing of textiles, clothing design and construction, transport, marketing and sale, purchasing, wearing, washing, drying and disposal of clothes, the global fashion industry is big, messy, important, and YOU are a part of it!
So you may or may not be into fashion, or even a lover of clothes, but however you acquire your clothes – whether you buy then new or second hand, are given them or make them – you contribute to the system, to multiple industries and business, to livelihoods, emissions, pollution, and gender inequality in some way.
What types of clothes you buy, what fabrics you choose, from whom you buy them, how and how much you wear them, how and how much you wash and dry them, and what you do with them when you’re done with them all have impacts on people and on the planet.
And you know the next bit…
… with great power comes great responsibility.
The good news?
You have the power to choose what kind of impact you want to have. It sounds corny, but it's really truly true!
I acknowledge power is not distributed evenly across countries, community or population groups. This said, I believe most of us (especially most of you who have access to this article) have the ability, to some degree, to make more conscious choices about the kinds and quantity of clothes we wear, how we care and dispose of them.
I’m here to help you make these choices. To learn the basics so you can make informed decisions when it comes to brands, fabrics and care. To learn the facts and figures and more detail, if you desire. Or at the very least to find a range of labels – local and international – that are raising the bar when it comes to ethics and sustainability.
When I first discovered ethical fashion the range was incredibly limited in comparison with today. It’s getting easier and easier to find clothes that have positive impacts, but it can still be super confusing to know who to trust, what the different terms and certifications mean, what a fabric is really made of, how to make affordable shifts to a more sustainable wardrobe, and what your options are when you’re done with your clothes.
It’s become super clear to me over this crazy year of fires and famines, viruses and extinctions, that we don’t actually have any more time to waste tip-toeing around these issues. We need to acknowledge our responsibility. We need to speak up - with our voices, our votes, our actions and our dollars – for the kind of world we want to contribute to and live in.
It’s huge – I know – so much to think about. And it’s a rabbit hole that, once you slide on down, is probably never-ending. We will always be learning more, developing new technologies, applying our knowledge to different parts of our lives. But it’s that we commit to the journey – for the sake of our planet, our children and the complex ecosystems we rely on, are a part of and a part of destroying – that is important.
We’ve got this. We’ll do it together.
Together is the only way, actually.
And it will be a beautiful revolution.
*Stats from the Common Objective: https://www.commonobjective.co/article/faces-and-figures-who-makes-our-clothes#:~:text=The%20global%20workforce%20is%20estimated,the%20fashion%20and%20textile%20industry.