Hola friend, and welcome to this brand-spanking-new series, How to Slow.
Over the next weeks (and perhaps months, if all goes well) I’m going to share with you my personal experiences and lessons from my own deep dive into the ethical fashion space, along with practical tips on what to do and what NOT to do when it comes to consuming clothing more consciously.
My hope for this series is that it’s real, personal, a bit emotional and a lot practical – certainly much more than just repeating simplistic mantras or quotes. Because the reality is, shopping and dressing is emotional, cultural, hormonal, to do with personality and impulse and what makes us happy, marketing, political and structural factors and so much more. Learning facts alone doesn’t change our behaviour (although I do love a good fact) – so let’s have a real conversation that might help overcome some of those barriers to living more sustainably, or help you NOT repeat my mistakes.
And finally, before we get into it, I just wanted to say that I’m so glad to have you here, truly. This is all about learning and growing and being (even more) amazing, together and I would love to hear from YOU about your experiences, and what you would like to know about this ethical fashion journey moving forward. As always, drop a comment, a message or email anytime.
So here we go…
How to Slow Part 1: How not to go broke while still supporting all of the ethical fashion labels you love.
Story 1. Too much love to give
When I really started getting serious about building an ethical wardrobe, I discovered a whole lot of incredible, independent fashion labels (let’s call it ‘research’ - thank you Peppermint Magazine!). I don’t know about you, but I felt a strong desire and a sense of personal responsibility to support them… all!
The brands I was discovering were oh so beautiful, and so this journey brought with it oodles of temptation. Knowing these new labels were ethically made from more sustainable fabrics took away the guilt of consuming, and I felt I was doing the world a favour by supporting them with my purchases.
I also have to say, in the spirit of full transparency, that the other side of this is that the ethical fashion community does indeed have its own trends (albeit a little more trans-seasonal and durable, but trends never-the-less), its own idols and influencers, and I did want to fit in with this new ‘cool’ crowd (even if those people I’ve come to see as super cool don’t see themselves that way). I’ve never been one to fit in very well in groups, but this is a community I wanted to be a part of.
So, end result…? Way too much consumption. Dang. Obviously.
Now the reality is, most of us can’t afford to buy from all of these labels anyway. But even if you can, it’s important to recognise that this is just a different type of overconsumption. Fabrics aren’t fully recycled or recyclable yet - we have yet to see the fashion industry become circular (a circle system being one in which our clothes would turned into new ones over and over again, reducing the input of raw materials and decreasing waste), so even more sustainable fabric options are still having an impact on the planet and consuming precious resources.
Story 2. Breaking up and making up with my not-so-ethical wardrobe
A part of discovering and wanting to be a part of this new community also meant that I didn’t want to be seen wearing my existing wardrobe of no-so-ethically made clothes anymore. When I started Slowclothes, in particular, I didn’t want people to see me wearing non-ethical labels and think me a hypocrite. So for a while I stopped wearing most of the clothes I’d accrued over the years before my ethical fashion journey began.
But…, and you’ve likely seen it said already, the most sustainable clothing you and I can wear is in fact what’s already in our wardrobes. It has already been made, is a physical bundle of resources – waters and dyes and fibres and labour – and wearing what we have to death is THE most environmentally sound fashion choice. Now, for this lover of beautiful new things, it doesn’t always feel as exciting as a new ethical piece would be, but there ARE ways to get excited about what’s already in our wardrobe, and working on the relationship we have with our existing clothes is SO worth the effort. I’m no stylist – but it can be genuinely fun to try new combos, and lovely to know I can reduce the carbon footprint of my clothes and waste entering landfill by keeping these pieces in circulation too.
So enough about me…. It’s tip time!
life lessons 1: giving your fave ethical labels some love without over-consuming
Now, some of these might seem simple, but a gentle reminder is never a bad thing, right?
- COMMENT on their social posts, tag and share with friends who may be interested in their style or story - it helps boost the brand’s exposure on socials which can have a significant impact on their biz. The algorithm and all that… the more people engage with a post, the more new people see it, without the biz having to pay for ads.
- If you ever need or want to buy a gift, consider using ethical brands instead of your go-to gift shop of choice. This may involve a little research, or you could just pick up a Peppermint Magazine (I truly love them) for inspo.
- Go to their events – launches, birthdays, markets. Take people you know would love them, and help build their community. This is likely to have a lasting, positive impact on their business. Even if you don’t shop, your presence will be more valued than you might know.
life lessons 2: making up with your not-so-ethical wardrobe
- This one is new to me and a may seem a little odd or even counter intuitive, but… invest in a stylist! Be sure to find one with a sustainable focus who doesn’t encourage more consumption, but instead helps you put together new outfits from your existing pieces that you wouldn’t have dreamed up. This process will teach you how to wear pieces you had otherwise fallen out of love with in new ways, and identify that key piece that you could buy in the future to help create a myriad new outfits (the perfect little black skirt or white tee, perhaps). It might sound like something you’d never do, but it will probably be cheaper than a new ethical outfit and will actually give you SO many new outfits, without the environmental cost.
- Play with colours – an account I follow on insta recently posted a colour chart suggesting combos that I never would have thought of – what a fab way to create new and interesting outfits out of old pieces, and have a bit of fun experimenting. Fashion and dressing SHOULD be fun, and not all guilt and insecurity. Truly!
- Figure out what doesn’t feel amazing and style it differently. Just a little thought can go a long way (relationship advice 101 perhaps?!). For example, I have a number of tank tops that I hadn’t been wearing since my body changed with pregnancy. It seems sooo simple, but I have started to wear them under open shirts or jackets, layer them under a cropped long-sleeved tee or dress, and voila! (I know I know, these are obviously all temporary fixes until I learn to love my body a little more – but again, being realistic!)
- Thoughtfully re- gift pieces you just aren’t going to wear. Having less in your wardrobe helps you see what you DO have. And organising your wardrobe neatly makes the world of difference – in presenting your pieces nicely (for me this means in rainbow/colour order), they will be more appealing, and you’ll be more likely to not forget about that beautiful dress you bought and… well… forgot about! I am NOT a typically neat person, but this has been truly helpful for me.
I know this all seems straightforward – I haven’t said anything new, it’s true, but sometimes putting it together in a different way can finally help new and old ideas to click. Did you know, we get a rush of endorphins and dopamine when we buy something new (the same happy chemicals people get when they do cocaine – seriously). But it wears off quickly. So, if we want to consume more consciously and sustainably, we need to learn to fight the addiction to these happy chemicals, and make an effort in the relationships we have with our existing clothes to love them longer: Much like a marriage – watering the grass, rather than finding new pasture and all that. So put a little effort into that relationship you have, remember what you now have is what you once desired so much, and I hope you reap some fabulous rewards (I know our beautiful planet will!).
Thank you for sticking with me for this first part of How to Slow. I hope it was perhaps a bit interesting or thought provoking, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments!