I am overwhelming grateful that I chose to pursue a career in the fashion industry. It was this path that led me to meet an extraordinary woman who opened my eyes to the industry as a whole and changed my perception about fashion. Through this experience I found my ‘why’ and began my efforts to quit fast fashion and share the stories of people exploring ethical and sustainable paths in the industry through my writing.
To that woman, Jess Mester, thank you.
After watching Andrew Morgan’s The True Cost, a documentary that everyone should watch at least once in their lifetime, I made the somewhat irrational decision to quit fast fashion while chasing my dream of working in the fashion industry. My initial thoughts were that I would simply have more money in the bank and a clear conscience, however taking a step back from this type of consumption has taught me more than expected.
For those of you that are yet to watch The True Cost, it is a documentary that explores the mounting pressure the global fashion industry has placed on our world, from an environmental and social perspective. The documentary sheds light on the Rana Plaza building collapse of 2013 which has been signified as the worst garment factory disaster killing more than 1,100 people.
From a global industry that once focussed on two to four seasons in a year, to an unsustainably fast production system that sees retailers dropping new season ‘trends’ weekly and for some even daily, it is inevitable that there is increased pressure on the supply chain. The important thing to note is that all this pressure comes from us as consumers and because of this we can choose to ‘go slow’, consume less and reduce the demand on the supply chain.
The cliché saying that ‘your vibe attracts your tribe’ was most definitely evident in my journey to giving up fast fashion. This experience has opened my eyes and connected me to a magnitude of people exploring ethical and sustainable practices and a community where everyone supports others’ individual achievements. From writers, designers, creators and even kids with a conscience there is a strong collective of people who are wanting change in the industry and are working towards it. Living in Sydney, the city with Australia’s biggest fashion community, and being exposed to so many inspiring and forward-thinking people definitely helps in this respect.
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Unfortunately, not all learnings have been positive. I have learnt there is a crazy, upsetting, overwhelming number of people who have no thoughts or consideration into how their wardrobe is being produced. No judgement as I was once working in retail, spending my lunch breaks shopping. Education is definitely key in this situation which is why I forcefully try and convince everyone to watch The True Cost as a starting point… yes I’ve become that person. It almost feels like there is society and then there is an ‘underground’ of people that are in the ethical and/or sustainable space however our vibes are slowly starting to spread to those around us and as humans we care, it’s hard to continue excess consumption once you are aware of the processes.
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As you research further into the garment industry you come to realise that donating clothes is not the most sustainable way of recycling, not all clothes are fit for re-selling and as such end up in landfill. In Australia we send an enormous 6000kg of clothing to landfill every 10 minutes. The overflow of clothing that we send to these charity shops places an unfair pressure and is shifting the responsibility from ourselves to another person. To combat this, it’s vital to consume less however there are other ways to recycle your clothing like holding a market stall or organising a clothes swap between friends or peers. I recently gifted a close friend a handbag I was intending on selling (trying to eliminate leather in my wardrobe) and she was so grateful. There is something fulfilling about finding another home for a piece of clothing, a way to extend the life of the piece and reduce the need for the receiver to buy new.'Decide what it is that you value whether that be sustainable fabrics, locally-made or locally-sourced pieces, organic and eco-friendly fabrics or ethically produced clothing; don’t try and be everything at once but work towards better purchases.'Click To Tweet
The fashion industry is an endless black hole and is one of the largest industries globally, as every single person (aside from undiscovered indigenous tribes perhaps) is involved in it. It can become overwhelming when you first make the decision to change the way you consume, but remember – any positive change is a step in the right direction! Attending an event recently, one of the panellists passed along some positive advice on making the decision to move in a more ethical and/or sustainable path:
Decide what it is that you value whether that be sustainable fabrics, locally-made or locally-sourced pieces, organic and eco-friendly fabrics or ethically produced clothing; don’t try and be everything at once but work towards better purchases.
This ‘path’ ‘challenge’ or ‘change in perception’ has made me grateful for the things that I do have (and also very aware that I do not need all of those things that I do have), for the people around me that are championing the same cause, who inspire me and remind me that I’m on the right track. With fashion as my career and being surrounded by fast fashion, it can definitely be challenging to be submerged in that industry with all its bad blood. But then I am grateful that I am also a part of the industry because I am aware and as a consumer I can influence positive change.
Twelve months in and my journey is only just beginning; I am still just scratching the surface. So I’d love to hear your stories, advice, tips, your own challenges and triumphs on this issue.
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