Tired of spending a small fortune on cheap trends that fall apart at the seams? There’s a new breed of fashion retailers spearheading a fashion revolution – but they’re not telling you to buy more, instead they’re asking consumers to start asking questions about who really made your clothes.
I remember when I decided it was a fashion crime to wear the same thing twice. I was 14. It was the early 90s and I and wholeheartedly believed the height of fashion was wearing a rainbow rara skirt with matching scrunchie.
Around this time, I met a girl called Bec. She was 16, beautiful, blonde and always looked immaculate; kitted out in an endless array of the latest trends.
I was fascinated. Enamored. I wanted to be JUST LIKE HER. And that meant figuring out how to look like I was wearing a different outfit every day.
I didn’t have much money, so in my bid to start emulating her seemingly endless wardrobe, I feverishly scoured local charity shops and started Frankenstein-ing my old clothes into new creations. A few years later, I started shopping for cheap trends at Dotti and Supre. And once I’d discovered that I could buy a dress for less than Chinese takeaway, it was a wonder that I ever ate at all.
But it didn’t take long for my fast fashion hangover to set in. I had so many clothes, but nothing to wear. My ‘bargains’ fell apart at the seams after a wash or two, and a few times, I even endured the horrifying experience of seeing four other girls wearing the same thing at a college party. Although I desperately tried to keep up with the latest trends, most of the time I looked like I’d rolled around in the bargain section of an outlet store.
So I started wisening up investing in vintage when I could, and stretched my budget by scouring markets, op shops and swaps for better quality second hand buys.
But today, ten years after this revelation, my own shameful fast fashion hangover continues to haunt me with cheap threads from H&M and Forever New still spilling out of my wardrobe.
Frustrated by my vast piles of possessions (and spurred on by Overdressed - The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion) last month I decided to ruthlessly cast aside anything that looked cheap, unloved, or I hadn’t worn in the last 6 months. I was flabbergasted by the pile.
14 tops, 6 pairs of jeans, 7 pairs of shoes, 4 pairs of sandals and thongs (most broken), 10 scarves, 13 belts (whaaaat!), 2 denim jackets, 1 pink blazer, a fake fur stole, 8 pairs of togs, 9 pairs of shorts, 11 bags, 1 cowboy hat and 14 dresses.
Nearly half my wardrobe.
I knew that a lot of cheap fashion was shockingly overpriced in Australia, but after catastrophic collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Bangladesh, I started researching the human and environmental repercussions of our insatiable desire for fast fashion. I consider myself a fairly conscious consumer, but looking at the mismatched pile of rags on the floor I started to ask myself, surely there a more ethical and economical way to be fashionable?
With more fast fashion at unbelievably cheap prices available than ever before, a quick fashion fix has never been easier – or more tempting. But many consumers are seeking to reconcile their desire for shopping and style with a sense of responsibility– and slowly but surely, there are retails willing to meet that need.
One such retailer is Eco Diva, an Australian label who have been making kaftans, kimonos and lounge wear with a focus on sustainable sourcing and manufacturing since 2009.
“There are so many different elements you have to consider when building a sustainable label,” says Ruby, co-owner of Eco Diva. “The further and further we got into it, we realized that textiles is one of the dirtiest industries in the world."
Eco Diva’s lounge wear is made from sustainable fabric Modal a fibre that is manufactured from the beechwood tree from sustainable timber plantations. They also take great care to inspect the factories where their silk garments are produced in India, and trace the fabric back to its source – a challenge when fabric manufactures will tell them what they want to hear to get a sale over the line.
As a result, their price points are higher than what you'll see in fast fashion chains in exchange for a better quality product – and they are hoping that by education and creating a product that defies trends, they can convert consumers that used to paying $10 for a polyester top to become loyal customers who care about quality over quantity.
“It started off that we wanted to make our products from natural fibres because it breathes and its better for the environment. But then you find all these sub categories and degrees of sustainability.
“It’s not just about where you source your fabric, it’s how it’s made, where it’s made, is the social responsibility, the environmental responsibility and how you care for the product once you take it home. We’re learning so much as we go. We’re not perfect, but we are committed to keep striving for sustainability and 100% transparency.”
“There is synthetic fibre now being produced called Polysilk. It’s very hard to tell if its real silk or not to touch, but it’s polyester. And
fabric like polyester is toxic in landfill, and will never last as long as real silk.
“So the biggest competition for us is synthetic fibres,” says Ruby. “The price they are selling these garments and how fast they’re churning them out and how fast we as consumers are buying them isn’t sustainable. Something has to change.”
The other difference? While silk can cost up to $20 a meter, Polysilk is just $0.50 per metre.
The good news is with more and more people becoming aware through initiatives such as fashionrevolution.org, and Shop Ethical, which provides environmental and social record of companies behind common brand names.
“This is the beautiful thing,” says Ruby. “The paradigm is shifting. Consumers can now manipulate corporations through their buying power. It’s the only language they speak. So let’s talk that currency then. Don’t spend with them. Find out who is producing ethically. It’s not a big ask, it’s not a big task.”
What do you think about the Fashion Revolution? Have you started to become more conscious of what you're buying? Let us know by commenting below! Meanwhile, check out my rules on how to downsize your wardrobe and become a sustainable fashionista!