top: 4-ish years old from Buttercream Clothing, pants: were from a local, sustainable brand but no longer fit so I sold them, wool blazer: thrifted, straw clutch: small, local shop, shoes: secondhand, hat: 6+ years old
I listen to a lot of podcasts on the subjects of slow fashion, sustainable living, and minimalism, even though I’m not a minimalist myself. On a minimalism podcast I heard the host say, and I’m paraphrasing, that we are too attached to our stuff and our clothes. We shouldn’t say things like “I love this dress.” because it’s just a thing and things are disposable, not something we should love. I feel the complete opposite. I fill like we, as a society, have become completely detached from our possessions and our clothing in particular. We are attached to the act of acquiring new things, not to the things themselves. With rapid trend cycles and new clothes hitting store racks daily, a lot of fashion is now seen as disposable and nothing to cherish.
Fast fashion first came on the scene in the 90’s when retailers such as Zara, H&M, and The Gap/Old Navy boomed to popularity by offering something new to consumers. For the first time customers had access to trending, of the moment, runway looks for a fraction of the price and in real time. No longer were we having to wait for the trends to trickle down to the mainstream fashion chain, we could have it now and for cheap. This launched consumerism into a new stratosphere and over spending and over shopping often became the norm. I had part time jobs starting at 14. I loved being able to have my own money and I went from saving my money to buy an item or two to being able to shop weekly for cheap, trendy pieces. Gone were the days of saving and mindful consideration. We were now not needing to suffer the agonizing wait, we could “afford” it all now. This new cheaper, faster model meant that we were now shopping all the time. I know I was. I was working in clothing stores and so every new shipment was an opportunity for me to spend my pay check and own it first. While I was still living at home, my parents helped to keep my spending in check, but once I was on my own, all bets were off. I was responsible enough to always put all my bills and rent first, but that left over cash was spent on a bit of entertainment and going out with friends and the rest was for clothes. I seemed content to never have any savings as long as I had cute outfits that others would compliment me on.
Skip to present day and we are facing a climate crisis with fashion walking hand in hand with fossil fuel companies for the race to the bottom. Clothing is being made cheaper and cheaper and both people and the planet are paying the price. It is estimated almost 70% of all new clothes are now made with synthetic fabrics and polyester is at the top with around 55% of the textile market. For those who don’t know, synthetics like polyester are made of oil. Our purchasing of new polyester materials is giving money to the fossil fuel companies and at times those companies are in places like Russia who is exporting their oil to China and India, who makes textiles, who then export textiles, and become the clothing we buy. Yes, clothes we buy can actually be helping fund Russia and their invasion on Ukraine. You can see more about this here.
I believe we need to shift our mindset from loving shopping and consumerism, to loving the clothes we have. It’s our lack of love for the clothing we choose that has moved us into this throwaway culture of the Global North, except “away” doesn’t really exist. The clothing we dispose of and even a good portion of the clothing we donate, ends up in the Global South. We pollute their land and water with our waste colonialism and destroy the planet from a distance. I highly recommend watching Trashion and this CBC Marketplace. This Marketplace piece is from 5 years ago and some greenwashing accusations have now made some changes to sustainability claims companies like H&M can make. (Spoiler: Their claims that they take our old clothes and make them into new clothes was a complete and total lie.) However this Trashion piece is brand new and shows that the problem of fashion waste doesn’t only still exist, but it has gotten bigger. You can also read my post I wrote about Kantamanto Market here. This is where our fashion goes to die and pollute.
cardigan: thrifted, dress: Buttercream Clothing (last year), shoes: 4 years old, bag: secondhand, zero waste earrings: 3 years old from Black, Canadian owned brand out of scrap fabric. You can see how I styled this thrifted sweater in more ways by going to my VitaDaily feature article here.
So let’s get back to my first statement. We have become completely detached from our clothing and need to fall in love with it again. How do we do this? Here are a few thinking points:
- How did you acquire your clothes? Are they from a fast fashion brand? Are they from a local small shop? Did you buy them secondhand?
- How often to you shop? and Do you shop because you need something? Or want something?
- Who made your clothes? Were those garment makers paid and fair and living wage?
- What are your clothes made of?
- How well do you care for/launder your clothes?
- Do you take time to repair items or seek out help to repair items?
- What’s the oldest item of clothing in your wardrobe? Do you still wear it? Why do you like it? Why do you keep it?
- Do you know what your personal style is? or do you rely on trends to dictate your clothing purchases?
- Could you go a whole month without shopping for clothes?
- When purchasing something, do you ask yourself if you’ll wear that garment 30+ times?
- What is your plan for that garment when you no longer want/need it?
There are so many questions we can ask ourselves when it comes to our wardrobes and purchasing habits. These are just some examples of things we can ask. If we were to fall in love with our clothes more and cherish them, regardless of how much they cost at time of purchase, we would shop a lot less. Most of us, myself included, have hundreds of garments in our wardrobes. Hundreds! Before we go on to buying more, take inventory of what you have. Wear those pieces more. Curate a timeless wardrobe not dictated by trends but by your personal style and self expression. Find what works for you. When you are shopping, try shopping secondhand first and then supporting small, sustainable + ethical brands when you can. The small brands are the ones who are changing the way things are done and they need our support. Especially seek out Black and Indigenous owned brands. Imagine having a wardrobe full of only things we love. I wholeheartedly believe in loving our clothes more because #LovedClothesLast .