Fast fashion is having a negative impact, both on our environment and on the people who are making it. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluting industry in the world, second only to oil and accounts for 10% of all global carbon emissions (source Forbes). Human rights abuses are systemic throughout the industry. Poverty wages, long hours, forced overtime and unsafe working conditions are all commonplace in the clothing industry (source labelbehindthelabel.org). We’re fed trends and ‘must haves’ by the media and by fashion brands. We’re bombarded with images of celebrities and social media ‘influencers’ wearing the latest fashions and made to feel like we’re nobody if we’re not wearing the same things and keeping up with them. It’s become a social faux pas to be seen wearing the same outfit more than once. Our mindless mass consumption of fast fashion and desire for ever lower prices are unsustainable. But is there an alternative? Is it possible to have a versatile wardrobe free from fast fashion pieces?
I believe that it is. Yves Saint Laurent once said ‘Fashions fade, style is eternal’ and, for me, this is the key to how we stop buying fast fashion. We need to know our own style, to know what we love wearing, to know what makes us feel amazing and to make the move to choosing our clothes based on our own personal style, not on fashions and trends. After all, what is fashion and why do we have trends? They’re just the fashion industry’s way of making you come and back and buy more products from them by telling you what they sold you last season is no longer in fashion. I know this probably sounds strange coming from a designer, but bear with me. My aim is to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
I made the decision earlier this year to stop buying fast fashion. I have a wardrobe full of it, including pieces that I’ve never even worn, pieces that were purchased either because I was lured into buying the latest trend or because they were a bargain, but that really weren’t right for me or my style. I also have a selection of good quality garments, and vintage, pre-loved and homemade clothes. These are the pieces that I truly love. These are pieces that I restyle and wear over and over again. The pieces, in many cases, that I’ve had for years. Looking through my wardrobe and looking at the clothes that I both wear the most and love and cherish the most, gave me my ‘aha’ moment and the realisation of how you build a wardrobe free from fast fashion.
We need to remember Yves Saint Laurent’s words and find our ‘eternal style’. Identify the styles, the cuts, the shapes, and the colours that we love. That make us happy. That fill us with confidence when we put them on. We need to buy less but wear more. We need to buy good quality key pieces that we love and will keep and wear time and time again. We need to buy vintage and pre-loved clothes. We need to find ways to restyle and rewear what we already own. And, if you’re up for the challenge, we need to upcycle those pieces the we don’t love into something that we do love.
So how am I, as a designer, going to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem? I am not selling trends. The styles on my website don’t change, I’ll just be adding to the range of colours and embellishment options and adding new styles as Rockstars and Royalty grows. It’s then up to you to pick the shapes, fabrics, colours and embellishments that you love. I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t wear. I want you to buy something that you love, that you’ll keep and that you’ll wear more than once. When you buy from me, or from other small clothing brands like me, you know you’re getting something that is good quality. You know who has designed it and who has sewn it. Everything that you see on my website is made to order and that means that there’s no waste or overproduction. I don’t have stock sitting on shelves in the hopes that someone wants to buy that particular colour, in that particular size. My biggest issue at the moment, especially in regards to environmental impact, is my fabric choices. I’m using polyesters and sequins, rather than organic cottons, wools, and the other natural fibres that many eco and sustainable designers are using. This is my aesthetic. These are the fabrics that get my pulse racing and get me excited as a designer. So how can I align my sustainable goals with my love of bling? My goal for the future, to be able to keep using the fabrics that I love, but without compromising my target of being as sustainable as possible, is to produce my own fabrics from recycled materials. For now, this remains a dream, but I hope in the not too distant future I can find the resources and capital to make it happen.
The final way that I want to be part of the solution is with information. During my research into the impact of fast fashion I found a lot of articles and videos telling us why we need to stop buying it, but not a lot telling or showing us how to stop buying it. If we are going to break years of fast fashion shopping habits we need to know how. What are the alternatives? How do I restyle and reuse what I already have? Where do I shop? How do I upcycle something that I don’t really like into something that I love? Which designers and brands are doing the right thing?
So, to help you with the how, I have started to share my knowledge, experience and advice with you via YouTube videos.
For my first YouTube series, ‘How To Build A Versatile Wardrobe Without Fast Fashion’ I teamed up with sustainable stylist Nina Gbor to bring you the whys and the hows. Nina has spent over a decade building the most incredible sustainable wardrobe of vintage and pre-loved clothing and is an expert at re-wearing and restyling pieces into new outfits. For this series, we took three Rockstars and Royalty pieces, an Adore corset and two different lengths of the Luna skirt and paired them with pre-loved and vintage pieces from Nina’s collection to create a series of different looks.
Part 1 - In the first part, Nina and I talk about her style and her wardrobe, the effects of the fast fashion industry on the environment and on the people making the clothes, and about how we can change our shopping habits.
Part 2 - In part 2, Nina takes three Rockstars and Royalty pieces and shows you how to style them in a variety of different ways using pre-loved and vintage pieces from her own wardrobe.
Part 3 - In part 3, makeup artist Kimi Sanders, from What Would Blair Do?, talks to me about choosing making and how you can have a versatile makeup kit without having to buy lots of products. Kimi then talks us through how she created the makeup for each look.
Part 4 - In part 4, hairdresser Jeanice Branch from Guerilla Hair shows us how she created the hair styles for all the looks, and talks to me about what to look for when buying hair products that have a lower impact on the environment.
Part 5 - In part 5, model D'Kodia Laine talks to me about her wardrobe, about being unique and about wearing clothes that have been handed down from her family.
Part 6 - In part 6, I give you my tips and strategies for shopping without buying fast fashion and for when you're tempted to buy a piece of fast fashion.
I hope you enjoyed this series, and that you feel inspired to find your own style, to shop differently for clothing and to have fun expressing yourself. I'm going to be making a video series, Rocked Up Frocks, showing you how I transform vintage and pre-loved clothing pieces, and tutorial videos showing you some different sewing techniques you can use to do this to your own clothes. I'll also be making tutorials showing you how to make headpieces and accessories. If there's something you'd like to see on my channel, please just let me know, and please subscribe so you don't miss future videos.
Remember, everything that you choose to buy, and everything that you choose not to buy is making a difference to our planet and to people's lives. Make that difference a positive one.