Fast fashion is nothing new. For the past thirty years our high streets have been full of shops offering the latest looks at affordable price points, encouraging us to part with our hard earned money come payday; Primark may be the latest beast that the sustainably conscious among us have started to turn their noses at, but it very much used to be C&A (remember them?) and Select that were offering up cheap as chips dresses to wear to the pub on Friday night. As soon as I was old enough to get a job I was working all the hours I could, leaving school whenever I had a free period to see what polyester piece of magic I could add to my closet (with the huge sum of £3.65 an hour I was bringing home.) It was a sign of independence and individuality, even if the late 90’s were also a time filled with stretchy one-shouldered tops and bootcut jeans.
For me, fashion is something that brings me joy. It allows me to be someone new that day, to express the fact I want to be seen as feminine or stylish, casual or relaxed; it allows me to be taken seriously, or to stand out amongst a crowd. What I take out of my closet each morning is much more than a piece of fabric, but an extension of my identity and a way I express myself – just as someone would do through the medium of song, art or sport. Many others feel the same way.
In recent years the phrase ‘fast fashion’ has become somewhat negative; it’s impossible to detach it from third world sweat shops and exploitation, or the way it uses valuable global resources while pumping out damaging chemicals back into the atmosphere. I’ve no doubt that shopping wisely, consciously and from a more informed point of view is a good thing, but often the only choice many people have is to buy from their favourite budget retailers or stock up when an online destination has a crazy sale.
We live in a world where there’s huge disparity between the haves and the have nots, and wealth undoubtedly brings choice; I’d love to be buying from sustainable brands every time I wanted something new, but my budget (and my size) simply doesn’t allow it. Now I share my looks on the interwebs for your enjoyment, I’m more conscious about what I’m wearing and what’s ‘Instagrammable’ – but I’m also aware of the fact it’s irresponsible to be constantly telling people they need to be buying something new every other day, or encouraging people to get into debt just to inflate my affiliate sales.
Aware of the growing issues surrounding fast fashion, I’ve definitely started to shop better and more consciously in order to get the most out of every garment or accessory I buy. Rather than stocking up on cheap and cheerful jumpers this winter, I shopped for pieces I knew would wash up well and not discolour from year to year; instead of buying loads of sandals that fall apart after a week on the beach, I bought leather styles from better brands I knew would be a pleasure to wear in the seasons to come; instead of buying a hundred different bags from the high street, I save up and buy one big purchase from a designer name that I can cherish for decades.
Maybe it’s an age thing, but I’ve now little to no interest in dresses that don’t fit perfectly or shoes that aren’t comfortable enough to wear every day. I’m less fussed about being seen repeatedly in the same outfit, because if it’s an outfit I’ve invested in and feel great wearing you bet it’s coming out as many times as I can get away with. That doesn’t mean I don’t love a New Look skirt (I mean you can’t complain at £17.99 for a floral number I’ve already worn eight times) or a t-shirt dress from Primark that’s super comfy, but I’m less inclined to buy twenty things because they’re cheap and more inclined to buy only what I truly love.
I’ve stopped shopping in sales (unless it’s something I already loved, wanted or can get long-term use out of) and I’ve started to avoid certain stores altogether; I try things on at home, rather in the store, so I can work out if I have the rest of the outfit to make it work (or whether or not a garment is going to linger looking unloved for the next six months.) I have regular clear-outs and either donate clothes to charity or sell them on to someone who can love them more than me, and even my family members have been known to re-home anything from an unworn bra to a dress that did nothing for me.
For me, it’s less about encouraging everyone to ditch the high street altogether and more about making informed and conscious choices. If it’s something I know I’m going to get loads of wear out of, that will make me feel good and will be a great addition to my wardrobe, it’s mine in a flash. If not, I leave it hanging on the shelf awaiting a new owner with a need for it greater than my own.
I’m not going to stop shopping any time soon, but those small changes I make will build up to make big changes over my lifetime – and that’s surely not a bad thing.
What are your thoughts on fast fashion, investment pieces and conscious shopping?
SHOP THE LOOK
Joanie Polka Dot Shirt Dress* | £45.00 | LINK
Accessorize Black Beret | £14.00 | LINK
New Look Black Ankle Boots | £25.99 | SIMILAR HERE
Nordgreen Watch* | £164.00 | LINK
Michael Kors Sunglasses | £110.00 | SIMILAR HERE
Givenchy Antigona Bag | £1690.00 | SIMILAR HERE