Last week I wrote about my response to the Stacey Dooley documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets. I must admit that I bought this dress from Lily and Lionel before watching the program, and I’ve since resolved to buy less stuff. I’ve been guilty of shopping to cheer myself up, which is always a fool’s errand as it never works and can result in over consumption. We live in a world where we are continually bombarded by images that insist that we are not good enough, but the purchase of a trendy new coat or a miraculous anti-ageing cream promises to be the answer to our longing for genuine self-esteem. Fashion is not only bad for the environment, but can be bad for our collective mental health.
I’m all too aware of all the industry’s failures and yet I can’t give up my love for fashion. I’m always excited to see the new collections and I get a lot of joy out of wearing something that makes me feel great. But it’s difficult to square that enthusiasm with the industry’s unethical and unhealthy practices. So what can we do to put pressure on the big brands to make changes? Massive conglomerate companies are motivated by money, so as consumers the power we have comes from how we choose to spend our cash. The multinationals have realised that there is a public appetite for sustainable fashion and Zara, H+M and ASOS have introduced eco friendly lines. However, I am suspicious of these endeavours as they are not always as green as they appear to be. For example, a garment may have ‘made in the UK’ on the label, but that could refer to garment having the finishing touches done over here, while the rest of it has been made in an anonymous sweatshop, somewhere in a developing country. Also, if the retailer is really serious about preserving the environment and paying their workers a fair wage, why cap their environmental responsibility to a limited number of garments? But I suppose it’s better than nothing and we have to start somewhere.
Another issue is finding brands that offer products that are actually desirable. It’s all fine and good making clothes and accessories that are morally and ecologically sound, but they have to be enticing enough to justify spending the money. My favourite eco-brand is The Reformation, but Everlane, Abel and Arket are also good. However, I’ve done a lot of research and found that the majority of more affordable eco-fashion is not great. There are a lot of high-end designers who make ethical clothing, but their price tag is far more than the average budget can accommodate. Ultimately, the green brands need to up their game and create beautiful, stylish clothes if they want to change the way we shop. Trading on ethics alone is not enough.
I think a good way to spend less and wear more is to try and pin down your personal style. If you know what you love and what really suits you, you’ll be less tempted to buy stuff that is trendy but actually doesn’t look that great. I’ve got clothes in my wardrobe that I’ve had for years and I’ll wear them till they fall apart, because they work with my all other clothes and fit my style. Years ago I was a bit of a slave to trends and bought into looks that make me cringe now. It’s half term this week, which means my husband will be around and I’ll have a little time to clear out my wardrobe. I have made a start and I found this old coat from Zara straight away. It’s got a military vibe that goes with my 70s, bohemian aesthetic. I think knowing your style is a good way to figure out what really works for you and how to choose clothes wisely. I’m not saying don’t go shopping anymore, but maybe think about what you’re going to buy and consider if there’s something you already have that’s similar. I love this dress because the print is different to anything else I have and I know I’ll get loads of wear out of it. I’ve worn it with a pair of slouchy boots I bought from Kurt Geiger last year.