Clothes work miracles. I love them. They give you confidence, express your inner creativity and great style is always admirable. The fashion industry sells these perks to us quite well but it fails to bring to light a crucial element: the exploitation of people and of our planet by the fast fashion industry, essentially by the brands that thousands of people buy from every day. They sell a fantasy while covering up highly questionable practices. Name one person you know who has never bought anything from a fast fashion store? It’s almost impossible. The fact is most people we know, including ourselves, are frequent fast fashion shoppers. We all fall for the fast trends and cheap clothes, sometimes unaware of the devastating implications.
From a young age fashion is woven into our identity as a key element of who we are. Whatever we wear is automatically translated into who we are and what we do. Which is rather normal and not always a bad thing. However, the stereotypes are often too narrow minded. Wear a skirt that is slightly too short and you are labelled a slut. Wear something considered too conservative, then you are a prude. Wear something considered cool and you are the girl every guy wants to date and every girl wants to be friends with. We are taught consistently through media messages that once the cloths are right then everything else will fall into place. False. What we should really be taught is where our clothes come from, who makes them, what does it mean when I purchase an item in the store and what impact am I having on the world with this seemingly small decision.
The classic shopaholic and the true cost of our habits
Being stylish was my number one goal for years and even though today I am more confident than ever in picking what I like regardless of what people say, I used to be a classic shopaholic. I must admit working for one of the world’s mega retail brands for two years didn’t help. I would buy straight out of the delivery box. A dream come true. I lived for sales in fast fashion stores I was obsessed with, and the more I was told I was stylish the more I wanted to buy.
Then I watched the documentary The True Cost by Andrew Morgan. No big deal I thought, even though it was devastating and I teared up many times, I somehow thought that just like many documentaries I had seen about the cruel ways of mankind, I would be sad for a few days and then go back to my shopping habits. However, by the end of the film something in me had changed. For weeks, I thought about this film. I thought about how people suffered to create the items in my closet. I thought about how fashion was the second most polluting industry on the planet, after oil. The facts were impossible to ignore.
Truth is, I could clothe an entire village with all the clothes I have in my closet and suddenly the question of why plagued me. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense that people should suffer just for me to get compliments at a party or feel good about myself and so I stopped shopping. It suddenly clicked that I had a choice, that being “obsessed” with clothes and compliments were not good enough reasons to keep supporting a broken fashion system. I am blessed, I live comfortably and in one of the richest cities in the world, I could afford to not buy cheap clothes from these fast fashion stores. I stopped shopping for three months, a feat for a shopaholic and the beginning of a personal, life altering fashion revolution. I decided that if style is an outer expression of inner confidence, I wanted it to express my confidence in a better world and in a better fashion system that didn’t exploit people or the planet. That's what I want my clothes to say about me.