MY RELATIONSHIP WITH FASHION
I’m a (somewhat) reformed fast fashion addict. Growing up my wardrobe was a mix of second hand, hand me downs and the odd new piece. As a young kid, I was quite active and a bit of a tomboy. We rarely went shopping, in fact, I recall my Mum saying quite often that she hates shopping, so going shopping was a rare and special treat. (I have strong opinions on indoctrinating children into habits of consumerism and normalising the constant desire to want more material things - shopping is not a hobby or activity for children).
My love affair (or more accurately toxic relationship) with fast fashion didn’t start until I was well into my final years of high school. Where it felt like a social requirement to have the latest surf brand backpack, boardies or t-shirt (can you tell I grew up on the coast?). The local Blue Light discs (remember those?!) always required a new outfit, the horror of wearing the same thing twice was not to be entertained (and this was pre-social media years, I can’t imagine the pressure on young girls and women these days to keep up appearances). I spent far too much time in my younger years worrying about this. What a waste!
Enter Supre, Ice and Dotti (I'm pretty sure these places still exist providing fast fashion for the next generation) and the ability to buy a whole outfit with change from a $20. Brilliant when you're a broke teenager trying to look cool and be accepted. Back then there was no discussion about who made my clothes or talk of how bad all that polyester is for the environment. I would literally wear all my clothes once and then toss them out. Sometimes they would even fall apart during the first wear. I definitely felt the pressure to conform and be accepted; this dictated how I felt about fashion and style - very anxious. In a way fast fashion not only exploits it’s workers, animals and the environment but it’s customers too.
Fast forward 10 years (or so), I'm older, wiser and way less influenced by what other people think of me. I now think deeply about how my fashion choices affect people and the planet. I'm in the privileged position of being able to spend a decent chunk of money on ethically made clothes and I'm well aware the cost of this is prohibitive for most people. Ethically made, sustainable and thoughtful clothing IS expensive but I believe if you have the means, you should support these brands. While we are operating in a capitalist system we need to direct our money to those people who care and do the right thing (not the mega corporations who only care about profit, damage the environment, take advantage of people and pay next to no tax).
I balance buying new with shopping second hand and only buying what I need (that’s not to say I never impulse buy something I don’t need). I now put thought into why I want it, how I will wear it, what I will wear it with and if I will get 50 plus wears out of it (I think 30 plus is way too low a standard to set). Clothing and getting dressed is still fun, if not more fun, I think, because it has a deeper meaning to me now; I dress for myself, not for others, and I no longer buy throw away outfits for an occasion.
I think fashion at its core is a true representation of self expression, an art form and a highly skilled craft. It can be deeply meaningful, culturally significant, fun and joyful. In our current fashion system this comes at a cost, how can we truly enjoy and appreciate fashion when we are exploiting people and destroying the environment? It’s so important that we look inward and examine our relationship with fashion. It may be dismissed as ‘stuff chicks are into’ or ‘frivolous’ but we all wear clothes and we are all complicit in the current system.
It’s important that we all share our stories. We would love to hear your fashion story and relationship with clothes. Please comment!