Living Thinking

Who Made Your Clothes? 10 Ways To Fight Fast Fashion

27th April 2019

Here at Farmdrop we’re all about reversing the movement towards fast food, helping people understand where their food comes from and make informed, conscious decisions as a result. But what about fast fashion? Journalist and founder of ethical lifestyle website BICBIM, Lizzie Riviera, shares her tops tips for dressing consciously.

fast fashion

Finding answers to the question “who made my clothes?” might sound simple. But as we near the end of Fashion Revolution Week, the complexities and harsh reality of the fast fashion industry are once again in the spotlight.

Fashion Revolution was founded six years ago following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, which killed 1,138 workers. Their research shows clothes are among the items most at risk of being produced through modern slavery.

Countless reports also reveal how damaging our fashion addiction is to the environment. It can take up to 15,000 litres of water to grow the cotton for one pair of jeans and more than 100 million new items of clothes are being produced every year.   

Fashion giants can be incredibly slow to put sustainability at the heart of their businesses, preferring to introduce “sustainable” collections that are good for marketing. But, as consumers, we can use our spending power and vote for change by changing our shopping habits.

Here’s 10 ways to fight fast fashion and make a difference:

1. Ask #WhoMadeMyClothes

The fashion industry is estimated to employ around 45 million people, and women make up a significant 85% of the global workforce in textile factories. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world. When you’re buying clothes ask the brands you’re interacting with: was this made in a safe environment? And was everyone in the factory paid a living wage? More than 170,000 people asked the question #whomademyclothes on social media during Fashion Revolution Week last year. The answer to this question is more empowering than a slogan t-shirt.

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Makers are you ready for #FashionRevolution week 2019? Let your customers, buyers, and supporters know, #IMADEYOURCLOTHES. Throughout 2019, Fashion Revolution will be talking about how fair and decent work, environmental protection and gender equality are intersectional drivers that will shape the future of fashion. The issues are inextricably linked where people’s livelihoods depend on safe, healthy and thriving ecosystems. If you contribute to the making of clothes – at any point in the supply chain, you can help increase transparency by letting people know, #IMadeYourClothes. Images: @alternativeapparel @lumago_designs @chaiimhumanitarianclothing @fitmama_apparel @2ndstorygoods @shopraff @fash_rev_midwest @Fair.anita #WhoMadeMyClothes?

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2. Be prepared for some awkward responses

The brands who have their ethical and sustainable credentials covered are going to love you asking these questions and will give you full responses that will help you to increase your knowledge. But not everyone is going to have considered these issues, so be prepared for an awkward exchange or response. Simply asking the question can be important nudge in the right direction.

3. Buy Less and Buy Better

The UN consider fashion to be the second most polluting industry in the world. Rather than buying three tops for £15 each, consider buying one for £45 and get more use out of it. Ethical fashion often does cost more; this reflects the true cost of using materials that are less damaging to the planet, made in factories that are safe to work in, have better eco-credentials and pay fairer wages to their employees. But, it doesn’t have to cost a crazy amount more, see #7 below.

4. Take the 30-wear pledge

Emma Watson and Livia Firth both endorse the 30-wear promise. Before you buy something, ask yourself: “Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?” You may be surprised at how often the answer is no. But, if the answer is yes, buy it and enjoy it!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the gender equality youth activists (Elizabeth, Mervis, Patricia and Tamara) I met with back in Lilongwe, Malawi. We discussed the issues girls face in Malawi and how organisations like @CAMFED, @UNWOMEN and the Malawi Girl Guides Association are helping them overcome these challenges. There is lots of work to be done, and more resources are desperately needed, but I’m hopeful for the future after seeing the enthusiasm these young women have for change. I know they will be holding President Mutharika to his commitment to end child marriage in Malawi within five years! #goal5 My jacket and trousers are from @edun. The sustainable organic cotton canvas material is sourced from a mill in South Africa. The material is untreated which avoids any harmful chemical treatments or finishing processes, which is much better for the environment. Shoes were by @ancientgreeksandals. They are handmade locally by skilled craftsmen in Greece using traditional techniques that have existed for centuries. The chemical free, natural tan leather ages beautifully with time and wear. Perfect for #30wears! I’m rewearing recycled jewellery from @allbluesofficial #30wears PS. You may have noticed me talking about my clothes recently – I’m trying to be conscious about where my clothes come from and also about the people who make them. Just in case you wondering! (I’m not being paid by brands to do this btw!) All fashion info verified by @ecoage

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5. Shop in charity shops, vintage shops and take part in clothes swaps

The idea of wearing second-hand clothes took me a while to come around to. I also wasn’t convinced about the ethics of buying used high street items. But it’s a compromise I now make because stats from the Charity Retail Association show charity shops are able to reuse or recycle more than 90 per cent of donated clothing.  

Plus, second-hand shops are significantly more budget friendly than buying new (even if they are slightly less so than they were before they became cool). Apparently, the average customer transaction amounts £4.05. So, get to know a conveniently located charity shop, purchase some great items and give back the mistakes you will inevitably buy because they seemed like a bargain at the time. It takes time to tame the fast fashion bargain hunter within.

6. Don’t buy fast fashion on the premise you’ll donate it later

Charity shop shopping isn’t a two-way street. Of course, do donate items you have bought and loved and outgrown. But don’t buy any item you’re unsure about, thinking if you give it to a charity shop afterwards it’s not so bad. It’s terrible. This mindset is part of the reason 73% of the 53 million tonnes of fibres used to make clothes and textiles are burnt or sent to landfill every single year.

7. Shop ethically online

With so many brands bringing out “eco”, “organic” or “conscious” lines it can be hard to separate the brands for who sustainability is at the heart of their business and not a marketing sideline. BICBIM, a website I created for exactly this reason, is a good place to discover more about genuinely ethical brands. Great online sustainable fashion shops include Know The Origin, Komodo, Vildnis, and Gather & See. Apparently, every time you buy from a small, ethical brand someone does a happy dance. I like to believe this is true.

Side note: returns really hit small brands hard. Try only to order what you really want, and return items when absolutely necessary.

8. Check out great bricks and mortar shops, too

If you’re in London, The Keep Boutique in Brixton and 69B in Broadway Market are both really good shops for ethical fashion. In Liverpool, Mi Apparel has just extended their pop up in the Albert Docs for another six months. Looking for a weekend jaunt? Take the Eurostar (another ethical tick) to Amsterdam and check out clothes from Nukuhiva and jewellery from See Me among other shops on Haarlemmerstraat, by the station.

9. Materials to look out for

As a general guide the best materials are recycled – nylon, polyester, cotton and wool. Also top of the list are organic materials, especially linen and hemp but also cotton. New, great and increasingly popular fibres include Tencel (created from wood) and Monocel (from bamboo).  

10. Finally, if at first you don’t succeed…

Don’t quit! And don’t beat yourself up about falling off the ethical wagon. Becoming a conscious consumer is a journey and every positive purchase decision you make has a positive impact.

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