Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Weaning myself off of fast fashion

Since last fall, my brain's been swirling around the concept of consumption in different areas of my life. Sometimes when I'm mulling over things in my head figuring out a new way forward, I don't write about them or feel the urge to write about anything, because I'm busy thinking. But I always reach a point where I'm just spinning my wheels in there because no thoughts are leaving my head, so I'll just pick a point and start.

Fast fashion - inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass market retailers in response to the latest trends - is contributing to a huge environmental problem of too much shit with nowhere for it to go (read more on that here, article is old but the cycle of clothes is still relevant). I pride myself on being pretty environmentally friendly in my home, but when I started following Aja Barber on Instagram last year, I realized a huge part of my identity as a consumer was wasteful as fuck: my clothes buying.

I wanted to learn more, so I subscribed to Aja's Patreon (if sustainable, ethical fashion or anti-racism work interests you, you are missing out if you have an extra $5 or $10 a month and are not following her work - knowledge is power and we must be willing to pay our teachers). So much of the work she's doing in writing about sustainable fashion struck a chord in me every time I read a piece of hers. I started really examining my habits clothes-wise and was absolutely disgusted with myself. I have been way too flippant with the privilege of purchasing. I was embarrassed that I was coming to this so late in life and had barely thought about my footprint in regards to clothes up until now.

Also inspired by Aja's commentary, I started thinking about the changes I could make or at least work towards making: investing in clothes that are going to last - clothes that are going to be easier on the planet, clothes that allow the workers making them to bring home a livable wage and not $1 a day in a shitty unsafe factory. This is not to say that all cheaper clothes don't last - I have sweaters from Old Navy that are eight years old - but in general, I had been cycling through a lot of stuff, quickly. For no reason. How many $5 t-shirts have I bought on a whim and gotten rid of in under two years that are now in a landfill somewhere, and two years later the woman who made them is still in that shitty unsafe factory making nothing in terrible conditions while I just buy more shit?

In the blogging world alone, how many times are we urged to buy buy buy? Everywhere, constantly. I'm not one to post my outfits because I am quite far from a fashion lady, but I swear I'm going to start calling out how old things I'm wearing are when I remember to. For the health of the planet and our wallets, I want keeping things to be cooler than the allure of shiny new things we don't need and won't still own two years from now. I don't begrudge one person making money off of affiliate links because we've all got to eat, but when you have to keep buying new to show new, it's a vicious cycle of waste. How much new shit are we buying that we don't need? How many resources are we consuming? How much money are we wasting? Why are we doing this?

As my stuff wears out, I'll be looking to make purchases more in line with my views on environmental sustainability, ethics, representation, the liberation of all women being bound up together, and all workers all over the world making a living wage. I want to know how a company who is producing my clothes operates before I buy from them. I can't be pro-conservation and equal opportunity for women - especially representation of marginalized black/indigenous/women of color in all industries - and continue to consume clothing the way I've been consuming clothing. The head and the actions are not lining up in my clothing life and that's a problem for me now. The fact that it hasn't been up until now is straight white privilege.

I'm late to the game on ethical fashion, way late. So I'm trying to catch up and learn. Instagram has been great for following a lot of people having conversations about ethical, sustainable fashion, and I'm doing a hell of a lot of listening and not talking in those spaces. I'm talking here after ruminating on it for a few months, because if you're out there considering being more sustainable and ethical in what you wear and consume, I want you to know I'm doing the same. Or maybe you haven't thought about it, but you're thinking about it now. Maybe you don't know where to start, like I didn't. Along with Aja I'm following BuyfromBIPOC on Instagram, which highlights BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) makers with a focus on slow, ethical, and sustainable fashion. I've started reading the Clothed in Abundance blog. Following Dominque Drakeford. Keila LeistLittle Koto's Closet. There are a lot of BIPOC women out there who have been leading this for years and I am getting in line behind them and learning as much as I can.

Will I refuse to buy something from Old Navy again? No. My relationship with retail isn't going to end overnight, and I don't have a wallet wide enough to invest in higher priced items all the time. That's why the title of this post is weaning myself, not ridding myself. I am typically an all or nothing person when I look to change something, but making some small changes in what, why, when, and from where I buy will make a huge difference in my impact on the environment as well as my mindset on consumption. I've got to start somewhere with textile waste. We all do if we want a planet that will remain.

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