Words by Maggie Zhou Photography by Miia Matala Modelled by Shakya Lahrech
Okay, let’s admit it. Being good to the planet is damn hard. We’ve grown up in a consumerist society that normalises—no, encourages—spending. We’ve become so accustomed to that instant buzz of buying new, shiny things.
But that serotonin hit won’t last forever. Once it inevitably disappears, you’ll be left with a sour note in your mouth. While the claim that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry may be untrue, we should nonetheless consider how damaging the fashion industry is. Almost 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the clothing and footwear industries. And nearly 60% of all clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators within a year of being produced.
I’m not here trying to make you boycott shopping centres or guilt you into a ceremonious burning of all your clothes. It’s not about quitting fast fashion cold turkey. What’s important is being conscious of your purchases. Slow down, reflect and be armed with new knowledge.
Like Lizzie McGuire, we have probably been shamed for outfit repeating on at least one occasion. Lo and behold, we have washing machines! Clothes can be re-worn! One clothing item can be worn a ridiculous number of ways. A simple spaghetti-strapped dress can live a double life. Wear it by itself, over a t-shirt, as a singlet tucked into pants or as a skirt with a top over it. Be creative. Fashion should be fun.
Next tip? Surround yourself with people you aspire to be like. Your digital space should be a place of inspiration and support—you’re in charge of curating what you see online. Stock your newsfeed and Instagram with people and publications paving the way, like Clare Press, Olivia Firth, Fashion Revolution, Know the Origin and the Sustainable Fashion Forum.
I hear you; you’ve still got that shopping itch niggling at you. Op shopping is an art form, a strange pas de bourrée where only a few trained dancers can glide through effortlessly. In theory, it’s great—one-off finds without the expensive price tag. The reality is a bit murkier. It’s rare to try something on and have it fit perfectly. Look beyond the awkward lengths, little holes and crinkled fabric—they’re easily fixed with a few stitches or a wash. Start off basic; men’s graphic t-shirts and colourful sweaters, patterned blouses and oversized blazers are the usual op shop suspects. It will always be hit or miss but failed days are part of the experience.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge away from fast fashion, that’s okay. There are small changes to incorporate that make a big difference. Use guides like Good On You which reviews brands according to their impact on the planet, people and animals. They have a nifty app which you can easily check whilst shopping. First things first, look at the materials used. Plant-based materials like cotton, linen, hemp and bamboo are preferable over synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic. Be picky with what you’re buying new. Ask yourself, “will I wear it more than 30 times?” “Do I own something similar already?” “What else in my wardrobe can I wear it with?”
It’s about doing better, not about being the best. As Zero-Waste Chef Anne Marie Bonneau puts it, “we don’t need a handful of people doing [it] perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”