Like many people I’m sure, this past year has made me very reflective on my life. Specifically, I have become more conscious of the impact my actions have on the planet. In the absence of a New Year’s resolution, over the past few months I’ve slowly grafted the resolve to change my lifestyle little by little. I feel that small changes will have the biggest impact long term, and will ensure my commitment to this new mindset.
The biggest change I’ve noticed in myself recently is the increased consciousness of the environmental impact of my spending habits. I’m trying my best to minimise my carbon footprint and have made small, gradual adjustments. Before, I would obsessively check ASOS everyday and order relentlessly, beguiled into the idea that I was getting a bargain by the unlimited next-day delivery for £9.99 a year. I didn’t consider the impact of shipping these items back and forth when I returned them for being ill-fitting or not quite my style, and it didn’t matter because the process was so instantaneous. This, like many of my bad habits, was rooted in instant gratification. The ability to think of something you desire and order it immediately through a few simple swipes and clicks on your phone is something we all fall victim to at some point, feeling that we “haven’t got anything to wear” and buying a new outfit for a night out, too tired to cook a meal so we order one instead. These habits have been ingrained into the mind of the consumers by the vast-growing availability of services online.
I started realising how big an impact my lifestyle had when, inevitably, I began to feel a sense of guilt at how blissfully unaware of the implications of fast fashion I was. The final straw came when, within the space of a week, news broke of fast-fashion brand BooHoo massively underpaying staff in their factories in an essentially slave-laboured system, and various people who work for major fashion brands sharing stories about how returns are usually sent to landfill rather than being resold, creating a huge epidemic of waste.
These ethical issues, and knowing that I was playing a part in them, led me to start seeking out second-hand fashion as an alternative.
Beginning first with Depop and later Vinted, my method of thinking was this: if I could find the same item, say a Zara shirt, being sold by somebody who no longer wanted or wore it rather than straight from the shop floor, I was saving an item from being produced at the factory level; the shirt the seller no longer loved would replace the exact same shirt I would have bought. So, although only at a very small level, I was reducing the amount of clothing being produced.
It’s encouraging to see the growing number of second-hand shoppers on social media. Against the influencers that have dominated YouTube for the past decade with their ASOS summer hauls, there are a growing number of people taking advantage of platforms such as TikTok to promote second-hand shopping. On May 12th, my TikTok was flooded with much beloved ‘charity shop hauls’, where people shared their second-hand bargains after months of being shut. This has all the power to influence our collective fashion habits, and change the future of fashion, to encourage more people to reflect on their choices and make small adjustments towards second hand and slow fashion.
Slow fashion is exactly that – slow.
You have to actively search for the exact item you want, wait for it to become available, negotiate on price sometimes. There is a greater process of selection which brings more thoughtfulness to my purchasing, whereas before I was mindlessly adding things to my basket for the sake of spending money and looking fashionable. What felt like a really healthy sign of progress for me was realising that perhaps the only outcome of me following influencers promoting their style is the impulse to buy whatever they endorse. It’s a hive mentality, where you can track the behaviours from the top of the influencer chain traveling down.
A lot of the time, buying from independent, ethical brands can be more expensive, but we need to remember that clothes should be a considered investment and not just a quick-fix solution. For those who dislike being photographed in the same outfit twice, there is the growing option to instead rent a dressier outfit for a special occasion such as a birthday or graduation, and save a considerable amount of money in doing so. As “hot girl summer” approaches and you feel compelled to expand your wardrobe, allow yourself to clarify whether you want to buy an item because it is influenced by the promise of being a bargain or one of the season’s hottest looks, and if this is really worth the debt we owe to our planet.
For Shopping and Style Inspiration
My favourite second-hand shopping apps:
Some of my favourite ethical clothing brands:
- Omnes (@omnes)
- Paloma Wool (@palomawool)
- Nobody’s Child (@nobodyschild)
- He (@heofficial_)
- Tea and Tequila (@tea_and_tequila_)
- Arket (@arketofficial)
- Studio iCampbell (@studio_icampbell)
- Djerf Avenue (@djerfavenue)
- MONKI (@monki)
Sources of style inspiration: