If you’re here, I want to congratulate you. Well done. Seriously. You’ve made a beautiful first step to reapproaching what you wear in a way that’s better for other humans and our blue-green earth.
Thank you so much.
If you’re still wondering what on earth is so important about this blog post, then let me explain very quickly.
Molly, What on Earth is Conscious Clothing?
You might already know that out of the many things I identify as, a conscious fashion blogger is one of them (a very big, important one of them).
So, I’m using the term ‘conscious’ clothing to cover an array of clothing terms, including ethical + sustainable.
Conscious Fashion Collective by the incredible Kamea Chayne describes conscious fashion as, “an invitation for you to participate in any type of fashion acting as a vehicle for positive change, stressing critical thinking and thoughtful purchases while parting ways with the impulsiveness encouraged by fast fashion”.
Conscious fashion is marked by greater awareness and is the gateway to more sustainable, ethical, slow, and transparent fashion. Importantly, I also see conscious fashion as a valuable concept to cherish along your journey towards a more responsible wardrobe.
For your reference, here are some responsible fashion terms and a description of what they’ve come to mean to me over the years:
Why Conscious Clothing Matters
In the scheme of things, our awareness about the necessity to participate in fashion as a vehicle for change is relatively new. This is mostly because, as near as, let’s say, 60 years ago and prior, fashion wasn’t doing too much harm. Over the past few decades, however, the industry has really spiralled out of control.
1. Things are looking grim
You might remember a few facts I shared in my recent article about Fashion Revolution Week, including that the garment industry is currently the second most predominant sector driving modern slavery (Global Slavery Index, 2018) and that Australians dispose of 6,000 kilograms of fashion and textile waste every 10 minutes (ABC’s War on Waste, 2017).
I recently also highlighted on Instagram that, in 2015, The Trust Cost documentary found that humans were purchasing 400% more clothes than 20 years prior. Globally, we were buying 80 billion new items per year in 2015, and I imagine that this has only increased in the past 5 years.
If you sit down in the evening and Ecosia search ‘the impact of the fashion industry’ for a couple of hours, I guarantee that, in the weeks to follow, you will start to look at your wardrobe and clothing consumption differently (if not, it’s time to do some serious reflecting).
2. You and me can make a difference
At my very core, I believe that every single person and every business has the power to change the world. So, I believe in the power of every fashion brand and I believe in the power of every person who wear clothes to positively impact this world through their choices.
In our capitalist society, our power lies in our money. When we pay for something, we’re communicating that we like it. So, whenever you buy new undies, you’re telling the brand who is selling them to you that, “hey, I like your product, please make more of it!”. And so they do; they make more undies.
A not-so-nice model
So, what happens when those undies are made by the millions, from chemically treated synthetic polyester, made by people who aren’t being paid a living wage, in a factory that is unsafe to work in, sold for $2 a pair, designed to fall to pieces in a month, making you buy more and more and more, constantly?
Well, we have a problem.
In this scenario, because of your vote with your money, other humans are working in very dangerous situations and living below the poverty line.
Because of your vote with your money, the local area where your underwear material was treated is being poisoned with chemicals. This is harming the health of the people who live and work there, the flora and fauna in the area, and the health of the environment.
Because of your vote with your money, pieces of polyester that your undies were made from will, in your washing cycle, end up in the waterways and oceans. They’ll then be consumed by marine life and possibly, if you eat fish, end up in your body. Almost full circle.
Because of your vote with your money, you are having to spend more on undies per annum than if you bought undies that were made to last a bit longer (also, the polyester probably isn’t doing much for your health and hygiene but that’s neither here nor there).
I’m not sure what you think, but to me, this is a lose-lose-lose-lose situation. Who is actually winning here?
Nevertheless, this is a very common narrative and business model because it makes for a short term monetary gain for the brand and a very, very, very long term loss (what are they going to do with all that money when our planet is so destroyed that life, work, the economy and society is irreversibly changed?).
Sorry for the scary words. This is important to think about, though.
A better model
Now, sit back and take a deep breath.
Imagine that you chose undies made in smaller quantities, from certified organic bamboo (just an example – hemp’s another good one), by people who are paid a living wage for their work, in a factory that is safe and healthy and certified, you buy them for $13 a pair, and they last you for a year (or longer!).
In this scenario, because of your vote with your money, other humans are working safe jobs that pay them what they deserve.
Because of your vote with your money, no chemicals are polluting our earth, your skin, the people who made your undies, or the flora, fauna, and environment in the local area, as a result of your actions.
Because of your vote with your money, no plastic ends up down the drain, in marine life, or in your belly, as a result of your actions.
Because of your vote with your money, you just saved $11 a year.
Conscious clothing matters because current sourcing and production models are hurting humans, animals, the environment, and your wallet. It matters even more because our consumption is fuelling this. The good news? We all have the power to make a change.
So, Molly, Where on Earth Do I Even Start?
Take a breath, my changemaker! You’ve come to the right human.
Over the past 3 to 4 years, I’ve explored it all: transparency, traceability, sustainable fashion, ethical fashion, secondhand fashion, thrifting, slow fashion, minimalist fashion, circular fashion, organic fashion, natural fabrics, vegan alternatives… you name it and I will have an experience to tell you about.
I’ve done the experimenting on myself, so others don’t have to. Just call me Isaac Newton.
In years of experimenting with sustainability, ethics, and fashion, here is the biggest secret I have to tell you about creating a more responsible wardrobe:
Before you change anything, you must change your mind.
I repeat, before you change anything, you must change your mind.
Before you change anything, you must change your mind.
By this, I mean that, as a consumer, how you perceive terminology surrounding responsible fashion, how you want to craft your wardrobe, and how you want to consume moving forward, is entirely based on:
- Your awareness of the problems at hand
- The values you hold when it comes to fashion
Before you start taking steps to change up your purchasing and consumption habits, I’d urge you to do your research. Become as aware as possible and understand what you choose to buy and why you choose to buy it.
Don’t just start doing what you think is better because everyone else is doing it. This is not consuming with awareness. This is still mindless consumption.
For example, when you become acutely aware of the human rights problems happening in the fashion industry, this can spark a desire to research and become more fully aware of the problems. This, in turn, might show you some solutions to make choices that help to make work and life better for the people who make your clothes. Such as, making your next purchase from a brand that treats their workers fairly, puts safety first, and pays a living wage.
This is a far more conscious decision than purchasing something from a brand that was rated an A for transparency and saying, “yeah I bought this because it’s ethical!”. Little might you realise that, although the brand might be transparent, it might not be ‘ethical’ at all. This is where simple awareness could help.
Before you “get rid” of anything from your wardrobe or buy anything new, I’d also urge you to sit down and get really in tune with what you value in your clothes.
- Where do you sit with second-hand shopping vs. buying new?
- Where do you sit with vegan leather vs. animal leather?
- If something you love is eco-friendly but isn’t paid with human fairness in mind, would you purchase it?
- If something you love is made fairly, paying workers a living wage and so forth, but is not made in an environmentally sustainable or environmentally ethical way, would you purchase it?
- Would you purchase something from a brand if they assure you its ethical and sustainable in all ways possible, but if they are not transparent about their supply chain?
- Are you okay with buying new clothes each season?
- Are you okay with donating clothes you no longer like/need to thrift and second-hand stores?
In conscious fashion, lines can be blurry, and terms can be tossed around and take on many different meanings to different people. It is so important, if you want to ‘consume’ consciously, to set your boundaries and define a set of rules that sit well with you. After all, every time you make a purchase, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world YOU want to live in.
Conscious fashion is personal, and because of this, it is so powerful.
The Next Steps Towards Conscious Clothing
So, you’re pretty aware of what’s going on in the world and you know what you value when it comes to clothing? Go you! You are seriously one of my favourite humans right now.
After this, it’s actually pretty simple.
The beautiful thing is that, now that you know what you like and don’t like, all you have to do is find the clothing that aligns with your values.
At this hour in 2020, unless you’ve got some remarkably conflicting values, I can almost guarantee that there’s a person or brand out there who sells whatever piece of clothing you need.
Moment of gratitude: how lucky are we, in this second, to have people all over the world making clothes from a place of consciousness?
If it helps to get you on your way, here are some people and businesses that make a range of clothing to align with a range of values. This includes conscious, ethical, sustainable, slow, circular and transparent fashion, no matter your gender identity:
Boody Eco Wear (15% off with ‘MFARAI’ – P.S. I based the ‘better model’ undies story off these guys!)
Stride Store (10% off with ‘Molly’)
Go forth, my cherubs! It’s up to you now to do the research and reflection – I believe in you.