I’m sure some of you will have watched the recent 2-part investigation into Britain’s cheap clothes by Channel 4’s dispatches. And come away feeling awful about your fast fashion purchases. I get it no one wants to sit down to watch a bit of telly on a Monday night and be left feeling like they’re a terrible person. It’s not nice to feel like you have contributed to someone’s suffering whether that’s someone here in the UK earning half the minimum wage or in Bangalash working in horrific conditions all the sake of your latest fast fashion buys. These documentaries are designed to educate and challenge your views and sometimes that will result in feelings of guilty. When we learn the true cost of our cheap clothes it’s only natural to feel guilty about our role in the industry. But it’s up to us how we move forward from these feelings.
For me the shame and the guilt I felt whilst watching The True Cost a few years ago, led to major changes to the way I shop and view the clothes in my wardrobe. It took the shock and feeling that I was contributing to other people’s suffering to impact a positive change in my life. If you are feeling like that right now it’s what you do next that matters. We can’t go back and change the past, what’s done is done. You can either take these feelings and make a positive change or bury them and continue excessive fast fashion purchases until the next undercover investigation brings those guilty feelings to the survive again.
“thinking about it is the start of a positive change” – Aisling Bea
If you did find yourself feeling guilty after watching Monday’s dispatches then you are certainly not alone. If my twitter feed is anything to go by pretty much everyone watching was shocked and ashamed at what is happening here in the UK. You shouldn’t be ashamed of these feelings. Acknowledging these feelings of guilt over your past decision can be the first step in a journey towards change. You need to take these feelings of guilt and own them. Acknowledge that you’ve made poor choices in the past and move on from them. Learning the truth behind the fast fashion industry is often the trigger for change. It was for me. As I’ve already said it’s what you decide to do with this information that really matters.
Turning Guilt Into Something Positive
For me this change involved reducing the number of clothes I buy, creating a capsule wardrobe and learning more about the fashion industry and ethical fashion. If you want to go down this route I have loads of content here to help you out. But I also understand that most of you don’t want to make such dramatic changes and that’s OK. Start slow and make small changes, doing something is better than nothing. There is nothing wrong with loving fashion and clothes. Buying new clothes isn’t something to be ashamed of. There is nothing wrong with wanting to buy yourself a new dress. The problems start to arise when you are buying 5 dresses for only £15 or t-shirts for only a couple quid. This kind of rampant consumerism isn’t sustainable and leads to the low wages and poor working conditions shown in dispatches (and so many other documentaries).
The idea is to make more conscious decisions around the way you consume fashion. Buying less but better is a great start it’s all about choosing quality over quantity. Think about what you need before shopping, fill in the gaps in your wardrobe rather than buying into new trends. Ask yourself will you wear something at least 30 times before buying. Try to find more responsible brands like People Tree and Reformation to buy from.
Wear the clothes you already own. There is nothing wrong with wearing the same dress more than once. In fact, you should be proud to wear something you spent your hard-earned money. Take part in style challenges to find new and creative ways to wear the clothes in your wardrobe. Being a conscious consumer isn’t all about buying from expensive ethical brands. It’s about changing the way you view and consume fashion.
As you start to make small changes you may find yourself becoming more interested in the topic (I certainly did). I’ve written lots about ethical fashion on here. I recommend starting with why you should care about ethical fashion, fashion revolution week, is fast fashion a feminist issue and is ethical fashion only for the wealthy. The Fashion Revolution campaign is another useful source of information and advice. They have a great Fanzine which is free to download and full of facts and information on ethical and sustainable fashion. If you are looking to go deeper into the topic I can’t recommend Lucy Siegle’s book To Die For enough or watching The True Cost (available on Netflix).