Nowadays consumerism is now being defined into the category of fast fashion or slow fashion. Like food, there is a distinction, while both being about the same end result, one triumphs over another in the long run. I love food and I love clothes so this is a concept to be easily understood.
Fast fashion is all about the here and now, pick up the latest trends while it’s still hot and cast it aside when the season is over. Fashion in its very nature is fast, speedy and somewhat wasteful. Like a McDonalds burger, it’s useful for a quick fling to satisfy hunger and feels good when you have it for that short time but it doesn’t last. Slow fashion is the recycling of items that will last, much like a 3 hour dinner with friends where you indulge in a few courses with drinks where the memory stays with you a bit longer.
Bloggers on my regular reading list like Frau Morgenstern and Annika Victoria are among many who extol the value of slow fashion and ethical clothing. Annika makes her own clothes now which is as ethical as can be. It’s easy to say shop vintage, true vintage is expensive and not easy to find. Also a good portion of it is either comprised of a ubiquitous clump of overrated Levi denim dungarees or all manner of clown looking garments that are expensive to alter and have the potential to scare off any hardened vintage shopper. Charity shops and thrift stores are the way to go, as I discovered at the start of my shopping journey all those years ago in 6th form at school. There used to be some fantastic bloggers and people on Lookbook who shopped vintage and second hand for a fraction of the price it would cost to eat school lunches for a week and thrilled so many people, myself included with their quirky charity shop chic for a student budget. However, I have noticed that upon following some of them on other channels, once they either became hot page people or stopped blogging, most of them stopped dressing so uniquely and started dressing very minimally or with whatever the clothes their sponsors send them and they have lost their individuality and original style, the thing that attracted me to them. While things like sponsors are a great opportunity for exposure, I feel like it is ensuring that clothes manufacturing can run unchecked, for more people to consume more thoughtlessly and for garments to be chucked away much more easily. While fast fashion works to keep the fashion industry going, which is necessary, it doesn’t mean that you can throw everything away so easily or even have to eschew it completely.
My approach is to use swapping as my main source of indulging my clothing wants. I am a consumer in the way that resembles fast fashion in the sheer amount of clothes I get from swaps. In reality I use them to experiment with my look in the cheapest way possible. Do I wear everything I get all the time? No. About half of what I keep goes back into the swap or sell pile after a few months or a year. Because I don’t waste money on them, I feel no guilt over getting so many items at a time. Because I pay almost nothing for them, I have always felt like it’s fine to have so many clothes. Obviously now I realise that there is a thing as too much and have recently cleared away about a quarter of the content of my wardrobe but I don’t regret anything I get, unlike if I buy something. The regret I get at wasting money when I buy something that I don’t wear enough is all consuming. I supplement my wants for specific things from a charity shop, online or a high street shop every so often so I don’t rule out fast fashion entirely, I just don’t make it the main method of gaining clothes. I don’t buy from Primark now but if I get a Primark item in a swap that I like, I won’t say no.
My guilty pleasure though is Yesstyle which is a Korean fashion website that does buy into fast fashion but it’s a website that sells such great stuff that I just can’t resist. About 3 or 4 times a year I make a big order, using my discounts because I am thrifty at heart and delight in my lovely new package of goodies. Sometimes I buy online on other places. It doesn’t happen all the time so although I do buy unethically at times, I feel less guilty about it than if I wasted a tonne of money on things that I hardly ever wore.
Adding to my previous post of cost per wear, the other aspect to slow fashion is how much you wear the items for it to be worthwhile. I may buy £50 worth of clothing online from a ‘fast food’ manufacturer but if I wear these items all the time over a period of say, 5 years until I get bored of them or outgrow them, would it not be considered worthwhile? I certainly think so. The method of attaining those clothes isn’t slow fashion but you can make it so by the cost per wear concept. Fast fashion is here to stay and people will never stop buying clothes, so my answer to this large scale mentality is to massively reduce the consumption to a friendlier level. If you can go cold turkey and make it work, you’re fantastic. But for me, I won’t dismiss fast fashion entirely because as long as these clothes are worn extensively over a period of years, then it wasn’t a waste of money. While it doesn’t address the obvious problems of manufacturing and resources and the way that fashion encourages a throw away culture, if more people did think about how to wear the same item several times over and to buy less or more from charity shops, then perhaps things could change.