It’s June 15th and I have so far gone without buying anything new this year (with the exception of 3 pairs of THINX in an effort to reduce my waste each month) and six months in seems to be as good a time as any to check in on myself.
I feel like I have a lot of thoughts swirling around my head that I’m trying to get straight and orderly so I can share with you. I think addressing the benefits and challenges of this lifestyle and being involved in the ethical fashion community online, what I’ve learned so far and where I hope to go moving forward is probably a good place to start. It’s been a wild journey since I started researching in January 2018, decided to take the plunge in June 2018, and started documenting my journey in November 2018.
After years of dismissing fashion as vapid and superficial, I never really liked anything I wore and just sort of disassociated from it. If you asked me my style, I could really only tell you what I didn’t like. I never felt like I looked my age in any professional setting and I never enjoyed getting dressed. This is truly a first world problem, let’s be honest. It’s a privilege to even have time to consider what my style is, to have the money to thrift pieces I like and to share about it on social media. I’ve learned a little bit about myself, and feel proud of the woman I present to the world.
Probably the best unexpected outcomes of this whole thing for me personally is that I’ve found it impossible to just dip a toe in and get out with some cute ‘lewks’, but that this whole industry has presented me with issues that require that I be teachable and humble and open to learning from others. My compassion for others, for the marginalized, exploited and oppressed, has to grow to the point of personal and intimate change or else I’m just a girl posting selfies for likes and free products—completely missing the point of the entire ethical movement.
I had no idea what I didn’t know when I got started–I was just upset that I would be so casually benefitting from the enslavement of other individuals–mostly marginalized women that I’d never seen face to face–to have a cute outfit. It made my blood boil. I thought of every time I stood on a public platform educating others about the evils of human trafficking wearing something I bought on sale from Forever 21 and I was ashamed and convicted. I couldn’t in good conscious knowingly participate in fast fashion anymore. So—I did some research and did the scary thing of putting myself on a public social media platform where I could very easily crash and burn (a truly terrifying prospect for an Enneagram 1).
I was so excited to find out how many other women there were in the ethical fashion community on social media sharing their perspectives, their wardrobes and their convictions. It’s been such a huge encouragement and also, at times, a challenge—there were so many things I’d never considered.
Just a few months ago, my definition of an ethical fashion brand meant to me purchasing from a reputable brand that was produced free of labor trafficking, with workers receiving a living wage in a safe working environment. Thanks to honest and thoughtful content so generously shared by my new internet friends, my perspective on what makes a brand ethical is filling out and finding more depth (and I think will be ever expanding). Now when I look at brands and researching I ask myself more questions. Does this brand represent, promote and celebrate women of all sizes and all skin tones? Where did they source their materials? Who owns the company and is ultimately benefitting from my purchase? Who else is this brand reaching out to to wear and promote their items?
I’ll find brands that source materials ethically, pay their workers a living wage but don’t have sizing larger than US size 10. I’ll find inclusive sizing but be unsure about their material sourcing and garment production. I’ll see brands that have inclusive sizing but are completely out of my price range, and don’t promote BIWOC but rather scores and scores of women who look just like me. I’ll be 100% behind a brand but then find out they’re appropriating garments from other cultures and profiting off of them. I’ll see beautiful brands made by BIWOC that I’d like to support financially, but wonder if it’s even appropriate for me to wear things that represent other cultures. I’ll research brands and know that the only way I would realistically afford their pieces is if they were gifted, and I wouldn’t be comfortable telling my followers to spend money that I’m not able or willing to spend myself. I wonder if there really are brands that I will feel 100% comfortable supporting at this point—is it possible for any one brand to reach the all the standards we hope and advocate for?
So many women I’ve met in this space are trying to navigate as best they can, follow their convictions and speak out on the issues that matter most to them and I can only hope to do the same. One of the specific things I do feel 100% comfortable doing right now is thrifting. Reusing what has already been made and not putting money towards fast fashion brands or brands that are actively greenwashing their process and products feels the most consistent with my heart and my values at this point.
Nearly my entire wardrobe is thrifted at this point (which I’m privileged to be able to do because most fashion caters to my size), and I have a decent little capsule that I’m proud of. I sort of participated in May30x30 and I’m amazed that I’m still finding new combinations with the neutral basics that I’ve carefully curated. I’ve learned the value of visiting the tailor and the dry cleaners and washing less. I’ve made some wonderful friends who have encouraged me, challenged my thinking and inspired to me to keep learning and pushing myself to use what I have, thrift more and be intentional in every way. I’ve been so inspired that I’ve been doing weekly interviews since March with women who have inspired me and others in our ethical fashion community. I just recently signed up to do 3 months of not buying new (starting on June 21st until September 21st) with @slowfashionseason and I’m excited to see others keep on with their secondhand lifestyle or to start up new consumer habits with us all supporting one another.
Moving forward, I’d love to continue thrifting as much as possible, and potentially partner with a few small ethical brands (or thrift shops!) that I feel comfortable supporting. I think my predominant focus at this point is hoping to motivate and inspire others to abandon fast fashion and closets stuffed full of cheap, one-wear-only clothing and show that it’s possible to change your habits as a consumer and follow your convictions. I want to encourage the valuable women of this community, provide support any way I can, and keep learning and allowing what I learn to influence my habits. I’d like to grow my Instagram and my blog, but overall I want to be transparent and honest with my audience.
Thank you all for coming along on the journey with me. I’m excited to see how my perspective will change in another six months, and to have learned more about being a more effective ethical fashion advocate. I said in the beginning of this whole thing that “I reject the idea that only affluent influencers can live this out and believe that I can change my personal habits so I can continue as an advocate” and that remains my bottom line. No one has to be perfect to get started, and to keep going!
What have you learned so far in your ethical fashion journey and what do you hope for yourself in the future?