During Fashion Revolution Week which ran from the 22nd – 28th of April, we documented our outfits (check our Instagram highlights for proof!). While this was without a doubt a fun filled task for us, we certainly learned a few things along the way. The first being that we are probably not destined for a life of outfit blogging or fashion inspiration, partly because it takes so much time and skill. All credit to people that capture their outfits so beautifully and creatively on a regular basis! However, our main intention and what we really set out to learn more about, was the Fashion Revolution call to arms ‘Who Made My Clothes?’
We reflected on how spending most of our weekends at markets means that we already have a healthy amount of second hand pieces on hand. Any newer items we had in our wardrobes (like jeans) we’d had for years and were still going strong (sign of a good brand, as we want our items to last well more than one season). Things like socks and underwear we realised are certainly a little more challenging to source second hand and from ethical brands. There was a mixture of brands that aren’t especially ethical (although, some are now trying to make more improvements, like Bonds for example). And some of the gals in the team are a little more across ethical underwear brands like Brisbane based NICO (socks and knickers for gals! Check ‘em out!), Thunderpants, Alas, and/or have some golden oldies that have been in rotation for a long, long time (again, testament to those items for lasting years, which is what we want).
It was a little strange to retrospectively analyse our clothing items and it reiterated the importance of doing it when shopping in the first place.
To sum up overall, there is room for improvement.
It shouldn’t be hard to find information on where your clothes were made, what they were made from, who by, and how they got to you, but sometimes, it can be! Finding out information on a brand can take research and research takes effort. Some brands aren’t transparent for a reason – they have lots to hide! So, not only do they not disclose information, they actively make it hard to find. Some of them even launch campaigns that are seem to be great sustainability-wise but serve as distractions from their other more problematic practices.
We’re conscious that we harp on a LOT about sustainability and ethical fashion. We try to be mindful of what we’re buying, asking questions like: do we really need this? Is this a fabric we want on our body in the Australian heat? Is this a style that we’ll like for a long time? But, we’re not morally absolute. We have been guilty of buying fast fashion, and/or buying things from big brands that are not transparent in their practices. Or, even worse, companies that are transparent about their practices not being ethical, but we choose to either deal with the guilt or feign ignorance. There are now more and more resources to help you find out if the clothes you are buying are sustainable and ethical. So, it’s really not good enough to plead ignorance anymore.
We know that a lot of clothing manufacturers’ labourers are well under paid, even treated as slaves in some factories. We know that big companies produce thousands of tonnes of clothing waste each year; that they use unbelievable amounts of water, and they contaminate waterways and pollute the air. Some companies burn thousands of tonnes of textiles so that their brand can remain exclusive and high end. This is something that we absolutely do not and should not support.
We thought about a lot of things over Fashion Revolution Week, especially some of the practical solutions and changes that we could make in our everyday lives. We know a lot of you support Suitcase Rummage because you share our ideals, one important one being: extending the lives of wearable clothing that already exists to divert them from landfill. We hope that our market encourages people to shop second hand rather than buy new. We want to change the perception of second hand as being less desirable and encourage people to think about where they’re putting their money.
Below are some of our suggestions to make you a more ethical consumer. Perhaps you already do these things! Maybe you need a little nudge to try even one. Well, this is us nudging you!
Use what you have. Chances are you’ve built up a bit of a stash of lovely clothes in your time on this earth. If you’re a bit tired of certain items, put them in a box under your bed for a little while. In a few months, you’ll find them and have that fresh outfit feeling again! Also, use what’s around you, with permission of course. Your friends/partners/family, probably have lots of nice things, some of which they might not even wear. Borrow, swap, never steal! And very importantly, look after what you borrow! Personally, I love it when people borrow my things because they always style it differently to how I would. It can be inspiring to see someone else’s interpretation, or what they gravitate towards.
Next, aim to shop predominantly second hand. Whether this is at a Suitcase Rummage, vintage store, op-shop, swap store, other markets, on Ebay, or on Facebook groups. There is SO MUCH STUFF THAT ALREADY EXISTS IN THE WORLD. Even if you’re buying fast fashion second hand, you’re still extending the life of an item and diverting it from landfill. It’s probably best that the world just CHILLS and catches up with all the clothing already in rotation before bringing anything else into the world.
Care for your clothes. Wash them how they deserve to be washed! A washing machine bashes your clothes around, it is HARDCORE. Lint exists because your clothes are slowly disintegrating and if those clothes are made with synthetic fabrics (think polyester) it’s actually made from microplastics. So, every time you put those clothes in the washing machine they are essentially shedding tiny, tiny pieces of plastic that end up in our waterways and ultimately end up in some poor sea creatures belly. Hand wash when you can and wash less! We bet most of us could actually survive without washing for 3 months and still have clean clothes left in our wardrobes. Something to think about.
Beyond that, support small businesses that follow their whole production line. They can assure that every worker is getting paid a fair wage and actions are being taken to reduce waste, pollution, and impacts to the environment. Bonus points if the brand has a closed loop production, if the products are made from waste, and/or if they’re made in Australia. Brands that come immediately to mind that fit this bill in some way or another: Seljak Brand, NICO, Nancy Bird, Vege Threads, Salt Gypsy, Citizen Wolf, A.BCH and check out Well Made Clothes for a shop that does a lot of the research and work for you! While these two aren’t based in Australia, Reformation and Patagonia are also paving the way in using recycled textiles and fabrics.
We can all do so much at an individual level. Keeping yourself accountable, fashion-wise, can take time and energy. But it’s also incredibly rewarding and empowering. Creativity and resourcefulness are muscles we should always be flexing. Let’s be strong, together!