We are now 4 months into 2019 and so far, this year has been a big learning experience for me when it comes to fashion. From learning about fast fashion and the impact this has on the environment, on its factory workers and on our wallets, to learning the process of starting your own fashion brand and how clothes are made – I’ve been on a hunt for knowledge around everything fashion related.
So with all this reading and researching I’ve done, I thought I would share with you the 3 main things I’ve learnt that have completely changed my views on fashion and the way I buy things. Here we go:
Fast Fashion is a thing and it’s not a good thing
I’m going to talk about this a lot over the next few months so feel free to unfollow me now if you’re not interested. At the beginning of this year I started hearing about eco-clothing and that made me want to find out what’s not eco about my clothes. I came across the term “Fast Fashion” over and over again so I decided to investigate and what I found changed my views on clothing brands drastically.
Fast fashion refers to the kind of clothing we find in most high street stores – they produce items fast, in cheap factories, copying designer brands runways collections but much, much poorer quality. There are a few problems with this:
- The quality of what we buy is terrible, resulting in items becoming damaged after a few washes or wears, forcing us to buy more regularly
- Instead of releasing new collections a few times a year they now release new items almost every week, meaning you have to always buy more to stay trendy – they’re cheaper than designer clothes, but you end up spending more because you buy a lot more than you would if you invested in quality over quantity
- Working conditions in their factories are horrific, with some popular brands even making their clothes in North Korea with workers being paid unimaginably low wages. Now I don’t know a lot about politics, but I know I for one don’t want to be supporting this kind of labour.
- They produce billions of tonnes of clothing to meet the demands for constant new releases, and tonnes end up in landfill because they are not purchased. Or, they are purchased but break after a few wears/washes and end up in landfill. The factories they are produced in also cause a lot of pollution and there is little regulation around this in the countries they are made in.
- They encourage a vicious cycle – you buy more to stay on top of the latest trend, items are poorly made so get damaged after a short time, you then need to buy more again.
I will write about this in more detail in a future post, but the bottom line is that my mind set has changed a lot about the stores I used to buy my clothes from. I try to do my bit for the environment and cut down on my plastic etc, but I’m not normally all that vocal about these sorts of things. However, learning about this has motivated me to write about it and try to raise some awareness because ultimately, it’s us that suffer by supporting this kind of fashion industry – not only because of the effects it has on the planet but because of the effects it has on our bank accounts and our ideas of our self worth (if you aren’t good enough unless you have the latest clothes, and you spend all your money buying more clothes that you end up throwing away after a few months, no wonder we’re all having melt downs about how we look).
You’re not just paying for a name when you buy designer
I believed 100% until this year that designer clothes cost so much because of their name and their name only. Well it’s amazing what a bit of research can uncover!
Watching videos of how Dior shoes are handmade from scratch using the highest possible quality materials started to shift this view. Compared to the mass-production factories mentioned above, this was a very different way of creating fashion and one I could appreciate would be a lot higher quality. I could also see why someone working on hand-stitching a handbag made from the highest grade leather would be worth hundreds of £££ more than the machine made ones that are spewed out in 10 minutes and made out of plastic.
The more I researched, the more I started to appreciate what I was paying for. The conclusion? It really isn’t just about the name. It’s about the quality, it’s about the careful detail, it’s about the hours put into hand making something, it’s about the consideration of absolutely every part of making something. And above all, it’s about the experience. Designer brands don’t just think about how you look, but about how you feel and that to me is very important because that’s what I want fashion to be about – how it makes us feel.
Example: I’ve recently purchased 3 pairs of trousers from ASOS. They all cost around £20. One pair had pleats around the top and all it took was one wear for the thread to come out and the pleats to break. I only wore them indoors sitting at a dinner table!
One pair was brown with white stripes. I didn’t notice this initially until I wore them outside, but once in the sunlight it became clear that one leg was darker brown than the other and the material was clearly dyed badly. I washed them hoping it might even out the difference, but it just made it even more obvious.
Will I wear any of these again? Maybe when taking the dog for a walk, or around the house. So my cost-per-wear was pretty much £20. Now I have a pair of Max Mara trousers that are around 7 years old – still in very good condition and look brand new when they’re on. Perfect cut, perfect fit, very good materials. They originally cost around £200 but I’ve lost count of how many times they’ve been worn in those 7 years, so my cost-per-wear is much, much lower. And who knows how much longer I’ll be wearing them, given how great they look even now!
Moral of the story – it’s not just about the name. It’s about the experience.
Clothes aren’t just about how you look
Following on, this idea of the experience of fashion rather than just the image has really stuck with me. I used to think that clothes were just something we had to wear so we don’t get frost bite (or arrested) but my relationship with fashion changed a lot in the last year.
I started noticing that when I’d dress in clothes that felt good, I would instantly feel more confident and better in myself. For example, I started wearing a black blazer to work when I had important meetings and I would feel so much more confident because I felt like I looked the part. I know that I know what I’m doing, and I generally like myself but when I have my “power jacket” on, I don’t feel ashamed of showing that confidence.
I also found that it made a huge difference in how I was seen by others. I started getting a lot of compliments referring to how I always looked “put together” which is a huge compliment at 7am when I’m still mentally asleep and feel like death – and this made me feel more confident too. I know we’re always told we shouldn’t need the approval of others to love ourselves, but let’s be real here: we all want to be liked (it’s basic psychology) and when others compliment how we look we feel confident.
I realised my clothing could send a message about me – I could say “I’m a professional, I know what I’m doing” if I wore my blazer, or I could wear a little black dress with a pair of high heels and say “take me out to a fancy dinner.” It’s become a form of communication for me, and the way I feel in my clothes means they’re now a friend encouraging me to feel my best rather than a critic making me feel like I’m not trendy enough, or my body isn’t good enough, or I have to dress like Kim Kardashian to be attractive (sorry, but I’m not a fan – feel free to unfollow if that offends you).
So overall, these 3 learning points have changed my relationship with fashion and brands in some big ways. I’ve been motivated to really think about how I spend my money and how I want to invest in my wardrobe, and the sort of brands I want to support by giving them my money.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, and share something you’ve learnt about fashion that’s changed your relationship with your clothes!
Until next time xo