In a world where fast fashion still holds many consumers in a tight grip, how do we move beyond the readily available, and towards slower, more conscious fashion – and take people with us?
By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert.
A Collective Shift
The shift to sustainable style has to be a collective effort, and one step in moving away from fast fashion (as well as “luxury fashion” produced under questionable conditions) is the endeavour to affect those around you to join you on the journey to a kinder wardrobe. It may not be easy to inspire people you love to ditch the throwaway approach to clothes – at the very start of that road, the allure of a Primark sale may be stronger to some than the peace of mind of knowing you're not contributing to child labour or environmental destruction. But that doesn't mean that your loved ones are lost causes. By finding the right key to unlock the conscience we all have around the way we live, we can not only improve our own lives and minimise our own footprint on the planet, but get others started on this path too.
Put yourself in their (Zara) shoes
Because that's where you were, just a little while ago. None of us came out of the womb a perfect environmentalist, and chances are, you still aren't one. We're all human. So if your loved ones keep showing off their new tote bag's Genuine Leather tag, don't roll your eyes – imagine if that was you. Would you like someone to quietly take you aside and inform you of leather's impact on the planet and animals, or would you like to be called a cow-killing hypocrite in front of the entire Sunday brunch crowd? Thought so. Be gentle. You catch more flies with honey (not that you should be catching flies, that's not very compassionate. Flies are harmless creatures, let them be. And honey...well, that's for a different article, but let's just say we'll stick to maple syrup).
Be a show-off
Did you go for an amazing charity-shop haul post-lockdown? Score a fantastic bag made from cactus leather, or a vegan silk shirt that is irresistibly soft? Show it off! Every time someone compliments you on your outfit, let them know that it's from a sustainable brand or a second-hand shop. Talk about where you got the item, why you bought it there, and how its ethics make it even more appealing to you. This will help shift people's perceptions of ethical fashion, and show them just how simple it can be to live a stylish life without putting too much of a strain on the planet's resources.
Use that scrolling time wisely
You already spend a huge part of your day on social media – but by now most of us are aware of what a powerful tool the internet can be when it comes to spreading a message. So put that screen time to work by sharing content where you are wearing amazing ethical outfits, or create shareable content rich in information about what overconsumption of fashion does to the planet, humans, and animals. And don't despair if the hundreds of likes and on-fire engagement fails to materialise. If you can inspire just one person to click “delete” on that email about the fast-fashion sale, they might spread the word further, clueing in more future conscious consumers.
Widen your circle
Only engaging with like-minded people might feel comfortable and easy, but getting stuck in an echo chamber means that our chances of evolving – and influencing others – are considerably lower. Have the conversation about ethical fashion with people outside your conscious crowd. And don't assume they are already familiar with the issues and are just ignoring them: you'll be surprised at the number of people for whom the details of fashion's grisly impact on our world are still a mystery. Refrain from judgement and just share the information. Suggest solutions. Lead by example.
Throw a party
A swap party, that is. COVID restrictions allowing, invite your friends to spend an evening at your house, armed with all the clothes that they haven't worn for years, but that still take up valuable space inside their wardrobes. Then, have a drink (or two) and get swapping. At the end of the night, with a bit of luck, a few people will be going home with exciting additions to their wardrobes, without having spent a penny, and you will have saved the garments from ending up in landfill. Result.
Being set in your ways is anything but inspiring. Acquiring new knowledge and broadening your horizons will not only ensure your passion for the topic flourishes, but it will also make you a go-to person to those wishing to learn more. Read books and listen to podcasts on how fashion impacts us all. Talk to the people behind your favourite brands. Find out as much as you can about making better choices – and then share that knowledge.
By Sascha Camilli
Sascha Camilli is the founder of the world's first digital vegan fashion magazine, Vilda Magazine and the host of fashion podcast Catwalk Rebel. She was selected as one of Glamour UK's Most Empowering Nu-Gen Activists and is a frequent public speaker on the topic of vegan fashion and material innovation. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, read our interview with her.
Image by Neu Nomads
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