Six years ago I made an important decision that still affects my daily life today. In the most positive way. It wasn’t just about a good resolution like ‘I’m going to eat a little less croquettes this year’ or ‘I’m going to teach myself a new skill’. My then 25-year-old self would wave goodbye to fast fashion for the rest of her life. Challenge accepted.
No different than today, at that time, at the end of 2017, I had a blog and a Instagram-community with whom I shared lifestyle and clothing tips every day. I took them virtually to every press event and shared my personal opinion about the products or clothes that were sent to me spontaneously. I imagined myself as an enthusiastic editor of my own online magazine, but things started to get tough more and more.
Over the course of 2017, I no longer found pleasure in writing about all these products, emailed PR departments of cosmetics and fashion companies to remove me from their mailing lists… I began to repel myself from the fast-paced consumer society in which we live. For the simple reason that that materialistic approach does not match who I intrinsically am at all. Or which things I find really important in life. Which individual would be happy with 32 shampoos sent in one year? Shaggy knows the answer. “It wasn’t me”.
The final straw was a documentary on a dark December evening: “The True Cost” by Andrew Morgan. With its recording date in May 2015, it may sound dated, but to my great regret the content is still reality. Through the eyes of documentary maker Andrew I suddenly got a view of the backstage of the global clothing industry. The human exploitation, the child labor, the death toll from the disaster in Rana Plaza (a factory building in Bangladesh where several well-known fashion chains had their clothing made, ed.), … It made me sick to my stomach. And tears often rolled down the cheeks that evening.
It was immediately clear: I no longer wanted to refer my online community to clothing stores and brands that are the source of all that suffering. Let alone that I wanted to dress myself in those clothes.
From one day to the next, I not only changed my purchasing behavior, but also the raison d’être of my online platform.
Fast forward to today. Several thousand followers lighter, but dozens of life lessons wiser, I can look back on a great decision. Over the past six years I have discovered that my passion for clothing is still alive, but that I now attach importance to things that feel right (to me). And that turns out not to be the clothes themselves. While at the beginning of my sustainable clothing mission I focused strongly on materials and production methods, the bigger picture matters even more today. Making responsible clothing choices goes so much further than just the clothes.
It’s about being satisfied with what you already have, conscious maintenance of your clothes, mental resilience, (re)discovering your own style, consumption that is preferably as local as possible, budget management and so much more. For each of the past 6 years, I would like to share a lesson that can help you on your way to a conscious wardrobe.
Take half an hour to reflect on your current wardrobe. Ask yourself whether you are happy with your clothes, what feeling your wardrobe gives you, whether there are items you miss, what your biggest bad purchase was so far and why, … And write down your answers. After this moment of reflection you will undoubtedly come to some great insights.
Know that not everyone has the same interpretation of ‘sustainable clothing’. Of course, there are established facts that you cannot ignore, but there are variables that you can determine yourself. Investigate which elements are important to you: are they eco-friendly materials? A fair production? Local production? A positive social impact in the production country? Is it making vegan choices? Maybe just consume less?
Don’t make the same mistake I did when you choose to stop buying fast fashion. In the beginning I found it difficult to continue wearing clothes from international chains. That didn’t feel right and it was wrongly between my two ears. Because of course the idea is not to make your wardrobe completely sustainable from one day to the next. Enjoy the process. Rome wasn’t built in one day either.
Although I regularly recommend quality labels and certifications as one of the parameters to recognize a responsible clothing brand, you should not be 100% committed to this.. Just like the material of a garment, it gives a good indication, but it does not reveal everything.
The most sustainable piece of clothing is already hanging in your closet. That’s why it’s so important to cherish your current items and restore them if necessary. That caring mindset gives you a different view of your clothes and teaches you to appreciate what you already have.
Get inspired. Today there are so many organizations, brands and people working on making the fashion industry more responsible. Follow accounts you feel a match with. Some of my personal favorites on Instagram? @fash_rev_belgium, @cosh.eco, @jasmienwynants, @mariekeeyskoot, @charlotte.vandaele, … And of course you are also more than welcome on my own profile, @elinerey. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, because I love helping you!
Good luck with your search. And above all, have fun.