I occasionally attend a minimalist meet up in Leeds. A monthly get together where people with a shared interest in minimalism can meet likeminded souls and have a bit of a natter about all things ‘minimalist’. During a recent meet someone mentioned their goal for 2017 was to not buy any clothes throughout the entire year. This, in part, had been motivated by their recent viewing of the documentary ‘The True Cost’. In this post I want to share a little critique of the documentary, raise awareness on the topics covered in it, and hopefully encourage you to be more conscious about your own approach to buying clothes.
The True Cost is a feature-length look at the fast fashion industry and who is involved in making our clothes. Take a minute to think about walking into your favourite high street store. The season must-haves span entire walls, illuminated by spotlights precisely positioned to show them in their best light. The latest chart music thumping from the speakers. Some even have a distinct smell. In an environment that’s enriched by stimuli with the sole purpose of pumping our state so we buy more, it’s easy to forget another human-being has touched the seams in each garment. Their blood, sweat, and tears, the currency paid in order to bring every piece to life.
The documentary explores how fast fashion makes us feel as though we’re rich, in a world where the price of everything is going up. While companies play cat and mouse undercutting one another’s prices, it’s often those involved in making our clothes, that feel the brunt of these price cuts. It focuses a lot on factory workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia, looking at exploitation of workers rights, the use of environmentally damaging pesticides and their long term health impacts. At times it can be difficult to watch and upsetting. While the goal of the film isn’t to make you feel guilty, you often do.
Andrew Morgan, the director says the aim for The True Cost is…
“It’s supposed to pose the simple idea: There are human beings who make what we wear.”
It certainly achieves that. But I felt the film spent the entire time telling us what’s wrong with fast-fashion but didn’t make any suggestions on what consumers could do differently in order to change. I finished watching it and was like “Ok, I feel like I want to do something… but I don’t know what to do”. I wanted it to showcase more brands that are doing things right. You had features from People Tree and Stella McCartney but that was about it.
So what can you do?
I think there’s different levels depending on how deep you want to go, but here are some suggestions:
- Just being aware that an actual human-being created your clothes!
- Start asking your favourite brands – who made my clothes? Hit them up on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #whomademyclothes
- Buy less. It’s that simple. The two season fashion calendar doesn’t exist in fast fashion, instead they use micro seasons to push new trends on a weekly basis. All in order to get you to buy more.
- Look after what you have – In order to buy less start learning how to make your clothes last longer. Storing your clothes correctly, cleaning them in the right way, and generally maintaining them will mean they will stay in great shape and will take longer to replace.
- Before you throw something out because it’s damaged take it to a seamstress and see if you can get it repaired. We’ve got so used to the disposability of fashion that we automatically go to replace an item before seeing if it’s possible to repair it.
- Get used to re-wearing the same pieces. In order to buy less you’re going to have to become comfortable in re-wearing the same pieces often. The media make a big deal of this by referring to it as ‘recycling an outfit’. It shouldn’t be a big deal and actually forces you to be more creative and increase your fashion IQ.
- If you’re a high street queen start buying more items that are pre-loved/vintage/second hand. You can find loads of great pre-loved pieces on places like eBay or Depop. Alternatively, you can buy from ethical brands.
These are just a handful of ways you can slightly alter you approach to fast fashion. Each one will take a different amount of commitment. So maybe start with something you feel is easy to do and work your way up. If you haven’t already watched ‘The True Cost’ it’s available on Netflix and is definitely worth viewing.