I've shared about my two year journey away from fast fashion here already, but there is more to it than that. I also learnt how to shop ethically, make smart buying choices and make my clothes last. This is the sort of advice and know-how I would have loved to read at the beginning of my journey, so I wanted to leave this information somewhere on the internet, in hopes that it may help some humans give up fast fashion and learn how to shop ethically. So here goes...and if you are about to take the plunge...good luck.
Know your brands
My best tip to stop yourself from shopping in fast fashion stores is to arm yourself with the facts. If you go into a store and see a cute top that you know was made by suffering workers, you are less likely to think it’s cute. If you see a dress for $10 you are more likely to think about the probability of garment workers not getting a fair wage. There are some great tools out there to help you start this journey. The app Good On You enables you to search for a brand and see how they are rated for People, Planet and Animals. While it's not perfect it is a great place to start. I would also recommend following some ethical bloggers or stylists on Instagram, plus you can follow me, might as well since you’re here 😉
I know, I know. Easier said than done right? In reality, you probably can’t help seeing shops on your high street or advertised at the train station. But you can edit what you see online. Go through and unsubscribe from fast fashion brands on your social media and email lists. This may take some time, and even some will power! But it will save you a bucket load of cash and temptation in the long run. The number of views a brand needs before customers are likely to make a purchase has gone up in recent years, so it is their mission to be seen as much as possible to raise their chances of making a sale. The result for us? Bombardment from ads online, offline, left right and center. Do you really need a new swimsuit this summer, or did an advert tell you that? Find a good adblocker and remove as much temptation as you possibly can.
Alternatives to shopping
I’m sure you all know about op-shopping, but have you considered swapping your clothes? Clothing swaps are popping up all around the globe and I have loved participating with a great company in Australia called The Clothing Exchange. There are also shops and websites where you can rent clothing such as Yarn Yarns and Tumnus, with online swapping store Clothes Loop launching soon, so if you have an event coming up and nothing suitable to wear, think about renting instead of buying something you know you’re likely not to wear again. You may be able to earn some cash by letting others borrow from you too.
Make a list
When you are second-hand shopping (op shopping, thrifting, whatever you want to call it) make sure you have a list. Even just in your mind. Retail therapy feels great and it is easy to go a bit crazy with the cheap deals in charity shops. But buying something you won’t use will add to clutter in your house and not only will you guiltily have to dispose of it down the line, but you will have wasted your money. It’s okay to go off road and make exceptions sometimes, but if you have a list of things you need then you are much more likely to make smart decisions. This is great practice in general, but I find it a necessity when thrift shopping because you never know what you're going to find. Plus, with all those deals it is way too easy to get distracted and forget you don’t wear sequinned leggings no matter how fabulous they look, and you already have 7 stripy tops (It’s true. Stripe addict over here.) So that list can keep you on track, and save your wardrobe from overpopulation.
Find your style
This one will get easier with time, and the moment you stop going to fast fashion stores you will start to see just how many trends exist and are begging for your money. You’re definitely allowed to like them, just be cautious that if you are going for a new style, it is one you will still love in 5 years time. Some things never go out of style (think monochrome, denim and stripes… hopefully), and some things, while outdated by Vogues standards, could be exactly your style. I have seen women looking absolutely stunning in 50’s style fashion that I could never pull off, but I love that they have found what suits them and makes them feel beautiful.
My personal style? Usually, I feel good in a smart-casual outfit. Tight jeans, a smart or printed top, with a blaser or denim jacket over the top. While this is not what I exclusively wear, it's a great place to start when I am shopping to make sure if I do make a purchase, it will match the rest of my closet, and maximize each item's wear. There isn't much that won't go with a denim jacket, so that is one of my closet staples.
If you need some help, My Green Closet is a great youtube channel that can help you out. Lucky for me I have some friends in Melbourne who know a thing or two about conscious shopping and style. My friend Jenna, otherwise known as Ironic Minimalist has worked with various styling shoots combining ethical and thrifted fashion and wants to bring her expert knowledge straight to you. She regularly pops up for styling demos (you can find her events here) and is available for one on one bookings. And my friend Emily, aka Conscious Garment, is a personal stylist in Melbourne who can show you how to work with your wardrobe and take you shopping. Sweet and stylish, Emily is the perfect shopping buddy. Even if you aren't in Melbourne, I recommend following these guys online for some top-notch styling tips.
Lastly, love what you have
The most ethical way to consume is to consume less. Regardless of however many ethical bloggers you see talking about must have eco essentials, including myself, ultimately the idea is to become your own kind of minimalist. Learn what you need to be as fulfilled and as sustainable as possible, and try to cut out the rest. This took me a while to really get my head around. My life is nothing like those of minimalists I see on documentaries. Spacious and white just isn’t going to happen, no matter how aesthetically pleasing I find it.
I spent a while thinking I needed to replace my past purchases with ethical alternatives, or just hide their existence from view… But then I realised that I'm human. I am allowed to make mistakes and it would be so much worse to hide these perfectly good things or replace them before they needed replacing.
A good example is one we use every week in our kitchen, our trusty dish scrubber. With a long plastic handle and bristles, it is far from the ethical and beautiful products that I long to own. But you know what, all it has to do is scrub my dishes, and it is still doing a damn good job. Eventually, it will need replacing, and when it does I will find a more ethical alternative. Whether that be second hand or eco-friendly we are a waste-not-want-not sorta family. But until then, my less than eco scrubbing brush is here to say. (Chloe from the future here, yes, I have now replaced it) The same can be said with clothing. When my ethical style journey began, I wanted to rid my wardrobe of everything inside and start again. Only buying ethical clothing and the occasional charity shop piece (I was younger and less thrifty back then). Then I opened my wardrobe and realised exactly what that would mean… A whole lot of waste. Instead, I have a new attitude... Ready for it?.. It's going to blow your organic cotton socks off...
Love what you have.
Only buy items you love, wear them to death, and repair them if they break. Clothes were not meant to be worn once and never again because you ‘already have a photo of it on Instagram. Fast fashion or not, someone made your clothes, and the best thing you can do is make sure they don’t go to waste.
Waste isn't waste until we waste it.
Thanks for reading guys, I am so so happy there is a whole community of you dedicated to making this world the best you possibly can. We can do it, together! Let me know what you're ethical shopping tips are, and join my journey by following Be Kind Coco on instagram for the latest and greatest.