Fashion Revolution Week – My Story + Tips

So this week is Fashion Revolution Week, a week used to highlight issues in the fashion industry regarding the the ecological and social impact of the industry. In particular this refers to the rampant pollution and slavery which affects every aspect from fabric production and distribution all the way through the workers in the supply lines.

This week I was going to blog about my favourite ethical brands with you, but this post turned into a bit of a long discussion about my support of this movement and some tips on how you can too! Not to worry though, my recommendation posts will be coming later in the week!

Fashion Revolution Week was started by the group Fashion Revolution and is held on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse which occurred in 2013. Even though I was still in high school, I remember the impact it had on me when it happened. I was focussing most of my energy into my textiles class at the time and sewing every weekend – it really opened my eyes to the industry I had hopes to enter. It was absolutely devastating to see hundreds of people die and thousands injured all in the name of fashion – and keeping it cheap.

My Efforts

If you’ve been following me for a while you have probably noticed that ethical fashion is something I am extremely passionate about. I have a dedicated category called ‘Ethical Clothing’ which is where you can browse reviews I have done on products I have researched and determined to be ethically produced. I think it is so important to share these and raise awareness around brands and companies that are legitimately trying to make a difference. For the past 4 years (at least) have been trying to buy only clothing that I feel confident has a more positive impact on the planet.

I have a limit of 2 fast fashion items per year that I allow myself to purchase but honestly it’s just to give myself a bit of leeway. But I also don’t feel the need to hit that threshold, if I don’t need to buy fast fashion I won’t. It’s always hard to stop doing something and impose a personal restriction but it does get easier. I know plenty of people who will just go into a store and buy something because ‘it’s a basic’ and ‘it’s cheap’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need it. Yes, you will wear that black t-shirt with everything, but did do you really need another top?

I know that it’s not always possible to be perfect with ethical shopping, particularly on a budget. Often when I have tried to bring up this subject to people I know they think I am trying to seem superior or put them down somehow. I understand that the push for being aware of the implications of your purchases makes people often uncomfortable and there is a lot of push back. It is uncomfortable that our planet is being ravaged and rivers are being rendered unusable for the sake of ‘a cute new top’. It is hard to think about people working in offshore factories who are barely making ends meet, living on-site and potentially aren’t doing it out of personal choice and freedom. I don’t feel like I have a moral high ground when I have these thoughts in my head as I stand in a fast fashion retailer, I just feel a bit sick.

Shopping Ethically is a Privilege

Yes and no… mainly no. I hear a lot of cries of the privilege, how expensive it is, how much effort it is, how dare I even suggest someone try to change their ways to better the planet and better humanity?!

By making the choice to shop sustainably and ethically no one is asking you to buy the luxury labels from your local area. Nobody is saying you need to bin your entire wardrobe and only shop at handmade markets. It isn’t about buying a $800 pair of lounge pants made from alpaca who’s fibres are collected by stroking them with a marabou powder puff. It’s about making a small difference, any difference. And besides, believe me – an op-shop trawl with friends is a hell of a lot more fun than going to the mall and looking at the same 10 garments in different colours.

For example: winter is coming, consider buying a second-hand Kathmandu thermal instead of buying a polyester ‘underlayer’ from Farmers. That makes a difference. As of right this second there are 50 listings on TradeMe for ‘kathmandu thermal’ for women under $30, that also took me about 2 minutes to find and narrow down. 

Another example: I needed a new swimsuit a couple of years ago. I waited around and spotted a Lonely Label Sample Sale coming up in a month’s time. I bought a great skirted bikini bottom for only $20 (rrp I believe $70) which is about the price I would pay at a high-street store but this one was made ethically. I think it had a wonky stitching fault which was barely visible even if you were looking for it. I couldn’t find a top to go with it that fit so instead I went to Glassons and bought a $5 one in the back of their clearance. Even this small act supported a local, ethical brand and I wasn’t creating as much demand from the fast fashion retailer. Was I perfect? No. Did I make a difference? Yes.

I’m also going to take this moment to be really honest.  For the past couple of years before I moved I was working 1-2 low wage jobs, I was living paycheck to paycheck and anything I could possibly save went towards my move. I was poor but I was still trying to make conscious decisions and be aware of them impact of them. I didn’t have a credit card and I didn’t have a non-essentials fund, I had whatever was left over at the end of 2 weeks after food and bills.

The truth is: The Warehouse and K-Mart are not that cheap. Last year I was not in a place where I could spend $30 on a pair of pants or even $15 on a top. If I needed something I either had to find it second hand or make it myself. When I needed a pair of plain jeans for work I was hitting up the Sally Army or Vinnies (Salvation Army/St Vincent de Paul Society) out of necessity, not out of choice. In 2019 I bought a single brand new dress, in the whole year, because that was all I could afford.

It’s difficult too. Especially in my community I see so many people flouting their new purchases and avidly following the ‘new drops’ from their favourite brands. I did feel somewhat ashamed when I wore a (second hand) fancy dress out for a dinner for the 7th time, while I gazed across at someone’s new (insert your favourite vintage repro brand here) dress on it’s first and one of it’s few outings. But I still got complimented on that dress almost every time. I have to keep in mind the good I am doing to my wallet and to the planet, and that makes me feel better.

I worked at one of my previous jobs for 2 years and in that time I wore 2 pairs of pants as my uniform. One pair of pants was a faux suede (bought at a sample sale for 80% off) I wore these exclusively until the fabric started to separate at the seams and the top layer peeled off. I got some jeans. I wore holes in the inner legs of my jeans within a few months so sewed these closed. When they inevitably tore open again I had to patch them closed, which I did multiple times. In doing so I was not only saving money, but making a sustainable and ethical choice. I would have owned 3 pairs of jeans if I’d bought new ones when they became unwearable. By repairing them myself I reduced my potential impact to 1/3 of what it would have been had I not taken 10-15minutes out of my day to fix them. It probably took less time to fix them than it would to browse a store too.

Despite not having the wealth to buy the best and most sustainable brands I still tried my best. And any small act is still making a change to your lifestyle, and making a difference to the world. Say you pass on buying a $5 shirt just because it was cheap, imagine if 1 million other people made that choice. That’s an impact.

How to Support a Brand (Even When You Can’t Afford To)

I tried my very very best to support brands where I could even if I couldn’t necessarily do it financially. I couldn’t always purchase full price, so I made sure to try to attend every sample sale I could. I would share their events, like their posts, tag their brands when I was wearing them. And you can do the same – even if you can’t afford their products maybe you can reach someone who can. If you see a cool ethical brand, give them a follow! Tag friends in posts who you think might like them, grow communities around brands trying to make a change.

Nisa is a brand I fiercely support. You’ve seen my blog posts, my instagram posts, I love this brand. I remember when their fundraising/marketing campaign first came out and they were everything I could ever want in a brand. I was so excited for this brand and I wanted them to succeed however I couldn’t afford to support them financially. I probably could have given $5 to their campaign but I was living paycheck to paycheck and it was genuinely something I didn’t feel I could do. They even had a limited edition snowflake printed knicker for the campaign – could it be more me?

I shared the heck out of that fundraiser, I posted it to Facebook and Instagram, I told my friends and family about it and I tried to get the word out! Thankfully they more than met their goal and were able to launch sometime after. I would genuinely google them every so often to see if I could find out any news about their launch. Then they announced their pop-up store! I scrimped and saved so that at launch I could go and experience the brand and purchase something for myself. I did also have to eat a little more tragically that pay cycle, but it was worth it.

Until (extremely) recently I still was not in a position to purchase full price and new products from them. I sheepishly attended their sample sales and bought what I could afford. But every time I saw one coming up I posted about the event, I invited friends to come with me, I posted photos of what I bought and I tagged Nisa in everything I could. I wanted someone else to see this brand who could support them like I felt I couldn’t. Now I am so happy to see Nisa doing so well. With the launch of their sleepwear range and now their Bare range in varying shades of nude they are going from strength to absolute strength. The brains behind the business – Elisha – is also a genuinely gorgeous person inside and out.

Tips for Starting Out

One of my best tips is visit Sample Sales. You are still supporting brands by attending their sample sales. My personal favourites in Wellington are Nisa, Kowtow, Twenty-Seven Names, Wilson Trollope, Taylor and Lonely. I’ve scored some amazing pieces from them all. Lonely also pass on the goodness by charging a food donation as entry to many of their sales. I just follow these brands on Facebook and Instagram and see their sample sale posts pop up. They often run them as sponsored Facebook ads or have poster advertising as well. Even just type in ‘sample sale’ into Facebook, filter by events and you are bound to find something (this probably will work better when there isn’t a pandemic happening).

Learn. To. Sew. I know this sounds like an extreme amount of effort but it really isn’t. I’m not saying you need to learn how to make every type garment for yourself, I’m not suggesting you run out and buy a sewing machine or take classes – but if you are so inclined then do so. Just learn to hand sew for repairs. Just learn a few (or even just one) simple stitches from YouTube that you can apply to a few things. Your stitches don’t need to be pretty or perfect either. Repair holes in your socks, sew up torn underarms, sew that button back on that’s fallen off or reinforce the one that is threatening to come off. If I get small holes in my stockings in the foot area I always reinforce the hole with some hairspray or nail varnish to stop it running and then sew it up.  Fast fashion items also deteriorate at an extremely fast rate so it’ll stop you needing to repurchase as often.

Now this might already be a given for some of us Pinup and Vintage loving ladies. But take advantage of scrounging through your local op-shops. I think I’ve bought every kind of garment at an op-shop, I do not turn my nose up at bras nor hosiery. Because of the rate that people are purchasing fast fashion these days op-shops are often stuffed to the brim with your regular clothes. You’ll still be able to find your basics but you’re not buying new which helps to slow the demand. And as a bonus you never know when you’ll find something really special! You can find specialty second hand stores that curate their collections and sometimes even import clothing from elsewhere but you can’t beat a good charity shop for bargains.

The End is Nigh

Now if you made it this far – congratulations and thank you for reading all of this. I will be doing a couple more posts this week sharing my favourite lingerie and clothing brands who are joining the Fashion Revolution and produce their garments ethically and sustainably!

This is something I am extremely passionate about. I thought about scrapping this post as it started to get longer and longer. As it grew I thought: even if one person maybe considers how they shop after reading this, I would consider that a win. So I went with it, and wrote and extra 2000 words. We all just need to make little changes in order for big changes and movements to occur. I’m not asking you to change your lifestyle, I’m just asking you to think a little more about your shopping.

Check out Fashion Revolution, they have a great manifesto and a plethora of events on this week from chatting with brands, studio tours and even some little DIY tutorials. Most countries also have their own division of Fashion Revolution so check out your local group and see what’s happening!

I’m going to finish with a list of my personal, best op-shop steals. I found all of these at the Salvation Army store on Willis St in Wellington so believe me magic can happen anywhere.

  • Lilac Purple Ski Jacket $20 – I bought this for my ski holiday up the mountain in 2018. I paid less than 1/3 of what would have been the rental cost and donated it back when I moved overseas.
  • 1960’s Playtex Black Embroidered Longline Bullet Bra $7 – An absolute steal! It was too big in the band for me so I’ve popped it away in my lingerie collection storage until I can bare to take it in (if I can).
  • Red Lobster Costume $15 – I didn’t have to purchase a nasty dollar store Halloween costume – those are made of fabrics god-awful for the environment and with that price you know it wasn’t made with love. I also donated this back.
  • Reversible Fish Print Duvet $12 – I used this lovely cotton duvet to make a double sided dress! You can find some hidden gems in op shop fabric bins or some stylish sheets or duvet covers. You are really giving them a second life too. Unfortunately I left my dress back in NZ and all it needs is the buttons to be sewn on.
  • Dita Von Teese Corsolette 34B $8 – I could not believe this when I saw it in the store. I almost collapsed. Unfortunately it wasn’t my size and it was never going to fit so I abandoned it. I still consider it one of my best finds even if it didn’t make it home with me.

One thought on “Fashion Revolution Week – My Story + Tips

  1. Pingback: Fashion Revolution Week – My Clothing Recommendations – Xamia Arc

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