Just a few weeks back Katy Perry was all over the streets here in Helsinki. She was the shimmering happy face of H&M’s Christmas campaign. Dress – 19,90 €! Shirt – 9,90 €!
And now some weeks after Christmas we can read a news about garment workers in Bangladesh living in slums and not receiving a living wage for the long hours they work making our disposable Christmas party clothes (the report mentions at least Lindex and H&M).
Is this report a surprise? No. Is it important that we read about these things? Yes. Will they make us change our consumption behaviour? Probably not, hopefully yes.
Here’s the thing: at this speed at which big clothing chains are changing their items in stores and the prices they are selling them with, there is no such thing as ethical fast fashion. It is as simple as that.
I have been addicted to fast fashion in my earlier life, a real shopaholic I was. I have bought literally hundreds of H&M, Gina Tricot and other fast fashion items, not having any clue where these clothes are today, because I’ve thrown them away. Buying these clothes was medicine to something I was suffering from, a consolation, just as fast food is. You can read my earlier post on fast fashion here.
Reading about the realities of the garment industry can make one feel like the easiest thing is to stop thinking about it and carry on. We hear counter-arguments (but if we shut down those factories local people would lose their jobs and isn’t that worse?).
But what if you want to make some change?
Here are some things that made me want to go for that change and which helped me in changing my philosophy towards clothes:
- Reading Overdressed! and Hyvän mielen vaatekaappi (in Finnish).
- Loosely following the instructions of that Finnish book: building a wardrobe based on everyday situations instead of impulsive purchases based on moods and feelings.
- Getting my kicks out of something else than going to the mall.
- Avoiding malls in general. Supporting small shops and local designers.
- Learning about what makes a quality product and how to take care of it. Loving clothes as valuable items.
- Not using money as an excuse for my choices – instead learning to save for a bigger purchase / setting a clothing budget for the year (I realize not all people can do this, but those who are fast fashion addicts like I was are usually people who can also afford iPhones, iPads and vacations).
- Making it a habit to ask ‘Where was this made? What can you tell me about this garment?’ when I am buying clothes.
- Supporting Finnwatch and other organizations which reveal us details about the garment industry.
- Lobbying for efforts for a more just garment industry through your local MP, NGO or other organization. This also includes lobbying the governments of hotspots for the garment industry, such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia (Overdressed! provides some good options).
- If you need inspiration, seek #ethicalfashion #fairfashion on Instagram and Twitter.
…so instead of not trying to think about the news I encourage you to stop feeling paralyzed and numb because there are options.
Fashion bloggers, parents, teachers, artists – become ambassadors for the fight against the global fast fashion addiction! You will respect yourself and your wardrobe more, I promise.
First photo in this post is by Diego Torres Silvestre. Flickr Creative Commons here.