I admit I’m a bit of a snooze-muse! When I start using the word ‘sustainable’ in a conversation, I start noticing a trend response. Largely my audience of sleepy eye rollers are just waiting for me to get off my Clydesdale Equine, and get back to sharing rib tickling anecdotes about getting my hair stuck in the wig tape holding dignity and boobs in place, enabling the wear of a most ridiculous ‘out out’ top! There’s nothing interesting or exciting about sustainable fashion!
The thing with sustainability, and I’ve researched quite a bit about it; We are surrounded by information that often purely contradicts itself:
Veganism will save the planet; you should only wear pleather because it doesn’t harm animals, oh NO wait; wear leather because it is sustainable bio fabric, and doesn’t harm the environment, NO! Farming animals has negative impact on the environment. Organic cotton is the future, oh actually NO, it’s overuse in the fashion industry means that mono-cropping and the thirsty work of farming the stuff is depleting water supplies in poverty stricken regions, effectively de-homing entire communities. Don’t buy un-natural fabrics, as they never break down in landfill, don’t mix fabrics, they end up in landfill; buy slow fashion, keep it forever, then turn it into a handbag. My head starts spinning really fast when I realise that I need to check every single label to see if Gorilla’s habitats have been cleared to fill my peanut butter jar with palm oil, or that the ‘organic cotton’ label on my t-shirt actually refers to just 3% of the fibre in it.
And then there’s the green washing; corporate appropriation of ‘sustainable looking’ models of manufacture, or clothes which look super sustainable; you know, beige and rough linen looking rag couture, so they look like they are making changes & we can all feel better about the fact that they were still manufactured by underpaid slave women in air conditioning free sunny climes for 16 hours a day.
There’s also some great ideologies which further serve to extend ethical consumer confusion: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’, use your consumption power to make better choices about where your money goes. Or ‘fast’ fashion is the problem, so don’t support your high street brands, as designer clothing is built to last, and so much better quality, better off buying investment pieces and wearing them forever. Hmmmm… just another marketing ploy from the designers which manufacture their clothes in exactly the same places as the fast fashion outlet? I think so!
How do we justify our habits? Well, we don’t really think about it, and if we do, even for a moment we become a mind boggled, brain fogged, bundle of confused good intention with not the faintest idea where to even start.
Don’t get me wrong there is significant value in changing your habits to be more considerate of your environment or the item’s history, or by selecting a specific area to focus your efforts on. Not all of us have high levels of disposable income which can fund kinder choices, or the capital to invest in long-term relationships with wardrobe staples, Vogue will give you a list of 5-10 pieces which are considered ‘staple’ each season. I mean, if Vogue can’t tell me what couture will outlast a single season IN – Fashion, how the hell would I know what will?
We are creatures of hypocrisy; we live in such disconnect with our environment, and the processes which bring our goods to us are unimaginably removed from the realities of our daily lives, that it has become so much easier to not even try. It’s easy to judge someone that tries to make better choices, because some aspect of their lives has completely missed the point. I’m far from perfect. I occasionally throw good intent to the wind to buy a brand new, super spangly, breath-taking gem, that I just don’t want to imagine living without. We all fall short.
There’s no question that as long corporations are in charge of bringing the majority of goods to the market, we will continue to struggle navigating the vast and constantly evolving moral obstacle course of sustainability. As long as sustainability is part of the conversation, as long as we try to inform ourselves, and think about the impact our habits have, we are moving towards improvement. We are all on our own journey, some of us are trying to find ways of improving this journey for others, or for our planet, no matter how overwhelming your mission may feel; Keep trying, keeping learning, and if you can stay awake long enough, keep talking about it.
For me, I’ll be trying to show the value in sustainable fashion, it doesn’t always need to be beige, and it doesn’t always need to be made by slaves to labour in ‘under-developed’ economic areas. I spent two days hand cutting the tassels out for this skirt, out of pleather. Pricing it realistically would be a nightmare, but it’s important to me that I find a way to make sustainable beautiful, and achievable in the real world. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it!