When we decided to pursue our Mindful Fashion Plan, we knew what we wanted to achieve and why. We wanted to do fashion better, but in a way that would honour the important role fashion and style plays. We wanted to ensure we have a positive impact on the world. We wanted to be the change we seek in a way that aligned with our values.
But, we first needed to understand the problems of unsustainable and unethical fast fashion practices in more detail. What we learnt blew our mind. It made us question everything. It gave us clarity around how we could translate our personal mission in a way that made sense for what we stand for.
We were lucky to sit down and chat with two fashion sustainability experts about how the world as a whole can do fashion better, and how, in turn, Stella Phoenix could do the same.
What is fast fashion?
Nina Gbor, an award-winning advocate, stylist and public speaker is famous for coining the term “get off the trendmill” to describe the process of emancipating yourself from the shackles of fast fashion. She helps clients become their own “personal style icons” (L O V E) by not only styling and shopping preloved, but good quality new pieces too.
“Fast fashion is a business model that uses a lot of environmentally damaging short cuts, unfair wages, and other social injustices, to make clothing very cheap,” Nina explained. “We’re buying more clothes than ever before, wearing them fewer times, repairing them less and throwing them away sooner.”
She went on to explain that the industry is responsible for about 10% of climate change, which doesn’t sound like much does it? Oh, only 10%. Nina pointed out it’s actually 1.7 billion (BILLION) tonnes of carbon emissions in a single year. Not to mention the health effects that some of the chemicals used have on our bodies through skin absorption.
How did the rise of fast fashion occur?
Nina said that once upon a time clothes were made to last, and to suit the four seasons of the year.
“Now brands have over a hundred cycles, where new trends are launched into retail stores every few days,” She said. “In general, we no longer see clothing as a way to live and express our personal style. It’s become impersonal and, in many cases, mindless consumption without conscious thought.”
Priscila Martinez from A Fine Circle shares similar sentiments to Nina, explaining that fast fashion is responsible for deforestation, ocean micro-plastics and other pollution from chemical dyes. A Fine Circle is an ethical fashion wholesaler that stocks new pieces from sustainable brands and promotes what they describe as a “circular community” of shopping pre-loved.
“Nowadays people buy a lot more clothes, yet use them a lot less,” Priscilla said. “As consumers, we don’t value the work that has been put into producing our garments. We have gotten used to buying ‘cheap’ without realising the real cost.”
As with many things, it seems like a supply and demand issue, with Priscila explaining that people can be addicted to fast fashion which contributes to the issues we see.
Solving this problem seems like such an enormous task, we could understand if you just wanted to hit the cross and go and distract yourself with something else instead of trying to work out what to do next. But, Priscila had a really great philosophy of progress, not perfection – for both consumers and brands.
“I feel that it’s important that everyone realises that their own consumer behaviour impacts on the environment and on our society. Every single person, every single step/action, no matter how small, counts.”
What we took away from that in our quest was, the key is to just start somewhere.
How can we ensure we are consuming more thoughtfully and ethically?
“Apparel should be good quality, durable and long lasting. When used in this way, clothing can be an empowering tool for confidence, growth and self-expression,” Nina said.
She recommended that shoppers forget trends altogether and instead “go for pieces that align with their individuality, lifestyle and self-expression” focusing on pieces that look great but are also practical.
Nina uses what she calls “a personal style formula” which encompasses body shape, colour palette and personality to help you become a style icon in your own right.
Priscila recommended looking for brands who are transparent about how their clothes are made, including researching smaller and medium sized brands. Yes, this may take a little more time, but the payoff is worth it in the long run because where we put our dollars directly contributes to outcomes. That $10 t-shirt might just seem like one t-shirt in an ocean of t-shirts, but it’s a powerful choice.
Both Nina and Priscila recommend buying less, choosing well and making it last longer with a focus on comfort and style.
Priscila had another important recommendation in line with mindful consumption.
“Although I stand for buying more sustainable brands, let’s not dump the clothes we have in our closets just because they are made by fast fashion companies. Let’s use them, and reuse them, maybe mend them or alter them. And if you can’t wear them anymore, donate them.”
We couldn’t agree more!