04/01/2016
Soz, but it's true.

Words by

Amy Campbell

I’ll be honest with you.

I’m a style conscious gal. I also like to think I’m ethically minded, to a sensible degree. But as I flit between classes and my part time job, I worry more about affording rent than whether the tee on my back is ‘organic.’

And again, I’ll be honest with you – it’s probably not organic, or even ethically produced. I’d like it to be, but that sustainable stuff is way out of my budget’s league.

As a student with a humble financial inflow, I’ve noticed myself turning a blind eye to the conversation currently consuming the fashion industry.

Yes, I’m aware that next to oil, the rag trade is the second largest global polluter. And yes, I know multinational, fast fashion giants like H&M and UNIQLO are major players in this race towards fashion’s self-demise.

Yet still, I continue to migrate shamefully towards the $20 table in Topshop. And sifting through the mountain of artificial material, I tell myself that one day, when I can afford it, I’ll buy with greater ethical intent.

I had convinced myself sustainable fashion was some kind of elite club. It was something I wanted to join but couldn’t afford.

And I know the majority of my peers feel the same. I know my mates and I will continue to choose the option with the least financial investment.

But this isn’t good enough. While I’m demanding the $20 trousers, the clothing conglomerates will continue to spit them out. And they’ll probably use around 20,000 litres of water and an army of poorly paid workers to do so.

SHAME ON ME.

It was time for an intervention. I couldn’t keep shoving this shadow of guilt away. True, I may not be financially equipped to support labels charging exorbitant rates for natural fibres, but surely I could be involved some other way.

So recently, I commissioned myself with the mission of entering this sustainable society free of charge. And what did I discover? There’s no need to feel distanced from this ethical fashion thing. It’s easier (and less pricey) to become involved than I thought it would be:

1. Cleanse

A good first foray into sustainable consumption of fashion is to do exactly the opposite: cleanse. Rule of thumb: if it doesn’t physically fit in the wardrobe, it has to go. And while this is a depressing revelation for every material-lover, you’ll find it has quite a therapeutic effect.

2. Then consign 

If you don’t know what consignment is, I suggest you Google your nearest consignment store, stat. It’s simple: you supply the clothes, and the consignment store makes the sale. In return you get a portion of the selling price. Fashionistas Australia-wide can rejoice: it is possible to make money reducing your ’drobe. And there’s nothing more fulfilling than knowing someone else is breathing second life into your second-hands.

3. Trade

Another nifty rule: for every three items that exit the closet, only one new piece may enter. This strategy may require individual discretion, and some rigorous self-restraint. If you are a one-purchase-a-week-girl, maybe it’s best to begin with a two-for-one trade.  

4. Read up

By this point, I guarantee you’ll be addicted. This ethical fashion stuff is kind of fun. But if, like me, you’re finding your favourite fashion monthlies aren’t delivering the kind of discourse your ethical intelligence craves, I suggest engaging in some education. Thankfully, a little league of start-up mags concerned with both style and sustainability are beginning to hold their own on newsstands. And for a reasonably digestible price.

5. Finally, get involved outside your bedroom

Your venture into ethical fashion doesn’t need to be a selfish one. There are initiatives you can join for free (yes, free!) Fashion Revolution Day is a great place to begin. Born out of the 2013 Bangladeshi factory collapse, and driven by social media and hashtag activism (remember #whomademyclothes?) this initiative allows even the small, student-like fish to feel involved in this overwhelming sea.   

As fashion fledglings, I think it’s okay to face the fact we might not be able to fully buy into this ‘ethical fashion’ business. Yet. We have groceries to purchase and bills to pay. But this doesn’t mean we’re exempt from the problem.

We qualify for student rates.

Looking for a New Years resolution? Maybe a few small sustainable steps will be an achievable beginning to your bucket list.

And as you complete these seemingly small (in the scheme-of-things) deeds, remember: Stella’s latest organic capsule collection will be waiting for the future you and me, and our forthcoming salaries.

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