Updated: Aug 18, 2020
BY GEMA COELLO
People get offended when fashion sustainability enthusiasts open their mouths. They argue it is elitist to assume that everyone can afford to stop buying fast fashion, and start consuming ethically made garments instead. That is how I know they haven’t been listening.
The average price for an eco-friendly blouse is – as far as I am concerned – around $50. For that same price, one could buy two or even three blouses at a fast fashion store, because over there the average price for a blouse would be around $25. Some people struggle to make ends meet, so it is obvious that they are not going to spend their paycheck on a $100-jumpsuit handmade in France. Because whether we would like to admit it or not, having the ability to reduce fast fashion consumption is a privilege. But slow, ethical and sustainable fashion is not about spending all your savings on a single garment. Not everyone can afford to contribute to the solution, but there are many people out there who are eager to help in whichever way they can. So, how can you do so? Buying responsibly doesn’t always mean buying from someone who uses vegan products, produces locally or has a transparency portal. The goal of sustainable fashion is to drastically reduce fast fashion consumption. When you buy a sweater or a skirt at a local shop, even if they are made of polyester, you are somehow still contributing to the solution. Because you are not feeding into a vicious circle of miserable work conditions, ridiculous paychecks, and a white rich man becoming even richer. You are helping an individual out by allowing them to go on vacation or take their children to swimming classes. Thrifting and buying from vintage shops are also very thoughtful options. Even if that garment has been made in Bangladesh, at least you are not buying yet another piece of clothing made in Bangladesh. You are giving it a second life, and that is what sustainability is also about. When you decide to turn an old grandpa shirt into a fashionable crop top, that is what sustainability is about. When you decide to use last year’s clothes instead of buying new ones, you are also helping the cause. But we can’t be hypocritical. We can’t go around saying that there are a million alternatives other than buying ethical clothes, and then tell ourselves that this movement isn’t elitist. If you are reading this article and you don’t know how to make or alter your own clothes, there are no thrift shops where you live, you can’t find your size or pieces that you like in local shops, and your budget doesn’t allow you to buy from sustainable brands – please, by all means, buy fast fashion. Don’t feel bad about not contributing to the solution right now, because you may be able to do it later. Everyone has their own rhythm and a personal situation we know nothing about. If you see someone out there reading, tweeting or preaching about sustainability to then consume fast fashion, think twice before commenting on it. The fashion sustainability movement is something everyone can be part of, but not everyone can contribute to it in a tangible way just yet. If you can contribute in any way, I believe it is your duty to do so, for all those people who aren’t able to. Being aware of the problem and educating yourself about it is the hardest and most important part – and you are already there. Remember, little steps matter as much as big ones.