A friend at work recently told me a horror story from a trip she took to Bali. They were snorkelling in a coral reef on a tour—completely surrounded by plastic waste. If you’ve ever been to a reef you will know that it is an incredible thing to see… When our conversation began, I listened intently assuming that she was about to go on about the gorgeous green turtles she’d seen or show me a GoPro vid of some coral, but sadly the conclusion was more upsetting than delightful. While the scene underwater was divine, every time she came up for air she was covered in plastic waste, ‘I had straws in my hair!’ she said.
Every industry has their role to play in a global movement to reduce plastic pollution, including the fashion and garment industry. Many tonnes of the clothes, bags, and shoes we buy are eventually tossed in the bin, and end up in landfill with a bunch of plastic bags and straws. After that it is typically washed or blown off shore and into the environment, the same way the waste in the reef in Bali did.
Most that waste is a product of ‘fast fashion consumption’, which is a term applied to anything mass-produced in poor quality and sold globally for a really cheap price. The real cost of fast fashion is the threat it poses to the environment, our health and to poorly paid factory workers and farmers. These production methods have long been overlooked because peeps in the first world have no idea what they are actually buying. The glitzy stores and cute packaging that everything comes in does well to throw you off, it’s true, but it also comes down to companies simply choosing not to disclose that information to their consumers.
The Slow Fashion movement is Fast Fashion’s antithesis, and has emerged in response to uncovered truths about factory working conditions, shady farming, and other revelations about bad practice in mass produced fashion. The movement gained considerable traction and support from the industry over the last five years, because people are recognising that without it we would probably continue to trash the earth until it’s completely fucked and no longer liveable.
Globalised mass productions usually capitalise off the idea that selling you poor quality goods in abundance, makes you feel like you get more for your money, or at least at a lower cost than their bougie competitors. But what people forget is that the smaller companies make their clothes using better quality labor, fibres, and materials, so it makes sense that they are priced higher because they will last you much longer.
Supporting sustainable brands can be thought of as a kind of passive activism: you are protesting productions orchestrated by unsustainable corporations by not giving them money to do so, which will eventually deplete their demand.
Basically fast fashion is terrible for the ecology and we should stop buying into it. And thankfully sustainable fashion, or as others call it: Slow Fashion is cool now. Which means consumers have loads to choose from when it comes to choosing companies that are ethical, cruelty and sweatshop free; including a bunch of streetwear labels that we have made a list of for you below.
- By: Sabina McKenna