We’re all victims of fast fashion and it was on a recent attempt at online shopping that I realised how much we dust it under the carpet.
Flashback about 15 years, my Mum was having a massive clear out of old clothes. Even though I was only around 7 years old, I saw myself in some of them but also had ideas of how I could transform them. The first project I did were with an old pair of Levi’s. With limited resources I decided to create a handbag. I cut one of the legs off, shortened it and stapled the edges together using scrap pieces as straps. I sprayed glitter hair spray over the bag and stapled a fake rose on the side (cute).
Looking back, I was pretty resourceful, although it’s cringeworthy to think I actually ventured out with creations like that. My point is, when you are resourceful it doesn’t have to cost the world to be creative and produce something desirable (ish). This was me finding my love for creating something personal for me and lead me into my now, emotional, 24/7 attachment to fashion. I got mixed reviews from people around me, but I did it regardless.
I started to study Textiles at secondary/high school, going on to do an Art & Design Foundation course. These expanded my knowledge on production, manufacture, design, sustainability, wearability… all the stuff that’s forgotten when you’re in Topshop getting a fit for your Saturday night out. I’m not saying I expect everyone to have the whole process in mind when they are shopping, but there has to be less naivety about where these garments are coming from as well as where they will end up.
Aged 17, I started making my own garments from scratch to learn about fit, shape and the benefits/downfalls to different fabrics. I made it a habit to create an outfit for a night out, approximately 1 hour before I was meant to be leaving (madness, I know). It was so rewarding, especially when people would ask me where my outfit was from. One time, a guy asked me because he wanted to buy it for his girlfriend. Moments like that make it worth the stress of being so spontaneous with clothing.
After years of customising, recreating, altering, embellishing and doing whatever I felt like, I became more and more aware of what was feasible and affordable. Since then, I’ve been studying a degree in womenswear and have absorbed so much awareness of fast fashion that I find it incredibly difficult to shop, here’s why:
I don’t have space in my monthly budget to go out and shop left right and centre, so when I do, I find myself getting irritated. Nobody likes the sweaty, swarm of people we have to squeeze past in busy stores in between trying on things in whiffy changing rooms and long queues on a Saturday. Fast fashion??? And breathe.
BUT, you could put me in a store that is virtually empty of people and I will feel equally as annoyed. When I pick up a garment I cannot help but analyse it as if it were part of my market research. I’m looking at stitch neatness and consistency, symmetrical features, fabric quality, fastening security, embellishments and anything else that I’m used to being marked on in garments I make. This is why online shopping is so tricky, it’s such a huge gamble.
I have followed Youtuber and online influencer, Patricia Bright, for several years. Recently she has almost made it her trademark to review brands – mainly online “affordable” sites such as Prettylittlething, Missguided and Zaful. If you want some tea on brands then I would recommend her videos here. They’re hilarious and she keeps it VERY real.
Here’s some more tea. I remember my friend ordered a slogan Tee from Romwe a few years back and the slogan came MISSPELT. Wow.
Mark up & cost of manufacture:
I feel it is almost offensive when a shop will charge you £40 for a top that has wonky stitching, fabric pulls, smells like fabric dye and machine sewn beading falling off. In comparison to high end couture, it is spare change but it still isn’t acceptable. If we were all aware how cheap most fabrics can be, especially to big corporations buying at wholesale price, we wouldn’t buy as frivolously.
There is a jersey fabric shop in East London I use for all my projects and their most expensive fabric is £5 per metre and that isn’t even wholesale price. Now imagine this top I previously mentioned only requires 0.5 metres of fabric to make, add maximum 1 hour for labour per top as most big corporations have advanced machinery and highly skilled staff. We can’t have an exact figure, but for companies who produce hundreds, if not thousands, from each garment, and you can only imagine the profit they are absolutely raking in. The mark up is not something we need to discuss, y’all will have nightmares.
I am all for profit, we all have to make one if we want our business to survive and be successful. But if a company has so much profit to spend on advertising, visual merchandising, influencer events etc. surely they can raise the quality or drop the prices? This is the most simple of respectable brand ethics.
Originality and Value:
Think of your most unique item of clothing you’ve bought. Visualise that dreaded awkward moment when you take an outing in it, seeing someone else wearing it. Unless this item is bespoke or extremely limited edition, you have to also take into account that exclusivity increases value. Without naming names, we can all think of both high street and high-end brands who produce a lot of one design. Whether you are paying £40 or £400, there is still the same possibility of you “twinning” with a stranger. This is why I loved thrifting and customising growing up.
Matching someone is bound to happen at some point but my point is that high street and online affordable brands seemed to have upped their pricing as they have gained following. So there is probably an even greater chance of matching someone but be paying more to do that, which seems a madness right?
I won’t go too much into this, but you can imagine that low quality items have a shorter lifespan therefore meaning more waste in this fast fashion industry. Buying high quality should definitely be on most of our minds, within our own means though of course.
So what does this mean for me now?
I won’t be banning myself from browsing and purchasing but I will definitely continue to make my own garments when I can and bare all of the above in mind as I create for my own brand. The customer should always be at the forefront of your priorities in my opinion, because they need to rely on you to produce something desirable which isn’t thoughtless, harming the industry/environment or just overall unethical.
We’re not all put on this Earth to create clothing but this does not mean we should turn a blind eye to it. I would say the same about politics – we should all have a perspective and awareness.
As for you, don’t be put off shopping or fashion, just be mindful and protect your coin. Not everyone has the customer as an ethical priority so be savvy and remember, customer service ain’t just there for missing deliveries.
Written by Jessamy Mattinson