Three years ago my friends and I joked about me being a walking advertisement for Primark. Head to toe the majority of my wardrobe would be from the retailer. Convenient, cheap but certainly not cheerful. As a teen I didn’t think much beyond whether or not I liked the item of clothing and whether I could afford it. I, selfishly, never thought about the people making my clothes nor the impact the clothing had. It wasn’t until leaving high school and starting university that I truly learned about fast fashion. I knew Primark wasn’t the best quality or the most ethical, but I bought it anyway. The easy access and low-price tags drew me in. Fast fashion had succeeded.
As I transitioned into university life fast fashion was even more appealing than ever. From being around the shops more often to the discounts various retailers offer students. My purchasing was slowly catching up to me and I began realising I didn’t need as many clothes as I had. I had often bought clothes that I liked without much thought and had steadily grown out of that style. Then one day in 2018 somebody recommended I watch Kristen Leo’s video on Why Your Feminist T-Shirt Is Problematic?.
Upon watching it I realised just how much I had contributed to major problems over the years. I was appalled at the impact fast fashion has not only on the environment but socially. From the horrific unsafe working conditions to looking further into the high levels of water pollution created. Every fact I began to learn horrified me more than the last. Did you know fast fashion is now the second largest generator of water pollution in the world? I challenged myself, don’t buy from fast fashion companies ever again. Of course, this was an unrealistic goal to just dive headfirst into. After all the reason why I was consuming so much fast fashion was because it was cheap and easy to access. To a new university student bargains are a dream come true and forking out higher amounts of money on one item of clothing isn’t ideal. However, now I realise the higher price tags aren’t because companies want large profits, it is because the items simply cost more to make. Workers are better paid, clothing is better quality, and it hasn’t hurt the environment as much as fast fashion.
Although, I’m only human and going completely cold turkey in hindsight was never going to work for me. In 2019, whilst on my second-year placement, I found myself in pinch. I was helping clear out and recycle a bunch of old furniture and items but was wearing the wrong outfit. Turns out a winter jumper isn’t best suited to heavy activity. The closest shop to buy a t-shirt in a pinch? Primark, and like that my Primark ban was broken. It was something I saw coming and would go on to break a couple more times that year.
So perhaps a better goal would be baby steps. I recognise that buying new sustainable clothing isn’t the most accessible for all. I already have enough clothes – even if my style has changed since purchasing them – in fact, I have way more clothes than I wear, especially in lockdown. So my new challenge to myself? To recycle my old clothes that don’t fit – and no the old “I’ll lose weight one-day” argument isn’t going to stand any longer. Whether this is donating, recycling, or selling second hand. It’s time my clothes I don’t wear go to a new home. For any new clothes that find themselves in my wardrobe, I will either save up and buy sustainable or buy second hand. It’s time I give charity shops a fair chance. Who knows, maybe I’ll even finish that dress I started sewing last summer.