Venetia Falconer discusses how to navigate the confusing consumer landscape of fashion, greenwashing and lower impact choices.
Diet culture has been clawing at my waistline for well over a decade and there have been times when the ‘gluten free’, ‘bulletproof coffee’ and ‘no pizza ‘til ibiza’ fads have swallowed me whole.
It’s near impossible to ignore the lure of ‘guilt free’ treats and enlightened social media influencers who insist that what ‘antioxidant packed’ goji berries lack in taste, they make up for in health benefits. But fortunately I found a reason for my dietary choices to be of greater significance than my body mass index. I discovered a new sense of purpose when I learnt about a plant-based diet and the positive impact an adoption of one could have on animals and a reduction in greenhouse gases. Suddenly, what I ate became my small version of activism.
And it didn’t stop there, as I turned my attention to plastic, picking package-free fennel over condom-covered cucumbers. And then I found slow fashion. After learning about the impact of one of the world’s most polluting industries, my answer was simple: stop buying, swap or rent instead and if you must, invest in what already exists.
But in 2019, greenwashing is the new gluten-free, and, once again, it’s hard to paddle through the murky waters of ‘organically grown’ to unearth what actually is ethical, sustainable and a good investment, for the people who made our clothes and for the future of the planet.
More fast fashion retailers than I can keep count of are turning their attention to ‘conscious’ and ‘eco’ ranges, using materials made from landfill waste, off-cuts, and fruit pulps. On the one hand, this is a good thing. We vote with our pound, so by supporting a ‘kind collection’ over your bog-standard, you’re proving that there’s demand to create wear from waste and for transparent ethics.
However, by consuming any kind of fashion in a fast way, no matter how ‘sustainable’, we’re doing little to reduce our involvement in this billion dollar industry which is so key a contributor to our climate emergency.
For now, a total rejection of consumerism is unlikely, but a demand for transparency is top priority. There’s no denying that there are some brilliant companies doing everything they can to be more circular, to give back and to educate, but in a time when Instagram bios are a form of validation, it’s up to all of us to force an authentic change.
In the same way that protein-packed, locally-sourced and organically-grown black beans may leave you feeling as bloated as an over-inflated balloon, overhauling your wardrobe in favour of sustainable brands might leave you feeling confused and agitated for being susceptible to the marketing. As individuals, when it comes to lower impact choices, we need to hone in on what makes us feel nourished. Do you want your form of activism to be a brand new ‘planet positive’ slogan t shirt? Or could you customise a second hand one instead?
Whether it’s palm oil, recycling or yarns made from waste, the sphere of sustainability is a confusing one and I’m slowly learning that there’s not a black and white answer to everything.
When it comes to food, I always refer to my favourite quote by Michael Pollan: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
With fashion, I’d like to put forward the following: “Wear clothes, don’t buy too many, make them last.”
QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN YOU’RE BUYING AN ITEM OF CLOTHING:
Does this make my heart sing?
Could I just take a photo of myself wearing it in the changing rooms and post it to my stories…?
Who made it?
Could I find the same thing in a second-hand store?
Perhaps it’s on a rental website?
Where was it made?
What fabric is it made from?
Is this brand doing anything to be more sustainable?
How transparent are they with their consumers?
Do they pay their workers a living wage?
Does this item of clothing align with my ethics?
Do I feel like Beyoncé in it?
Read our guide for more tips on how to dress ethically.