Let’s talk fashion. And big (and little) changes. And making a difference. If you follow our family Instagram (link here if you fancy (https://www.instagram.com/wearealfafamily)) you have seen that I have begun working on a few projects about the fashion industry.
Clothes. Looks. Colours. Style. I’m a bit obsessed. I studied fashion and textiles at Plymouth College of Art and Design as it was then called, in 2007. Despite that being a mere twelve years ago I can't say that I recall the course discussing a strong focus on the environmental impact of our designs. I bet things would be very different if I walked into the studio now.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about. The truth is that we are all far more informed about environmental issues than we were even ten years ago. Our family has decided to dramatically try to reduce our consumption and our impact on the planet and we started we started as most people do, by making small swaps. We’ve been leaving the car at home, bringing our own shopping bags, turning the TV off standby, and ditching the plastic straws. The more knowledge we gained about the environment the more we realised small changes were simply not enough!
OK - if everyone would make small changes, then surely, they would equate to much larger movement. However, as we enter a state of climate emergency, in order to really make a difference then we would need a total lifestyle overhaul!
Our little swaps grew to larger ones: changing to a vegan diet, moving to greener energy suppliers, cutting out single use plastics, and shopping locally and independently. But deep down I knew that I had an addiction that was causing me to frequently hand over my money to big brands that had huge environmental implications. I admit it. I love fast fashion.
I’m not exaggerating to call it an addiction, and it’s one that I think touches many of us. Here’s why. The rise of gender reveal parties means that we’re slapping a pink or blue label on our children earlier and earlier. Girls take on the persona of "little princesses" and our eager, well-wishing friends bring pretty dresses, tiny impractical shoes, decorative hats and socks so delicate that won’t last a week. You get the idea. A baby is not even born yet and already her wardrobe is filled with more outfits than she could ever wear. By the time we had been through them all she would have already grown out of that size. It’s a beautiful but exhausting cycle.
I adored dressing up as a child, rummaging through my mother’s wardrobe, fashioning dresses out of anything I could get my hands on. Honestly, curtains, belts, scarves – nothing was off-limits. I could be whoever I wanted to be that day. As I grew up, I would often copy the outfits of my favourite popstars. In fact, FLASHBACK, I remember feeling invincible shouting "GIRL POWER" in my Union Jack dress after watching The Spice Girls at the Brits. The clothing we choose to wear is a display of our interests to those around us: music fan, sports enthusiast, hippy, professional.
My love for clothing became a deep routed sense of my identity. It gave me confidence and the ability to express how I was feeling, and how I wanted to be seen. We must never underestimate the power behind a good outfit - I still stand by that now! I easily slipped into the female stereotype of a shopaholic. I would research trends in Vogue, meet friends for a social shopping trip, then get a buzz out of buying a new outfit. I knew I couldn’t sustain the expense of this, but then the compliments would come flooding in and suddenly it all becomes worth it again. I was addicted.
My first job at sixteen took me to Topshop where my eye for trends and ability to outfit build was celebrated. I was encouraged to always wear the latest look and given a generous uniform allowance to make it easy. Being obsessed with clothes had given me a career! Before I knew it I was on my way to art college to study fashion. Clothes! All day long! Yaaaaasss Queen. Living. The. Dream.
So, you must see, silly as it may sound, my life is centred around the fast fashion industry! However, now, as an adult I realise I have to challenge years of conditioning in exchange for a slower paced, more environmentally friendly wardrobe. What do I do?
I’m going to own my past, and my conscience, and start shopping in secondhand stores. Starting, well, now. Here it is, my first ethical fashion challenge. Can I get wearable, fashionable clothes in the charity shops of Plymouth? I don't think it’s going to be easy. It might even be fun. Whichever way, it feels like an important choice.
Follow us on insta to see what I pull off the racks. And tell me, are there other changes we can make that have worked for you? Top tips on the best place to look for great vintage also welcome. Wish me luck!