Alarmingly, the fashion industry is accountable for 10% of global carbon emissions. As students, there are simple ways in which we can each make a difference.
Do you care about animals, people or, indeed, the planet?
Now, tell me – what are you wearing right now?
Does your outfit come from one of the following – H&M, TopShop, River Island, BooHoo, Zara?
These companies and many of the other clothing shops we are familiar with don’t seem to care all that much about any of these issues. Oh, yes – they may from time to time indulge in some “greenwashing” – make a dress that is advertised as being amazing for the planet – but that might be the extent of it, some PR to make themselves look good. Rather than actually doing anything.
Zara, for instance, scores 2/5, “not good enough”, for its impact on animals, people and the planet. The other brands receive similar scores. In reality, they simply don’t care.
The BooHoo billionaire holidaying in the Maldives, for instance, is not really concerned that his workers in Leicester don’t make a living wage. Nor will the army of social media stars he has enlisted – Kardashians, Love Island stars and the like – be concerned, either.
Up until recently, I had assumed many shops were quite innocent. TopShop and H&M were on Buchanan street, my reasoning went – so therefore why would a high street shop indulge in dodgy practises? Oh, if only I had known sooner…
Thankfully from the beginning of 2020 I started my research into the fashion industry and I have made a guide on how we as students can be more ethically-minded:
1) Download the free app GoodOnYou. It has conducted thorough research into every high street brand, letting us know of the good and the bad. It also features many smaller, lesser known ethical brands we should support instead. My new favourite is Bleed, a German company that makes sportswear. Be aware that whilst some brands are reasonably priced, others not so – you’ll need to have a proper browse for one to suit a student budget. Their articles are worth a read, too. I particularly enjoyed those that talked about the clothing companies leading the circular economy.
2) Charity and vintage shops are scattered all across the West End. As a first year, I had great fun vintage shopping with fellow freshers in the first few months. Moreover, many vintage and kilo sales will be advertised on Facebook – so make sure to have a look there, too! I managed to buy a dress for the psychology ball very cheaply at a vintage kilo sale in Edinburgh – it was under a tenner, yet looked far more expensive.
3) Invest in a Guppyfriend bag to help combat microplastic pollution. Lesser known is the fact that washing your clothes in a machine releases microfibres into the water systems. Handwash items where possible and when machine washing, use a Guppyfriend washing bag to reduce the amount of micro fibres that ultimately become pollutants.
4) Rent an outfit! OOT (@ootglasgow) is a platform run by Glasgow Uni students that allows you to rent pieces from others in the GU community. Girlsmeetsdress.com is also an option for your next ceilidh or event.
5) Read up on the issue! Fast fashion, unfortunately, is a topic we’ve never been taught at school – but that doesn’t mean we can’t teach ourselves. There are countless books dedicated to the topic: “How to Break Up with Fast Fashion” by Lauren Bravo and “Fashionopolis” by Dana Thomas are some good ones to try out. The latter book was one of the best books I read in 2020. If reading isn’t your thing, there are a number of documentaries that also discuss the issues – last year GUFR screened The Next Black which discusses the future of fashion; The True Cost and Riverblue are also worth a watch. Otherwise, there are many articles and social media accounts aimed at informing us of the issue, including @cleanclothescampaign, @rememberwhomadethem and @fashionrevolution.
6) Installl the Depop app. Depop is the ideal platform for students to resell clothes they no longer wear. It’s a great place to purchase secondhand pieces too – be careful however, as although the majority of accounts are selling secondhand, some accounts are selling fast fashion simply without the presences of a Big Brand. Create an account, get selling and find some secondhand pieces to revive your wardrobe.
7) Wear what you already own. Sadly, I have loads of items from H&M and the like sitting in my wardrobe, all bought in my pre-research days. However, it would be seriously unethical – and add to even more fashion waste – if I were to suddenly toss out every fast-fashion item I own. 2.1 billion tonnes of clothes are thrown out annually – so be mindful of that when you clear out your wardrobe.
8) Refrain from watching TikTok and YouTube videos with headings such as “Massive Primark haul”, “Boohoo haul”, etc. These videos are just endless temptations to consume – don’t fall into the trap. Sadly, these videos encourage the social media phenomenon referred to as “Cinderella syndrome”, the idea of not being seen online in the same outfit twice.
Fashion companies and social media influencers may have the power to persuade us to wear a collection of fast-fashion clothes that really aren’t that pretty. But we as students can be influencers of a different kind. As consumers, we have power, too. Whether you opt to download GoodOnYou, buy a Guppyfriend bag or go vintage shopping – any small action you take is a positive, fashionable step forward.
And beats that ugly BooHoo dress anytime.
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[Emilija Morrison, Brand Ambassador for Glasgow University Fashion Revolution (GUFR)]
[Photo Credit§: Kei Scampa]