News about appalling working conditions and below minimum wages in Leicester’s garment industry rocked the world at the beginning of July. Unfair treatment of workers and modern-day slavery is not something that only happens in the developing world; it happens on our own doorstep too.
At a time when people seem more engaged than ever in causes that will help improve both the lives of people (examples: Black Lives Matter and trans gender rights ) and the planet (examples: Extinction Rebellion and School strikes for the climate), I expected lots of UK consumers to boycott the unrealistically cheap fast-fashion brands for a while after hearing the Leicester news and demand that said brands cleaned up their acts.
Strangely the sad stories didn’t seem to have any effect at all on the fast-fashion consumers purchasing habits. In fact, in mid-July, I stumbled upon a photo on Instagram of an influencer wearing a Boohoo outfit and was surprised to find more than 200 positive comments underneath - and nothing about Boohoo’s unethical practises, as outlined in the Sunday Times on the 5th July.
This shouldn’t take me by surprise. In 2015, prior to launching VILDNIS, I carried out extensive research on the attitude-behaviour gap when it comes to purchasing sustainable fashion, and discovered that while 93% of all fashion consumers genuinely want to shop from ethical and eco-friendly brands, only 3% of those consumers actually act on their intentions.
Cheap clothing, on-trend items and newness wins over great intentions, apparently. How can we change this?
BECOME A SUSTAINABLE FASHION ADVOCATE
VILDNIS is working hard to make sustainable fashion the norm by offering accessible price points and demonstrating that ALL fashion can be made in an ethical and eco-friendly way without compromising on style. Our biggest, and most important, task is to change the consumer perception of sustainable fashion and to get consumers to act on their ethical and environmental beliefs. We have learnt that changing mindsets takes time.
You, yes you, can make a huge difference to people’s lives and the planet by becoming a sustainable fashion advocate and help us get the snowball rolling for real. We are all currently experiencing how fast a virus can spread. Imagine if we could spread the word about sustainable fashion just as fast.
I think we can! If each one of us can inspire just three other people to make their first ethical or eco-friendly fashion purchase (instead of choosing conventional fashion), then we are suddenly making big positive leaps. Their choice will count in any future decisions the individual fashion brands make as brands will always follow the needs and wants of their customers.
HOW TO SUCCEED AS A SUSTAINABLE FASHION ADVOCATE
Here's my two penny on how to succeed as a sustainable fashion advocate and literally help change people’s lives.
1. Be inclusive
Every journey starts with someone who is yet to buy into ethical and eco-friendly fashion and it is important that they feel included in the sustainable fashion community from the very beginning. Nobody should feel ashamed about the choices they have made up till now. What matters are the choices they make going forward.
2. Be patient
Changing habits takes time. Every step count, even if it is just an intention, as it will likely lead to bigger steps and actions. Be patient and pay your friends compliments when they finally kick into gear and start making mindful choices.
3. Walk the talk
You might have just started on your sustainable journey too and that’s ok. Even if you have made only one ethical or eco-friendly purchase so far, it is still amazing and inspiring. You ARE walking the talk. Keep doing it.
And talking about inspiring; share the news of any cool new products or processes you come across that have a minimal impact on the environment and a positive social impact with your friends. Most people love being amongst the first to know about new things! Remember though that while most people also genuinely care about other people, animals and the planet, style is still the ultimate selling point.
5. Share your knowledge
Few people are aware of the fashion industry’s devastating, polluting and unsustainable practises. Share your acquired knowledge on anything from living wages to pesticides in cotton farming, as well as textile fibres with low environmental footprints, and help equip your friends to make more responsible choices when they shop. Unsure how to start the conversation? Let a T-shirt, tote bag or other with a great statement do the introduction.
6. Challenge perceptions
A lot of people perceive ethical and eco-friendly fashion as being beige, hippie and hemp. If you come across people with perceptions like this, challenge them by showing them examples of some of your personal favourite brands that kick ass both style AND sustainability-wise.
Whenever I talk about the issues in the fashion industry, I get quite passionate. I really am SO done with the current norms; pollution, exploitation of workers and animal cruelty. It has no place in this day and age.
In my experience, however, the best way of winning people over to the ‘light side’ is by staying positive and offering solutions.
Thanks for reading this far and for joining us on our mission to make sustainable fashion the norm :-)