“A short film that will make you contemplate your own relationship to clothes and fashion” ALLY LANTZ, head curator at CCH
Our featured film, by our friends at Earth Minutes, explores the slow fashion movement as an exciting alternative to the current fast fashion model.
The movement encourages slower production schedules, small-batch collections, and zero waste designs to reduce textile waste in landfills. Rather than chasing trends, brands utilise enduring styles and high quality, durable materials to create classic and versatile pieces. Slow fashion production is local and sustainable, ensuring supply chains uphold workers rights and reduce transportation emissions. The movement unifies sustainability with ethics, and ultimately invites consumers to invest in well-made and lasting clothes.
Fast fashion is a uniquely capitalist phenomenon — a damaging consumption craze facilitated by workers rights abuses and transfers of wealth from the Global South to the Global North. And these processes are obscured so effectively that the only thing we can see when we look through high-street shop windows or browse online shops is some trendy and innocuous, delivered to us in seconds — and broken beyond repair in almost the same amount of time. But an alternative is gaining momentum and we are getting better at seeing past the surface.
In an industry that is so defined by aesthetics, it is crucial to look beyond the distractingly chic appearances and shine a light on the processes and mechanisms that keep us in the dark about the true cost of extremely cheap and convenient clothes. For those of us looking for the hard facts behind all the drama about fast fashion, here’s a very quick overview:
•The textile industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the shipping and aviation industries combined
• 93% of brands surveyed by the Fashion Checker aren’t paying garment workers a living wage
• Of the 74 million textile workers in the world, 80% are women of colour.
• Clothes washing in the UK is estimated to generate around 4,000 tonnes of plastic microfibre pollution every year
• Textile dyeing is the world’s second-largest polluter of water
• The volume of clothing Americans throw away each year has doubled in the last 20 years, from 7 million to 14 million tons
In the fight against fast fashion’s systemic issues, solutions must come both from the top down and the bottom up. Ethical consumption — the idea that consumer choices can shift the market and solve the climate crisis — can sometimes act as a shield protecting the system by shifting the burden of the climate crisis onto individual actions rather than focusing on systemic issues.
Despite this, meaningful action can come on the consumer side if it is supported by a wider movement. One such movement that has been gaining popularity is minimalism, a philosophy centred of intentionally living with only the things you really need, allowing you to focus more on the things that matter most and bring you real joy. Minimalism offers a great opportunity for us to look at consumption through a different lens, and perhaps start re-evaluating the relationships between fashion and happiness, self-care, or body image.
Diana Lim, best known by her online alias The Minimalist Teen, writes articles and essays on her website to relate her journey into slow fashion and inspire others to adopt more eco-friendly habits. She recently produced , an excellent knowledge hub where you can learn more about sustainable shopping principles, discover her favourite sustainable brands, and even put your shopping cart to the test with her “Should I Buy This?” quiz.
Before embracing a more sustainable lifestyle, Diana recalls how she ‘had everything a person could ever need’ but she still wasn’t happy because she ‘wanted more’. Her comments highlight a problematic element of fashion culture — namely, its ability to weaponise our addictive tendencies through socially constructed pressure and the easy gratification of ‘one-click-away’ consumerism.
For women in particular, there is extra social pressure to adhere to male ideals of femininity. Fast fashion is an easy recourse to achieve the constant rotation of new, trendy outfits needed to meet the unfair expectations of aesthetic variance that are placed upon women. In this context, it’s so important to recognise the radical power of minimalism and anti-fashion stances for women. Now that these inequalities are more widely understood in society, we have the chance to adopt an intersectional approach to fashion activism where sexism, environmental degradation and racism are the key areas to change.
After initially becoming an aesthetic minimalist — at one time her closet was made up of just ‘seven white t-shirts, two pairs of blue jeans and three pairs of sneakers’ — she has changed her approach, realising that ‘minimalism and style are not mutually exclusive.’ A minimalist approach to consumption does not mean you cannot be fashionable and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to wear the same outfit every day. Aja Barber, Becky Hughes and many others celebrate slow fashion styles by modelling clothes bought from charity shops and ethical brands.
Diana’s school of thought is that each piece of clothing she buys must embody her values in order for it to contribute significant value to her life. One of her main values is ‘to cause the least amount of harm in the world’, which helps her focus on avoiding harmful fast fashion supply chains, but without forgetting the sentimental and symbolic value held in special items of clothing. Diana gently reminds us of the importance of forming our own fashion values, asking us to reflect on whether what we are about to buy is truly meaningful to us.
Diana is focused on growing the movement of minimalism amongst young people and has collaborated with photographer JR to start the Inside Out Project — an art installation which showcases photos of teenagers and millennials embracing minimalism from all over the world. Under each of their pictures is a short, personal passage explaining how important minimalism’s principles are to them. The project aims to build the community, expand the reach of this life philosophy, and advocate for more young people to adopt the lifestyle.
1. Take a photo of yourself
Capture your minimalism through a portrait. For example in the photo, you could hold up an item that reflects your minimalist journey (like clothing), or you could have something in the background! The best portraits are expressive, emotional, and captivating. They are more than pictures of smiling faces; they seem to reflect the personality and story behind the face!
min 1 MB in size at 100 dpi
one person per portrait!
only human faces!
the majority of the photo should be taken up by YOUR FACE
2. Write a statement
The goal of the global Inside Out Project is to transform messages of personal identity into works of art. Include a personal statement related to your minimalist journey — very succinct or quite long, up to you!
3. Sign the Form
Head to the project’s website and sign the authorisation form (otherwise your photo won’t be usable!)
4. Email everything to firstname.lastname@example.org
Once you’ve signed the form, taken your photo, and written a personal statement, please email everything over. Don’t forget to include your full name!
Diana Lim has put together an awesome guide on how to shop more sustainably! The coolest feature is an interactive quiz to dig deeper into your motivations for being something!
Don’t miss the rest of The Minimalist Teen’s Guide to Shopping Sustainably!
Aside from a brief period of public outrage about Nike sweatshops in the early 90s, people seem to have been all too happy to forget about the neo-colonial human rights abuses perpetrated by fast fashion in the pursuit of consumption. But there is no way to disentangle fashion from the racist global structure of natural resource extraction and cheap labour that it is founded upon. Of the 74 million textile workers in the world, 80% are women of colour, some of whom earn as little as £20 per week. These workers are forced to work under oppressive and inhumane conditions to provide affluent majority white countries with cheaper goods whilst ensuring brands can profit heavily at the same time. Knowing this, we can see the dissonance of white people buying Black Lives Matter T-shirts produced by fast fashion companies as a perceived symbol of solidarity.
Aja Barber, writer and fashion consultant, writes about the fashion consumer’s “erasure” of people of colour “who have always been more sustainable than most.” And she is right when she says, “the face of sustainability is too often white, thin, able bodied and affluent and I find that inherently wrong.” She also asks why we look at the zero-waste lifestyle from the perspective of “the person who has the shiny new food storage containers and bought new tote bags for bagging their groceries” and not “the ethnic senior citizen who has used the same plastic butter container to store their leftovers for YEARS and still uses a backpack from the 90s?”
As Aja puts it, “When we allow white, able bodied, thin people to be the only face of our revolution, we run the risk of creating the same cycle of problems and oppression that we’re trying to escape from.”
Beyond the appropriation of the sustainability aesthetic, deeper issues of racial oppression exist in the fast fashion production cycle. Dominique Drakeford, environmental educator and founder of Melanin & Sustainable Style (MelaninASS), describes the oppression of the fashion cycle here “Inherently fashion comes from the land. Think about all the different inputs of picking cotton, and spinning fiber, and dying a garment, the production, the runoff into the waterways, and the shipping and the disposal, how many hands it’s touched, how many resources it takes to produce one garment, and then the environmental cost of that, and then the afterlife of a garment, which often goes into a landfill or gets shipped back to Africa or India, disrupting their localised fashion economy.”
Her opinion that “land justice requires land sovereignty and the cultivation of an indigenous relationship that’s not colonial,” is especially relevant in the context of the fashion industry’s destruction of land in former colonies. The reclamation of land from neo-colonial polluters, like fast fashion companies, is a principle imperative for the intersectional environmental justice movement.
Drakeford warns that the environmental movement risks becoming so preoccupied with sustainability seen from a Western lens, that it might end up obfuscating systemic racism in the fashion industry. “The mainstream sustainability movement has articulated this word ‘transparency’ so a brand can convey its production cycle, information around the brand, and what the brand stands for to the consumer. But this kind of transparency often omits the colonial framework, which is why we’re in this mess to begin with. It omits very direct articulation of black and brown indigenous mental health detriments and physical health detriments.”
So where do we go from here? How does a systemic reimagining of the fashion industry so it’s slower, sustainable and just look like? Explore the solutions below to get started.
We need to demand fundamental changes in the production process. First, we must force fast fashion companies to adopt transparency in their supply chains so we can have the information to campaign for the elimination of pollution at every level of the production line. To make sure we feel proud of where our clothes come from and where they end up, we can bring in impact assessment organisations to assess the full cycle of a clothing product, including the impact of microfibre pollution and short lifecycle clothes being left to degrade in dumps. Together, we can campaign to create an independent international fashion sustainability standard or certification to encourage fashion brands to reform unsustainable practices.
People-led movements can partner with workers and communities impacted by the pollution of the production process and take to the streets, pressuring companies to stop the use of synthetic materials and highly wasteful processes, and start building circular design principles into the production of clothes. Worker oppression is built into the bones of fast fashion. We have to fight campaigns in solidarity with workers rights and fair pay. In protecting workers rights, we will generate a snowball effect and raise the cost of production of new clothes, forcing fashion companies to stop their overproduction of new clothes and adopt circular economy principles such as garment repair and rental services.
The rise of Depop, Vinted and other second hand clothing apps has made it even easier to avoid fast fashion, while retaining the excitement of buying new clothes online in a fun and convenient way. Renting clothes from Hurr or By Rotation cuts off the problem at the source whilst allowing you to keep up with the latest trends! Wear more new styles and own less - what’s not to love? Charity shops can offer great bargains on classic styles, whilst plenty of ethical brands can offer clothes that are both sustainable and affordable! Buy used. Buy ethical. Buy items made to last.
The limitation of changing your consumer habits is that they fail to add up to the critical mass needed to generate change. By ‘mass,’ we mean either really large numbers of every day participants, a smaller number of leaders with money or power, or a perfect storm of media attention. One of the most efficient ways to quickly reach critical mass is through social media storms — when a group of people (even a relatively small one) coordinates an attack on the social media profile of a dirty company by posting a large number of negative reviews in a short period of time. These inexpensive and easy-to-coordinate campaigns can create enough noise to be reported by mass media outlets, achieving the critical mass needed to push real change within a company, or even a whole industry.
Donate clothes in small loads to local charity shops in much more sustainable than donating in bulk to services that pay you per kilo — or even to large charities or overseas donation boxes. The reason is that clothes donated in bulk have higher chances of not being sorted, handled or distributed properly, often ending up as waste in less developed countries with poor waste management infrastructure. Re-gifting clothes to friends and family, up-cycling and direct / local donations are better alternatives.
To really address the fashion industry’s racist foundations we’ve got to push further. The most crucial step is campaigning for high-polluting brands to pay substantial eco-reparations to the affected communities. Another important shift we need is having diverse representation among models and influencers, in terms of the racial backgrounds, but also the body types and fashion philosophies on showcase.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation have put together a blueprint on how the fashion industry can go circular. The report is engaging and readable, but you can also get an intro to the topic via their 2-min video.
Add models like Aja & influencers like Diana to your feed, engage with their tips and philosophy, and be conscious of the power of diversifying the images and content you’re exposed to everyday — so that they’re more representative of the variety of people, bodies and ideas within fashion culture.
Choose ethical brands. You can discover new ones on directories like Good on You, or any of the following: Ethical & Sustainable Clothing Brands, Good Trade, Ethical Shoes, Affordable (Ethical) Clothing Brands, and Organic Clothing Brands.
Use the reGAIN or Sojo apps to recycle clothes materials and textiles.
Donate directly to garment workers in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the USA whose systemic oppression by the fashion industry has made even worse by the pandemic.
Get involved with Fair Wear who work directly with factories, trade unions, NGOs and governments to fight for the rights of these workers and achieve systemic change.
What is the history of national parks, who is displaced by their creation and who gets access to these natural spaces?
a gorgeous and atmospheric film is followed by an exploration of life within a disappearing community, threatened by sea level rise.
We take you on the journey from outdoor athlete to climate activist, showcasing successful movements and leading advocates.