How I Overcame My Fast Fashion Addiction by The Mustard Jumper
This is a piece by Danielle France of The Mustard Jumper and owner of Slow Muse Store.
I don’t like the colour red. I don’t wear the colour red. But, in 2017, I went into a store, saw a red top and bought it. Why? Because it had a $10 sale tag and I had an addiction to fast fashion.
My unhealthy relationship with fashion made me feel constantly unsettled. I remember looking at the older girls at school on mufti days and being very aware of what I did not have. Forget the fact I just bought a new pair of jeans the week before, it appeared I had missed the memo they now had to be skin tight and stop just about the ankle. How could I have been so stupid? Well it was okay, I told myself, I had a pay-check coming at the end of the week and would just buy a new pair.
I couldn’t keep up. Trends changed so fast, too fast for my bank account to replenish. The sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I didn’t have ‘this’ or ‘that’ was a constant reminder that I wasn’t good enough. And so I got very good at hunting for bargains. I would scan my favourite shops for sales, purchasing things that looked just close enough to what I initially wanted because in my mind the low price tag was worth it. The trouble was, they often didn’t fit properly, would wear out after one wash and I was never satisfied.
This is what fast fashion does. It makes you feel that you don’t have enough, that you aren’t keeping up and that you need more. It never stops. It’s an addiction.
My reprieve came in 2018 when I watched a documentary, ‘The True Cost’. This film completely flipped everything upside down. The story follows the supply chain of fashion, giving an insight into who makes our clothes and how connected we are to where our clothes come from – something I had never considered before. The reality is grim.
A very large portion of the clothing we buy is outsourced to developing countries around the world where garment workers are being paid unfairly, not receiving adequate healthcare, working long hours, having to bring their children into unsafe environments and tragically, in some cases, dying, all so that we in the western world can wear the latest trend.
Shima is a 23-year-old garment worker living in Dhaka, Bangladesh, whose story is threaded throughout the film. She recounts the time where the union she formed went to their managers with a list of demands. In response to this the doors were locked, and alongside 30-40 workers the managers used chairs, sticks, scales, scissors and their fists to beat them, all because they dared to be asked to be treated with decency.
Why does this happen? Because these factories survive off orders from fast fashion companies and if they cannot make orders faster and cheaper than the factory next to them then business will be taken elsewhere. So the unfair treatment continues.
Shima’s journey is followed as she takes her daughter Nadia back to her home village where she will be raised by family. Shima says “they love her a lot and can possible take better care of her than me”. Shima cannot afford to keep Nadia with her in Dhaka and explains it is too dangerous to have her in the factory. She says that in order to give Nadia an education and a better life it is better for her to be raised by others. Shima says she will now only see Nadia once or twice a year.
The following is a message Shima shares, her voice breaking and tears running down her cheeks.
“There is no limit to the struggle of Bangladesh workers. Every day we wake up early in the morning; we go to the factory, and work really hard all day. And with all our hard labour we make the clothing. And that’s what people wear. People have no idea how difficult it is for us to make the clothing. They only buy it and wear it. I believe these clothes are produced by our blood. A lot of garment workers die in different incidents. Like a year ago there was a collapse in Rana Plaza. A lot of workers died there. It’s very painful for us. I don’t want anyone wearing anything which is produced by our blood. We want better working conditions. So that everyone becomes aware. I don’t want another owner like the owner of Rana Plaza to take such a risk and force the workers to work in such conditions. So that no more workers die like that. So that no more mothers lose their child like this. I never want this. I want the owners to be a little more aware and look after us."
The documentary shocked me. It made me feel sick to think my purchases stemmed back from such indecent treatment of humanity. I watched Shima’s story and I cried. I live a very privileged life. I have choice and I have more than enough. I have now made a personal decision to never buy from a fast fashion label again. I refuse to be a part of this horrific system and I want to use my voice to raise awareness. I believe it is important as consumers to ask the question “who made my clothes?”. Demanding transparency from labels has a flow on effect and my hope is that one day women like Shima and their children will have a better life. I cannot ignore what I have seen.
Making this decision meant I had to start taking the time to consider my own identity in fashion. I could no longer just go and buy a new top from the mall because I’d seen a new trend on Instagram. I began saving for local ethical labels as well as using my time to hunt amongst the racks of my neighbourhood thrift stores. Over the past two years I have discovered a love for a style that is individual and unique to me and subsequently that unsettled feeling of never being able to keep up has gone away. Trends are inspiring but not something I need to succumb to. I wear pieces that make me feel good, are well made and have incredible value, not because of their price tag but because I know no one was mistreated in order for me to purchase them.
I have an incredible hope that one day the world of fashion might truly wake up and see that it needs to change and I believe it can start with us.