Fashion is a big part of my life.
Professionally: I split my work time between Sisu Boutique and Teeny Bee Boutique. Women's clothes or baby clothes, it's all fashion. My lifelong goal is to open my own store, selling women's clothing. I rely on the industry and consumerism for my jobs that contribute financially to my family.
Personally: I like putting outfits together. I consider it my creative outlet. I like having a lot freedom in what I wear, a lot of options. I like adding new pieces on a regular basis. Sometimes I shop with something specific in mind. Other times a single piece will speak to me and I'm inspired to find a way to wear it. It could be a very expensive hobby, but I don't have a very large budget. I was brought up to shop for quality and wait for sales. My shopping sprees only happen at thrift stores and clearance racks.
I remember when Forever 21 first graced the Mall of America. It was like heaven on earth for my closet and wallet. Beautiful, new, shiny, trendy things at prices so low I couldn't believe it. Ok, so maybe the sizing was limited or the fit wasn't that great or the jewelry fell apart after one use, but hey - it's literally cheap enough to wear once and send to the donation pile or throw away.
The term "Fast Fashion" refers to the fashion equivalent of fast food. We don't want to know what it really is or where it really comes from because it tastes so good, it's cheap and convenient. It doesn't take a brainiac to question how Forever 21 can make money on a t-shirt that costs less than $4, regular price. But it's far easier to not question it and just enjoy it, as I've chosen to do for a very, very long time.
When I backed Soul Carrier's Kickstarter last June, I was drawn to the language used in the campaign: "Conscious Fashion Movement", "Socially Responsible Entrepreneurship", "Mindful Living". I had the privilege of interviewing founder Jennifer Boonlorn via Skype this past November. It was a much longer conversation, but I want to share the part where we dialog about "Conscious Fashion":
The blogger I referred to in the video is Sally McGraw of Already Pretty. Sally and I have met on a few occasions and I greatly respect her point of view on personal style as well as her outstanding writing ability. I really appreciated her openness about the changes she decided to make to her shopping habits after watching "The True Cost". I encourage you to read her post, Doing Better Moving Forward: How Watching "The True Cost" Changed My Mind About Everything.
Even after Jenn and I talked, and yet another "Conscious Fashion" seed was planted in my heart and mind, I could not motivate myself to watch the documentary. The following month, I hesitantly took part in the Dressember Challenge. Through the brilliance of social media algorithms, the #dressember hashtag led me to loads of ethically conscious brands and B-Corps. With every 'like' and 'follow', the slow-fashion movement revealed itself to me. It's inspiring to say the least.
I finally, reluctantly watched "The True Cost". Twice. It's not that it revealed much that I hadn't already heard. What it did do (for me) is give the issues within the fashion industry a face and a home. Since then, I've done more research and more soul searching.
There's just too much to care about in the world, right? Too much to fear. Pink slime in meat. Bat poop in mascara. Lead in paint. Cancer-causing (fill in the blank). War. Politics. Gas prices. Water shortage. Animal cruelty. Green initiatives. It's so much to filter. Everybody has a cause, a case, a mission. We make changes where we can and do what makes sense for our personal lifestyle and individual priorities.
Fashion is a priority for me. It's my industry. It's what I love to do and how I spend much of my time and thought. So the challenge to myself is simply to do it better. Think twice before I grab that $5 skirt from H&M or any other fast fashion store. Invest in quality. Support local artists, businesses, and thrift stores. Buy what I love and not just what's cheap. Educate instead of ignore. Ask questions. Research. Research. Research.
I haven't shopped at any chain stores since I returned from Hawaii two months ago. That's a long stretch for me. That's not to say I never will again. But all the encounters and conversations leading up to this point have left me with a poor taste for cheap, mass-produced stuff. So while the fast fashion train continues to plow ahead on a seemingly unstoppable track, I have committed to slowing down.