I’m 21 and have a weird habit — I don’t buy clothes. You see, I don’t want to contribute towards the destruction of our planet.
In 2017, ABC's War on Waste presented by Craig Reucassel reported that approximately 500,000 tonnes of fashion and textiles end up in landfill every year. In fact, every 10 minutes, Australians will throw away almost 6,000kg worth of clothing.
As a teenager, I often went on shopping dates with my friends and would splurge my pocket money on clothes I didn’t necessarily need. Like many, in a moment of excitement, I would purchase chain store outfits that I liked, but would only ever end up wearing them once, or never at all. Sitting there collecting dust in my cupboard for years, I would eventually have to throw them out. This was my first encounter with disposable fashion.
Fast fashion is the rapid creation of clothes that are inspired by designs on fashion runways, but are made from cheap fabrics, often in sweatshops in developing countries by workers who are paid a pittance. Due to the quick creation and affordable price, consumers love them. But once the next collection hits the runway, these outfits tend to get discarded without too much pain. The cycle then repeats itself, ad nauseam.
As a teenager, I often went on shopping dates with my friends and would splurge my pocket money on clothes I didn’t necessarily need, but rather found cool or glamourous.
The major problem with fast fashion is that a lot of the clothes are made from non-biodegradable materials including polyester, nylon and acrylic. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, because these synthetic fibres are not biodegradable, they remain in our environment for a very long time.
After finding out about these facts, I made the conscious decision to stop buying clothes, and have not been shopping for the past two years. Although it has been tough, I have learnt the value of appreciating the things I already have, and am now discovering the beauty of utilising all of the clothes that I owned before, but never fully acknowledged. Yes, at times when I’ve passed by a retail store and seen a beautiful outfit fitted on a mannequin, I’ve been tempted to go in and try it on. Or when I’ve been invited to a friend’s wedding, I’ve checked out online stores to see if there was a dress I could perhaps buy. Yet, every time I would remind myself of the bigger picture, and how buying an outfit for a one-time event would do me, others, and the environment, absolutely no good.
With 2020 passing by with complete unpredictability due to this global pandemic, refraining from buying clothes has become a habit that nourishes me. Although most people stick to online shopping to pass time, I have found it very therapeutic to use old pieces of fabric that are no longer useable or wearable, to help my little brother build his very own Stranger Things model house. Despite being old and tarnished, instead of throwing these pieces out, my brother and I have been cutting up these fabrics and sewing them to make small cushions, bedding, curtains and rugs to be used in his miniature home. I have also recently experimented with cutting my old jeans that I no longer wear into shorts, so that I’m prepared for summer. Implementing these small changes during this pandemic has not only helped me get creative with time, but it has also encouraged me to enjoy the perks of recycling.
With 2020 passing by with complete unpredictability due to this global pandemic, refraining from buying clothes has become a habit that nourishes me.
I also decided to unfollow fashion pages and certain social media influencers. When you’re on social media, you are constantly being fed new designs or styles by brands and ads. Subconsciously, you are being manipulated to update your wardrobe or to look a certain way. Staying away as much as possible from these types of accounts has not only helped me focus my energy elsewhere, but it has enabled me to think much more logically and realistically when it comes to spending my earnings. Before, I used to examine outfits and picture how it would look on me, regardless of how much it cost. Now that I am not constantly reminded of who I should resemble, I can set myself other goals, and quite frankly, I'd prefer to save my money aside and put it towards my first home.
Another change I have made is to try and donate my clothes to friends, family or even charity shops. Not only does this mean that fewer clothes are ending up in landfills, but I'm also passing my clothes on to people who may need it and would gladly wear it.
With being forced to spend more time indoors, it's perhaps an opportunity for us to rethink our relationship with fast, disposable fashion, and using our free time to learn how to sew or make our own clothes.
With COVID-19 affecting our world immensely, society has changed rapidly and so have our values. This pandemic has resulted in many of us going out less because of restrictions and also because there’s less disposable income at present. With being forced to spend more time indoors, it's perhaps an opportunity for us to rethink our relationship with fast, disposable fashion, and using our free time to learn how to sew or make our own clothes. If anything, this pandemic is reminding us once more that we need to take care of ourselves and our surroundings.
So, the next time we decide we don't like our floral dress or faded blue jeans, instead of throwing them out, we can transform them into a beautiful skirt or a pair of shorts. Not only does this process of recycling help the environment, it could literally save lives — like a good homemade mask.
Miray Bakaroglu is a freelance writer.
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