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Words from a fashion activist

The current fashion system is continuing on an unsustainable trajectory. The next trend, craze, or T-shirt to fall in love with. There is a stark contrast between this future that the fashion industry projects and the one reality faces us with. We have dug ourselves an impossible hole, one we now must somehow get out of. 

This overwhelming concept has scared me for a long time. I’ve considered whether I even want to be a part of the industry. Can I scratch the surface of change and make a difference? 

I have concluded that whether I chose to work in fashion or not, there will still be an issue. Hiding from it isn’t productive and will, if anything, make it worse.

So, the question becomes, how do we fix it? What does this reimagined future look like and how do we get there? I emphasis ‘we’ in this because making change is something that should not be attempted alone, especially when the change in question is so immense. 

I was introduced to the sustainable fashion movement through conversation, and I think that this conversation should not be underestimated. From one discussion about how damaging fast fashion can be, I was set on a path of research, knowledge and now activism. 

While there is no perfect way to be entirely sustainable while still enjoying fashion, there are some changes we can all make to do better. These changes don’t have to be hard or life-changing, but as a consumer, we have a responsibility to drive the future of fashion-forward in the right direction. 

The first step is communication. The more we talk about the uncomfortable but significant issues that surround fashion, the more aware we become and the more likely we are to change. I say this a lot, but it’s true, knowledge is power, the more we know, the more we can do. 

Don’t be scared to have those conversations, contribute what you know and listen to what you don’t. It’s surprising what can come out of it; it could be discovering a new op shop or learning about how damaging the cotton industry is. Then you can go on and tell someone else about it!

So now you’ve had the conversation it’s time to get uncomfortable because more often than not, hearing about the reality of the fast fashion business model makes people uncomfortable. 

But it doesn’t mean we should avoid it. Everyone is different and will have different responses to how they can be more sustainable, some people may go vegan, and others may only buy second hand. But the important thing is that we are all doing something. 

As I have gone through my fashion degree, I have continued to learn about different areas of the industry and their various issues. It has been overwhelming to discover the extent of damage and rate at which it is happening. 

Realising that we live in an unsustainable environment, where everything we know is built around that, has helped me to understand that for a lot of people, it becomes impossible to live entirely sustainable lives. 

From this, come new questions we have all thought about. What’s the point? I’m only one person, what I can do that will make any difference?  

Unfortunately, this doesn’t do the planet any favours. If we all thought like that, there would be less hope than there is now. 

The only way forward I can see is one lead with optimism. Positivity is incredibly motivating. Using this motivation, we can all make changes to the lives we live. Some might be uncomfortable and hard to navigate at times, but everything counts. 

Author: Grace Clarkson

“I am in my third year of a fashion degree at Massey University in Wellington, and I work part-time for a New Zealand label. I am passionate about ethical creativity and bringing suitability to the forefront of the industry! I believe there is great power in fashion and am committed to working toward the positive changes that need to happen so that this power can come from a place that is ethical, sustainable and all-inclusive. My goal as a Fashion Revolution Ambassador is to start conversations about how suitable fashion applies to everyone and should be our top priority.” 

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