I used to buy Fast Fashion and destroy the environment. Then I stopped. Now what?
Updated: Sep 29, 2020
I have always loved fashion, in particular, for how it empowers me to express myself. I am not afraid to tweak an item here and there. It’s always subtle but noticeable tweaks such as how I tie the laces of my trainers. When I was 3 years old, I drove my mother mad by putting on a woolen hat in summer. I quote: “the birds were about to faint from the heat, but you insisted on wearing that woolen hat.” I was a little stubborn, I guess, #fashionmademedoit
How I became a fast fashion consumer...
When I started to buy my clothes in my early teens and tweens, I discovered a marvelous world called Fast Fashion. Not knowing the term, though, I loved it because now I could buy many clothes to mix and match my outfits at very affordable prices. It seemed harmless. These big brands’ webshops were exciting with new arrivals and lookbooks to find inspiration on what to wear and what to buy... Their red signs also drew me into their stores; now, I realize this is a smart play with Neuroscience. Or as I like to call it: bullfighting, where, guess who the bull is that reacts to the red flag... This is not olé!
I never wondered why the clothes, shoes, accessories are so cheap. I never questioned if these products are harmful to my health. Why should I? These companies are big and successful, so they must be doing something right...
How I broke up with fast fashion...
Then came October 2018. I watched one documentary that changed everything. Never had I seen anything like this before. It was so real, though, and it hit me. Hard. As someone who has (still) never traveled to Asia, this documentary brought this experience right through my screen. #DigitalBliss
My “Fast Fashion consumer” days were over. I could not unsee what I saw. It alarmed my moral compass, leading to a long reflection on my actions. Was I guilty of any of these atrocities the documentary showed? Am I a bad person? Should I get rid of “the evidence” and start over?
Here’s my take. Yes, I have helped this monster to grow into the giant it is today. Yes I could have known better. However, I did not make those purchases with the intention to reward modern slavery, climate pollution, loss of biodiversity, etc. I was uneducated in the field of fashion supply chains. Fashion seemed harmless, fun, la la land. With me are many others and we should not get angry at ourselves; we should get educated and get into action for a good fashion system.
All I knew is, I knew nothing...
After jokingly (read: comic relief from this harsh reality check) labelling myself a “fashion culprit”, not a victim, my search for “aesthetics with ethics” took off. I started to question my truth and felt I needed to unlearn and start from scratch. I have always been in awe of ancient Greek Philosophers and called Socrates my “mentor”. My Master of Science in Economics became obsolete, but I cherish the acquired skills to find and process information. So my education in sustainable fashion began. Spoiler alert: sustainable fashion is an oxymoron. It’s nonsense.
Coming from a non-fashion background, I wanted to learn EVERYTHING about it. My research question was: “How do materials become the products we wear and use and how can they be good?” For me, ethics refers equally to the planet (not overshooting planetary boundaries as described in Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics) nor shortfalling society (all people on this planet). I no longer cared about trends, runway shows, brands, influencers, the whole shabam. I could not care less. What I became obsessed with are: compostable textiles. I searched the World Wide Web, attended summits, reached out to design schools; I wanted to learn everything I needed to learn in order to be able to make sense of “aesthetics with ethics towards both Planet and People, without compromise”.
This illustration is from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as outlined in their report "New Textiles Economy". This report is among the building blocks of my knowledge base today.
Every day I wake up with two options:
1) be angry at the current fashion industry for all the malpractices and now greenwashing these Big brands continue to do, entrepreneurs leveraging the “sustainable fashion” interest by marketing their solution as “sustainable”, or my favorite, “more sustainable”, when in fact, they have no clue what sustainability in fashion means.
2) ignore the wrong and fight for the right. Lead by example. It’s not easy, but also not impossible! As the late architect Buckminster Fuller said:
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the current model obsolete.
Challenge accepted I said. If no one is doing what you have a vision for, you need to be the one doing that. This is where I am proud to be Dutch. I never thought I would say this, as I do not perceive myself as a patriot, but there is something about the Dutch mentality that empowers taking action. Call this entrepreneurship if you will. To make matters “worse”, I grew up in Rotterdam, which is notorious for an entrepreneurial spirit.
What the future holds...
Now I have founded my company Positive Fibers to put the ECO into e-commerce. We do this by providing our customers with a great design made to last (but compostable at its end of use!) and made in clean and traceable supply chains. How do we do this? It’s simple:
just connect the dots between Science, Design, and Technology. Et voilá!
For updates, check out our Instagram: @positivefibers