The older I get, the more aware I become and the more I value quantity over quality. I recently saw a tweet from a PR account I follow that called out YouTubers for not promoting ethical fashion on their channels. I enjoy a good old haul as much as the next person (my bank account is not so keen), but I did start to think about how often certain YouTubers are buying clothes and uploading these hauls versus how a celebrity like Emma Watson has dedicated her entire press tour wardrobe for Beauty and the Beast to promote sustainable fashion and #30Wears. I then asked myself, if someone has a large following, should they promote responsible fashion? Or do I, the consumer, have to take it upon myself?
The Internet and friends much wiser than I have definitely played massive roles in showing me the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion, where articles about the amount of trash one woman accumulated in one year next to images of terrible working conditions flood my timeline and I can’t help but think of my role in the greater picture. While I am definitely thinking about ethical fashion more, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am also still buying fast fashion pieces. I’m not alone in doing so because if you type the word ‘haul’ into the YouTube search bar, the majority of videos that pop up will feature a slew of fast fashion brands and they’re relatively recent.
Fast fashion is described as fashion that is produced quickly and cheaply to be sold at affordable prices, often negatively impacting the environment when poor quality renders items unwearable at alarming rates and people dispose of them carelessly. Fast fashion also tends to support inhumane working conditions where safety and liveable wages are sacrificed to keep production costs low. My friend Krista made a good point in asking another friend if she had ever really thought about why her new shirt was able to be purchased at such a low price? The response: Why should I care when I only paid a fiver?
Until recently, I didn’t think about how H&M managed to sell me my favourite sweater for only $5, rather I waxed poetic about the comfort and style of this amazing sweater that was extremely forgiving and my go-to option for every Thanksgiving the past three years. I even went out and bought it in four more colours. I will say I have had pretty good luck when it comes to my purchases and they have lasted me quite long. I also do a lot to take care of my pieces in terms of how I wash them and sewing up holes and tears until I can’t fix them anymore. But, I have also been extremely irresponsible by throwing out countless pairs of black Super Skinny Rockstar jeans from Old Navy after wearing them quite thin and ruining their shape.
The problem here is definitely in that I thought it was okay to just throw away jeans when their colour completely faded and the material where my thighs met rubbed away, but I also think not enough information is out there to inform consumers on the best ways to take care of their new and current clothing and discarding old pieces in a responsible manner. I also think we don’t hear enough about the working conditions of the people making our clothes. Yeah, you can buy an entire outfit for £20, but the person who made it is making way less than that and is working in an unsafe building. I don’t think fast fashion is going anywhere any time soon because let’s face it, the teens and broke college students around the world won’t let that happen, but I also think sustainable fashion and a general awareness of what we’re doing to this planet and to each other is steering us towards clothing that is made better, lasts longer and will find a new life once we’re done with it.
I’m working on another post about the recent trends in minimalism and “anti-hauls” making their way around YouTube, but I have also noticed just how many ASOS and Primark hauls have made their way into my subscription boxes from the same vloggers, often with very little time passed between each video. I’m not here to judge where a person spends their money or how often wardrobes are updated, but I think YouTubers should definitely think about the messages they send when they post these videos and the culture they’re creating by constantly updating their wardrobes. There’s a reason advertisers have invested in these influencers and while I know we’re not buying every piece we see on Instagram or in a haul video, we are actively keeping track of what these people are wearing. Trendy clothing has its place and I fully support reinvention and occasional updates, but I have also begun to value the longevity of timeless pieces that can provide a really great canvas for the minimal trendy pieces I personally add in.
I think everyone has a responsibility to treat their clothing well and be aware of where each piece comes from. Personally, knowing that the person who made my clothes was taken care of does a lot to persuade my choices these days, and I think if we spoke about these issues more a lot of people would feel the same way. So yeah, influencers should educate themselves and pass on the knowledge, but we should all be panticipating in this conversation. And we need to learn how to care for our clothing in order to care for the planet. I understand that budgets and even anxiety surrounding shopping can block us from looking beyond fast fashion, but I think influencers and their persuasive audiences have the power to change fashion for the better.