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Thanks for stopping by! Here on BECOMING LOLA I share stories on becoming minimalist, as well as living a pure clean life as a style-obsessed digital nomad with a no BS approach to ethical fashion + travel. Grab a glass of wine and start here: Building A Minimalist Wardrobe.

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fast fashion vs sustainably ethical fashion, is it really that difficult to change?

Becoming a little miss minimalist for the sake of braving change and traveling the world for the first time in my life, has really got my knickers in a twist about certain habits we seem to think of as unbreakable. 

I’ll be the first to admit that there are some items in my closet that were complete impulse purchases, (we interrupt this broadcast for a fact check: about 40% of my wardrobe were impulse buys...because like the rational person I am, impulse to me should include even the items you knew deep down you never needed to begin with!) I know that you must be shocked. How could someone who seems to care so much about minimalism and sustainable fashion make ... *gasp* ... an impulse purchase? Well, it happens to the best of us, and even in my new bout of travel and reduction, continues to happen because the fashion industry moves at an unseemly and, let’s face it, unreasonable pace. Who honestly can keep up with all the “ins” and “outs” these days? Trends go up and down faster than a roller coaster and if you don’t have a deep wallet, tons of time to shop, and a body that rivals a lingerie model, you can be knee-deep in enemy territory without an escape route. OKAY, TIME FOR ANOTHER PAUSE. In truth, this is not the real reason I make impulse buys. It might represent the excuse for many other fans of fashion, but trends were truly never my thing since, well, ever. I did not venture into the fashion industry for trends. In fact, I originally started off as a design student and had my own collection planned for fashion week until I realized styling and writing was more my speed. No, the truth is that I am a part of the minority who shop impulsively for things that have no business being in our wardrobe because they either A) don't fit B) aren't a personality match, or C) are purely for designer label obsession. When I did my mid-year wardrobe haul and review I was flabbergasted to find how much I've fallen out of touch with my own sense of style, not those of others (bloggers, models, celebs, et al).

Trust me, I’ve been where you might be now: contemplating the habits and addictions you so blatantly deny. To keep up with the pace, most brands these days turn towards “fast fashion” items. You know what I’m talking about! Fast fashion items are cheap copies of current designer trends that are sold at a very low price point. They fill the shelves instantly, smell new and edgy, and seem so reasonably priced (though no one considers how ungratefully we are endorsing the unbearably low pay wages and working conditions to get our Zara and J Crew items so cheap, as ignoring something is the easiest activity known to man). 


And that is how it happens my friends- the impulse binge. Beyond potentially filling your closet with fluff, fast fashion is not necessarily sustainable. The quick production of many of these items causes many manufactures to cut corners both environmentally and ethically, though these are two issues that fall in line behind a myriad of others. Instinctively, I think we all know this. The fashion industry isn’t exactly falling over itself to change its sometimes racist or sexist advertising. How rarely do we see a full-sized model walking down the runway during fashion week? And am I the only one that wants to blow a whistle when it comes to the obvious elephant in the room? Excuse me, do we really need to manufacture bags that are worth a rent check in countries where the workers make less than a live-able wage? Can we define liveable for a second? It's simple. How would you manage if you made $10 a week while working almost 80 hours, while your employer rakes in about $17billion and the media calls this disrespectful outrage 'business genius'? All so we can keep up with Jonses OR because it's simply too hard to find affordable alternatives on our free time. Boo hoo, I know.

So is this fair? No. Do we care enough to do something about it before our next shopping trip? Probably not. But truth be told- fashion can be fun and it also serves a purpose. And you don't have to necessarily choose between being a proponent of fashion and becoming a downright hippie who sews everything from tablecloths. Clothes help us to create an identity. They provide us with a basic need and, while conditions might not be perfect in every circumstance, the fashion industry provides a livelihood for many individuals as well as larger economies. The fact is the world will never simply stop producing clothes, and on the other end, we cannot resort to just shopping vintage or thrift shops if there aren't at least some amount of new items being created. So if you are anything like me, your relationship with the fashion industry might be considered “complicated” for good reason, and you might be asking yourself if a sustainable but relevant wardrobe is attainable.

To that I answer, “Well, of course it is! It just takes some front end work and a little bit of reflection.” Am I the ethical clothing guru? No of course not, gurus are for dvd movies, but that doesn’t mean we can’t journey together and take advantage in all that I've learned while being an eco-fashion editor. First of all, I would say that it is worth it to take a good and honest look inside your closet (and your spending habits) and ask yourself what you can reduce. Yes, I know, those neon pants make your legs and butt look awesome and EVERYONE is wearing them. But do they fit in with your long term style? If you want to hang on to them until they are out of season, fine. But instead of letting them gather dust in the back of your closet afterwards consider donating them, selling them or repurposing them before you just trash them as it would be a complete slap in the face to the poor man or woman who was paid pennies to make it. As these items start to recycle their way through your everyday wardrobe, replace them with items that are sustainably made and that will last longer. Does this mean that you are going to need to put more money aside for your new wardrobe items? From what I know, which is still preliminary, the answer is also somewhat complicated. Items that do not cost a lot of money are not always made cheaply. I have found products that last a lifetime and that have not broken my piggy bank. Conversely, just because something is more expensive, doesn’t mean it came from a so-called socially responsible company or that it will outwear your favorite pair of jeans. The real scam is that many items are made by the same manufactures in the same factory- the only difference is the brand name. (And who wants to freaking pay extra for that?) Again, to be clear, the parent company of some of your favorite labels will use the same manufacturing plant in China, Taiwan, or Bangladesh to produce ALL their items from each brand. So while you think forking out $100 more for J Crew versus Gap makes sense, the origin is the same, and therefore quality might be as well. Just ask the gals who are crying over their fraying "Italian cashmeres" and "British-inspired" button downs from high-end designers who use the same sewers as Topshop!

Becoming educated about different aspects of garment quality can help you make a proper decision about the potential shelf-life of a product. It may seem overwhelming, but there are tons of easy-to-read resources online that can help you decipher between clothing items with just a glance. Your wallet is not who should be thanking you later, it's the people who sacrifice themselves to produce your wardrobe. Ultimately, it seems reasonable that buying quality can help with the overall cause for reduction. Unless of course you really are just a trend whore, and in that case, head to the next blog for your fix!

However, buying clothes that you can wear for longer periods of time does not mean that you need to put your fingers in your ears and ignore all current trends and styles. (Although sometimes that does sound appealing just to sleep peacefully at night!) Learning to adapt some basics pieces to relevant looks can help keep your wardrobe looking up to date. Remember: just because a magazine or designer says something is “in” doesn’t mean you have to like it or wear it (oh and yes, magazines just say what designers PAY them to say, so there is also that too, geez)! It took me so long to realize that being yourself is the most fashionable thing you can do. If it makes you uncomfortable or isn’t what you would normally spend your money on than let that specific trend pass you by. Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to fashion’s sustainability problem. Fast fashion works much like fast food: it’s there for you to consume in the least cost possible. Don’t get me wrong, I think fashion can also be creative and beautiful but, as a person who wants to make conscious decisions in all areas of my life, my wardrobe doesn’t get-out-of-jail free card just because those damn Celine and Givenchy bags grow more beautiful by the minute. Ultimately, the hardest part of starting a sustainable wardrobe is shifting your perspective. After that, it comes down to patience and educated decisions.

PS- In the coming weeks, due to an enormous amount of requests, I will finally take the time to compile my personal trusted resources for cultivating a minimalist and ethical fashion wardrobe!

How have you moved towards making your wardrobe more sustainable? Are there any clothing brands or resources that rock your world?

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