Dressing for Change
Tackling society's fast fashion addiction, one bag at a time.
It is well known that we, as a society, have a fast fashion problem. However, what is less known is the consequences of our wasteful wardrobe habits. Each year, we throw away an average of 37kg of clothes per person. Not only is there the issue of textile waste, but there are also huge carbon emissions, water waste and pollution, public health hazards from cheap, often toxic dyes and exploitative labour practices that stem from this industry. The environment is changing rapidly due to human activity – at a rate we, as a collective, cannot sustain if we wish to continue safely inhabiting the earth. The simple act of making investments in sustainable clothing also helps to invest in a safer future: dressing for change.
Durable clothing has a two-fold benefit (forgive the pun): No.1, there is less need for clothing replacements, and therefore less clothing being wasted/thrown out and No.2, although initial costs are higher, the length of time they last outweigh costs, making them cheaper investments in the long term. Environmentally, less waste, higher quality fibres and decrease in energy consumption make good quality, lasting clothing one of the best options for long term wear items.
The first time I heard about Fjällräven was through my godfather. He had a Fjällräven bag when he travelled around Europe 38 years ago, and it has only recently been retired. I remember him telling me stories about some of these travels – we still have an old photo of him with the bag. Fjällräven places emphasis on sustainable clothing and textile products and this focus on quality is a key point in the intergenerational success of this brand.
Pictured: My godfather Chris, with his Fjällräven Kånken, in 1984, Austria. The only place you could buy Fjällräven bags at the time was in Norway and he travelled with it for quite a few years.
Today, the popularity of this brand has not decreased. A recent TV series that premiered on Netflix, Heart Stopper, featured the iconic Kånken bag in possession of the main character, Charlie Spring. Not only do the brands items possess longevity, but since its foundation in 1960, the brand itself has maintained its popularity in an ever-changing world.
Pictured: Charlie Spring and his Kånken bag from ‘Heartstopper.’ Source: elitedaily.com
So, what can we do to help change our addiction to fast fashion? Student leadership and advocacy are key to changing future societal habits. However, simply making the change, no matter your age, identity or nationality can bring about far more change than one might expect. Manageable actions such as:
- buying fewer clothes,
- Make sure your purchases are from sustainable brands (such as Fjallraven),
- buying high-quality and long-lasting items,
- thinking twice before throwing out old clothes,
- donate clothing to charities and second-hand stores,
- buying second-hand clothing
- utilising buy, swap, and clothing rental facilities
- mending clothing and materials
- and watching how much water and energy you use when washing clothing.
Things like this can massively reduce our fashion environmental impact and help create the change we want to see in the world.
Taking this battle to social media is a leadership and advocacy role young people can step into to help bring awareness and cause change around this issue. The widespread promotion of sustainable behaviours surrounding clothing could be a great initial step in making significant change in the fast fashion industry.
So, we, as a wider community, must be the ones to make the first move. To recycle that jumper, we have had forever and never used. To repair that hole in the jeans we were ready to scrap. To donate that t-shirt that never really fitted us. And bit by bit, replace our wardrobe with clothing that will dress us for the change we will most likely witness in our lifetime and dress us to change what we are witnessing through our current lives.
Written by Saskia Dixon-Valk