Why We Wear The Change
In our previous blog post, “COVID’s Big Influence on Sustainable Fashion”, we spoke about the negative environmental impacts of fast fashion brands, and how this pandemic led to garment workers being collectively underpaid by $3.2 billion to upwards of $5.8 billion dollars in wages.
Fast fashion is harmful and dangerous to this planet and society, but beyond solely focusing on the negatives, the long-lasting impacts that arise from ethical clothing production can change lives. Wear The Change is an ethical fashion challenge that raises funds for The Social Outfit’s non-profit community programs. Here’s what one of the ambassadors for this year’s Wear the Change, Nina Gbor has to say.
“Wear The Change means having the opportunity to support women from refugee and new migrant backgrounds with crucial training that can ignite fulfilling careers and lives. In addition to raising funds for TSO’s community programs for these women, it’s a chance to invite society to learn and engage in the lived experiences and realities of migrants and refugees. Ideally, it might foster more communication, empathy and more harmonious connections between various communities.”
Photo by Nina Gbor
Nina speaks about the larger problems that arise from fast fashion. Nina is an award winning sustainability advocate who founded Eco Styles and is the development editor for The Wardrobe Crisis.
“The narrow focus and obsession with material growth and accumulation that dominates our economies, political & social systems as well as our personal lives concerns me the most. I feel it plays a major role in sustaining overconsumption, global inequalities, social injustices, and environmental damage,” said Nina.
Not only is it stigmatized to be an “outfit repeater”, but many brands are now making it increasingly difficult to stay in trend because of constant pushing out of new clothing in order to make up for the lack of quality in their mass produced clothing. Fast fashion brands are now producing more and more collections per year, almost one per week.
This is quite different from the usual two seasons of Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter, like The Social Outfit does because we believe this is the most sustainable path to take.
Factoring in the fact that most women only wear 20% to 30% of the clothes in their wardrobes, it makes it even more crucial for clothing brands to set the tone of garment production, which includes the number of seasons, styles, and more.
This problem goes beyond physical practices and reflects the lack-lustre attitude and mindset fast fashion brands have towards respecting fashion and the makers of clothes. Consumers’ needs drive manufacturers’ production, and that is why our individual decisions of the clothes we put on our bodies carry more weight than one may think.
We sat down with our very own Retail Trainer & Eco-stylist Natalie Shehata to talk about this exact topic:
Do you remember the time in your life when you first became aware of the negative impacts of the fashion industry? Tell us a bit more about the shift in your consciousness...
Nat: Although I've never been someone who was consumed by or participated in the fast fashion treadmill and have always worn thrifted and second hand clothes as long as I can remember (because this is all we could afford growing up), the Bangladesh Rana Plaza Collapse in 2013 was the catalyst for change for a lot of stakeholders in fashion. It was the deadliest garment factory collapse in the world, where 1134 people - majority of them Women of Colour - lost their lives.
As someone who has always loved clothes - more specifically personal style - I've always been acutely passionate about advocating for Women and achieving more equity for us in all arenas of life. I learned that fashion was one of the most exploitive industries, with 80% of garment workers being female and that there are 40.3 million individuals enslaved around the world - 71% of them being Women and girls, with the garment industry ranking #2 out of the top 5 industries contributing to modern slavery. Since then I've been on a mission for the last 12 years to create solutions to fashion's systemic problems.
Of all the issues in the world, what concerns you the most and how do you personally create change on this issue?
Nat: That's a tricky one to answer as I believe that the challenges we currently face when it comes to both climate and the threats our civilization faces are all intertwined. COVID-19 has demonstrated that we must take a multi-dimensional approach to all change whatever lens we look through. For me, an area I'm particularly passionate about and committed to is the representation of BIWoC within ethical fashion. it is BIPOC who are the original vanguards and pioneers of sustainable living practices, however a lot of the sustainability narrative and discourse focuses on non-BIPOC voices as well as the commercialisation of sustainability.
One way I create change on this issue is by providing a platform for BIWoC creatives to hare their work, their stories, their wisdom and their creations. BIWoC need more visibility, acknowledgement and representation within the sustainable fashion space, so I will always advocate for us first and foremost. This is why I love what we do so much at The Social Outfit! We celebrate the refugee Women who make our clothes that come from different parts of the world. I always encourage customers to head upstairs into our workroom to meet the makers of the clothes they wear! BIWoC are resilient, determined and highly skilled - and we need to be at the forefront of the sustainability agenda as this is WHO we are!
Finally, what does Wear The Change mean to you?
Nat: Wearing the change to me means wearing your values! I do not want to wear clothes that are made at the cost of Women's dignity and human rights, or that negatively impacts the planet. To me, wearing your values is about choosing items that empower Women, not harm them! I love the power clothes have in telling stories - when I wear a Social Outfit item, I wear it with pride. I know the Women who make my clothes, we share food and laughter and a love for beautifully made clothing.
Wear The Change to start being the change you want to see. Join us for Wear The Change 2021 where you and countless others are coming together to push back on unethical and unsustainable practices and focusing on a brighter and better future in fashion.