After watching The True Cost film a couple of weeks ago, I've found myself struck by the incredible reach of the damaging effects of the fashion industry. It seems nearly inescapable. Fashion intersects with problematic aspects of agriculture, capitalism, employment and globalisation in such myriad, complex ways. It's difficult to wrap one's head around the enormity of it. At its core however, is the idea that this highly profitable industry should be able to sustainably support its workers and respect the environment. If you haven't seen it, you really should. You can rent it online for $3,99.
And here we are, very small people in the middle of all of this. But we do have choice. The irony of watching The True Cost on the same weekend that H&M opened in South Africa for the first time is not lost on me. Why do we support something so blatantly exploitative? Why do we demand cheap clothing when we know that the cost is borne by those who can least afford it? And I suppose more importantly, how can we, in our own small ways, choose to support sustainable fashion?
I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that I have a reasonably sized wardrobe with relatively little contained within it that I feel excited to wear. Much of the clothing I have has lived with me and on me for a number of years and has lost the shine it first had when it came home with me from the shops. It's not that it's literally worn-through, it only feels that way; the psychological result of a fashion industry that calls to us from glossy pages and shiny store-fronts, willing us to buy, buy, buy. If it's not new, it's not exciting, not fashionable, not fun.
But I like to think that's not true, that we can reinvent our clothing for ourselves and become more active citizens in the process. Caring for and re-using our clothing gives us more "fashion mileage" out of each piece and leads us into a daily, more mindful encounter with fashion.
#ProjectRework is a personal endeavour to slow down and appreciate the value of clothing. I will root out items from my closet and remake them into something different. First up is this dress which I bought from Rozanne and Pushkin on a visit to Jo'burg in 2009. I have adored wearing it and it was my go-to party dress throughout university. It has lain dormant for some time, and I will be recrafting it into a skirt and top. Posts to follow next week!
As I go through the weeks, I will show you how I rework my clothing and hopefully inspire you to give it a go too. Here's to more mindful fashion.