Here at eco|mono, we have always tried to focus on educating the everyday shopper, the people who haven't thought about shopping ethically before or have maybe just started out on their sustainable fashion journey. But, we haven't actually spoke with these people 1:1, we've never asked their opinion, their struggles, their objectives – we don't really know enough about them.
So, as part of our “Bridging the Gap” series, I did just that. I spoke with four gal pals in our local cafe and asked them the same five questions we asked Fashion Designers Lois Hazel & Esther Kirwan, and our favourite Australian Sustainable Fashion Bloggers. This Q&A was one of our best yet, no holds bard, honest and real answers to simple yet effective questions.
We started with the question, What does fashion mean to you? Claire, 28 from Melbourne started the interview strong – simply explaining “Fashion to me, is about giving you personality a voice without even speaking”. This has been a common answer amongst all of our interviewees, each referencing how fashion is a form of self expression. Sarah, 27 also from Melbourne added “I agree with Claire, Fashion is constantly changing, it changes based on the time of year, the country you're in, or even just because a famous celebrity wears something and now it's this seasons 'must have'. I think there are so many things trying to influence the way you dress, you need to learn your own style and this can be trial and error – believe me I have had many errors!”
I then went on to ask their thoughts on sustainable fashion, asking “So, if I was to ask you to define Sustainable Fashion, what's the first thing that come to mind?” Claire answered expressively “URGH!” see sighed “OK, I could go on all day about this but I would just like to make a couple of points, sustainable fashion, I feel, right now is “trendy” and is a marketing buzz word. Great your clothes are sustainable but do they look good because I'm not going to buy them just because they are sustainably made. Second of all, I feel quite alienated in the sustainable fashion world simply due to the cost, I do not have that kind of disposable income that I can pay $300 for a casual cotton dress. I totally understand that it's been made fairly and the maker has been paid a living wage but my living wage can't afford it”. Jo, 28 visiting from Brisbane added “I understand what Claire is trying to say, but to me the reason sustainable fashion is popular today, is due to powerful documentaries that have highlighted the negative effects of fast fashion. If I had to define it, I would say fashion that doesn't harm people, the planet or animals, is made locally with a simple and traceable supply chain. I do think more needs to be done in terms of the cost of sustainable fashion, people like Claire and I who actually want to shop ethically, can't due to the cost and therefore opt for fast fashion retailers such as Witchery and Zara”. Sarah responded to Claire explaining “You don't need to buy $300 dresses to shop sustainably though Claire, you can shop secondhand, I shop secondhand not just because it is sustainable but because I can get my hands on some amazing pieces for often less than half the RRP”.
It is clear that cost is a barrier to purchasing sustainable fashion. Beth Ditto recently explained in an interview with Refinery29 “You can make something affordable or you can make something ethical”. As consumers, we should be looking to buy less but choose well. Buy investment pieces that will be in your wardrobe for a long time.
So, how often do you shop and why? “I shop probably every couple of weeks, I live in the city and like to browse the shops and if I have a social event coming up 9/10 I will buy something new. It just makes me feel more confident, silly I know” explained Jo. No, it isn't silly, and Jo is not the only person that will do this, the psychology behind shopping is complex, and each person shops for different reasons. Lisa, 30 from Melbourne explained how she only shops online because she dislikes crowds in shopping centres “I'm a scroller, I like to scroll through online shops, add things to my basket and then potentially go back later to make a purchase. If I do shop online, sometimes I'm not sure of sizes so I will buy a number of things and then send back what I don't like or what doesn't fit. The convenience of online shopping means I probably buy a new item each week, The Iconic also offer same day delivery which is really convenient for me...people call me last minute Lisa!”.
Cost and convenience are what many women opt for when shopping, so how do we incorporate this in sustainable fashion?
I asked all four ladies “Do you know who made your clothes?” each of them wearing activewear from brands such as Adidas, LuLu Lemon and Nike. Each of them, unsurprising answered no.
Finally, just like I did with the fashion bloggers I told them the break down of a garment from one of our designers Theo The Label and asked them to estimate to RRP:
Basic Cotton Tee
Made ethically in Bali
Makers are paid above the living wage.
Other costs to consider:
The ladies estimated:
Claire - $30 – 40
Jo - $40
Sarah - $40 - 50
Lisa - $30 - $40
The RRP on this particular item is $50.00, each of them guessing closely which was surprising considering cost was one of the main reasons these ladies are discouraged when buying sustainable fashion.Next week, we will release a blog with a key learnings from our Bridging The Gap series, if you've been following along and want to tell us what you have learnt along the way comment below or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear your thoughts on this project and how we can bridge the gaps in sustainable fashion.