Fashion Detox Challenge: 10 Weeks, No Shopping
A couple of weeks ago, I was thrilled to see an email land in my inbox with the subject line: ‘Congratulations! Your Fashion Detox 10-week Challenges is complete!’ 10 weeks beforehand, I had embarked on a total ban on all clothes shopping with the help of a project called the Fashion Detox Challenge, whereby each week, detox-ers were encouraged to write a reflection on their experience in the online ‘Detox Diaries’.
I did this because ever since I was old enough to spend my pocket money at Claire’s Accessories and Punky Fish, I have been that girl who uses retail as therapy. Starting out, predictably I did this as part of my goal of a lifetime to make my fashion choices the most ethical and sustainable they can be, but I also had the purely selfish and necessary goal of trying to save money. And on a deeper level, I had the desire to change an unhealthy habit, optimistically to make room for better ones. Here goes nothing.
As an ethical fashion blogger, I’ve been thinking a hell of a lot lately about my online platforms and how I use them, and I’ve become increasingly concerned that often, I am simply offering up shopping as a solution to the fast fashion crisis. The inconvenient, unglamorous truth, one that I often subconsciously deny for the FOMO of not being able to wear what I want, is that we can’t solve this crisis by buying more STUFF, no matter how ethical and sustainable that stuff is.
There were five key learnings I took from the Fashion Detox Challenge, some more surprising than others.
Conscious consumerism is a vital skill. It’s not just about buying less, it’s about buying better. I will never give up shopping for good; fashion beings me too much joy, and so it should. But my joy at a perfectly-fitting new pair of jeans is not more important than the joy of the people who grew the cotton, weaved the cloth and sewed together the pieces of those jeans. We must consider the people who made our clothes before we invest in brands that don’t value their joy.
The most sustainable garment is the one already hanging in your wardrobe. I am guilty of using my commitment second hand shopping and eco-friendly brands as an excuse for my bulging wardrobe and very much not-bulging wallet. But less is more, and I am working on minimising my consumption, not just minimising my impact.
We are vulnerable to our capitalist environment, but not powerless. It is unfair to blame consumers for consuming when every message and system around us is screaming ‘consume!’ It takes serious willpower to avoid fast fashion - heck, even with my ethical ‘credentials’, I often have to cross the street to avoid walking past Zara because it still tempts me despite it’s exploitative and wasteful credentials (as well as my brief and miserable stint working in one of their stores). But now more than ever, we need to exercise this willpower as much as we can, because there is no Planet B, and we’re running out of time.
Shopping is enjoyable, that, to me anyway, is a fact. But that hit of serotonin or adrenaline we get from retail therapy and finding the ‘perfect dress’ can be recreated without supporting a fast fashion system - my personal favourites are spending the afternoon trawling around charity shops, or taking apart in a clothes swap with fellow bloggers, Fashion Revolution folk or pals (wine can be a great addition to the latter).
The internet is ultimately good. Or more accurately, the communities and the movements that it facilitates are good. Social media can be used for incredible things; it can change minds, habits and hearts, it can bring people together to drive forward positive change in a very negative industry. And that’s why I still enthusiastically stare at my phone all day (or at least that’s what I tell my screen-cynical friends and family).
The Fashion Detox Challenge, an initiative with the noble goal of helping Scotland to tackle the crisis of clothing waste, was launched by Emma Kidd, a PhD researcher who has also worked as an international Lingerie Designer for around 10 years, designing garments for everyone from Primark to Victoria Secret (click here to watch a video of Emma sharing her experience of being a designer and why she decided to quit the fashion industry).
Here, I speak to Emma about why she kicked off the challenge and what’s next on the cards.
What motivated you to start the Fashion Detox Challenge?
Having been a fashion designer myself, I have spent such a long time sharing stories of the negative environmental & social impacts of fast fashion with people. But, over time, what has struck me from these experiences is all the feelings of guilt and overwhelm that arise from giving people such a shocking reality check. Arguably, the single biggest sustainability issue in relation to clothing production right now is actually the sheer volume of clothing that we are producing, yet our society seems locked-in to buying more and more. So, I wanted to find a gentle, fun way to invite people to become more aware of their shopping habits, and their relationship to clothing.
What are you researching for your PHD, and how does the challenge feed into that?
For my PhD I am researching the processes of personal transition that are involved in developing more sustainable consumption habits. I am also interested in how this personal change is connected to the fashion system and other broader aspects of life - such as social pressure, and commercial pressures, such as digital marketing. In other words, I am interested in the complex journey that people go on whilst trying not to buy clothes for 10 weeks. I am curious about lots of things...about changes in feeling, in attitudes, in thinking, and, of course, in behaviour!
How do you think we as consumers can make a difference to the fast fashion crisis?
Buy less and buy better!! As Orsola de Castro said, "The most sustainable garment is the one already in our wardrobe". The aim of the Fashion Detox Challenge is raise people's awareness of their own clothing habits, in the hope that they will be motivated to buy less, and buy better. So I think that the first step in making a difference is to take a good look at what we already do, and what we already own!
I am so grateful to Emma and the Fashion Detox Challenge community for helping me put that ideology into action over the past 10 weeks - it’s certainly helped me refocus my attention on what matters.
Good news - you can still take part in the challenge at any time! SImply visit fashiondetoxchallenge.com to find out how, and why, to get started.
I’ll be embarking on another detox again soon, and I hope you’ll join me.
Dress: Rachel MacMillan (a brilliantly talented Glasgow-based designer who crafts supremely comfortable womenswear from organic cotton and bamboo)
Clutch bag: Araminta Campbell (a fabulous Edinburgh designer-maker who weaves unique tweeds and luxurious alpaca accessories and homewares)
Boots: Mandi Candi Boutique (gifted by the now defunct Dundee store around 3 years ago)
Jacket: ASOS (stolen from my flatmate as usual)
Earrings: H&M (2 years old)
Photos by Mili Velikova