My Ethical Fashion Right-Hand Woman
Welcome to the first (of many I hope!) guest blog posts by Becca Coughlan, my right-hand woman when it came to developing the new ethical fashion resource! Discover Becca's story, from the difficulties of finding a graduate job to founding her own sustainable fashion business, whilst helping little old me along the way.
'When Ruth asked me to write a guest post for her website, she suggested that I share my experience of assisting her with setting up these wonderful new additions to her blog. What has emerged, however, is something of a self-reflection upon my year so far, otherwise known as ‘a young graduate’s attempt to figure out what the hell she wants to do with her life and, more specifically, how the hell she’s going to do it’.
At the beginning of 2017, I was a recent Economics and Politics graduate who was certain of only one thing: I wanted a career in Sustainable and Ethical Fashion. With no background in fashion whatsoever, aside from my knack and passion for thrifting and stalking ‘influencers’ on Instagram, and my Beatlemania-esque admiration for Livia Firth and Lucy Siegle, I haphazardly applied for whatever sourcing and supply chain jobs I could, with whatever fashion company I could.
Needless to say, I quickly realised the poignancy of this gem of a Buzzfeed list, and thus I resolved to put the formal job search on hold while I rustled up a bit more knowledge of the fashion industry as a whole, and the increasingly large space that ethics and sustainability take up within it. Even this though, was easier said than done – I once again didn’t know where to start, or even what I needed to learn. Hindsight (a glorious thing) has shown me just how important and useful it is just to start somewhere. ANYWHERE.
My somewhere was this blog. I came across Urbanity while I was scrolling through the Fashion Revolution Scotland Facebook page, looking for events in Edinburgh that I could get involved in during FashRev Week. I shyly approached Ruth about an internship of sorts, first on Instagram (the facilitator of any good collab these days), and then at one of the aforementioned events. The rest, as they say, is history. The universe is kind, people. The kindest. The first assignment Ruth tasked me with was to research and curate information for this new comprehensive sustainable and ethical fashion resource for the blog.
Getting down to it, the immensity of this task was, at times, overwhelming. I do have a flair for melodrama, but this is not an exaggeration. I was not entirely ignorant to the complexity of the issues that pervade the fashion industry, but it was eye opening to understand more about the extent to which even their ‘solutions’ are problematic. My frustrations fuelled me though. The more I realized how little we know about our clothes, the more I was determined to help Ruth make her blog somewhere people could come to learn about all the vague terms and statistics that we see on our labels, in the media, and in various marketing campaigns.
Outside of the blog, it has become my mission to inspire a generation of conscious consumers (see what I mean about the melodrama?). I have thus since embarked on creating my own second-hand clothing business, CURATED R, the focus of which, outside of selling fabulous items, is to get people thinking and talking about the impacts of fast fashion, and how we can combat them.
If 2016 taught us anything; it is the significance of how one casts one’s vote. As consumers, every time we spend money, we are casting a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. Even when we consider the sheer vastness of the fashion industry’s problems, and that it is nigh on impossible to make purchasing choices that tick all the boxes, the poignancy of this sentiment still stands. My own professional anxieties corresponded with this same vastness, and through this research I have concluded that the solution to both my predicament and that of consumers at large is one in the same: choose the issue that is most important to you as an individual (i.e. supply chain accountability, or animal cruelty), and ‘cast your vote’ accordingly.
Bringing an end to my rambling, this resource is by no means perfect, or necessarily even complete. Like the slow fashionmovement, my attempt to navigate a career path, and life, in general, it is a work in progress. I hope though, that it is at least somewhat helpful and informative, and that, having engaged with it, you feel more empowered as a consumer.'