Giving the lie to fast fashion

By Zainab for IOL

Over the past few years, the retail climate has changed drastically from top-down fashion where luxury brands set the standard of what was trendy to a more democratised industry where these same brands’ designer threads are being ripped off by large high street chains and sold for a fraction of the cost.

And while I’m all for spending less on items that will be relegated to last-season status, I tend to err on the side of longevity. Quality over quantity, as they say. I rarely buy new clothes and, when I do, my purchases are either extremely pricey items I’ve saved up for over months or bargain finds made from quality fabrics I know are not just in season this month.

Then there are those times when I enter a mall and find myself panic-stricken by all the gloriously gorgeous attire on offer. Jeans for R150, screams one sign and I’m instantly drawn into a parallel universe where I desperately need five new pairs of jeans.

But I don’t need them, of course. I could easily walk into Levi’s and drop R800 on a decent pair I know will last several years, if not more. But the price tag draws me in and I end up with two new pairs of jeans that lose their shape and need to be thrown out after a few months.

Which is why lately I’ve become a strong advocate for initiatives such as H&M Conscious and Fashion Revolution. I love the fact that I can walk into any H&M store and recycle garments that would otherwise end up in a landfill somewhere. And while many would say that H&M’s entire business model relies on its rapid-fire production line, I still applaud its efforts at recycling and reusing old garments in its Conscious Collection. Indeed, it seems a fitting first step towards all its products eventually being produced this way.


That being said, H&M isn’t the only brand doing its part for sustainable and ethical fashion.

One such local brand I was lucky enough to work with a few months ago is Bodhisattva. Deriving its name from the Sanskrit term for anyone who is motivated by compassion and wishes to increase enlightenment and consciousness for the benefit of others, the brand works with small local businesses, specifically those owned by women, in impoverished communities to produce quality garments made from fabrics such as silk, leather and cotton that stand the test of time and are interchangeable with other items in your wardrobe.

So, while you may be paying top dollar for a skirt or top, you’re also paying for an item that will see you through several seasons.

And isn’t that what we’re after, really? Items that will last, that can be repurposed, deconstructed and recycled season after season?

Even runways have started to blur the lines of seasonal fashion. Much of what we see now will still be trending on the streets of Jozi next year, albeit in a different colour or guise.

So how will you be making a sustainable change through your fashion choices?