To come from little New Zealand at the bottom of the world and be thrown into one of the biggest fashion markets in the world was a bit of a shock. As a consumer, there was a limitless supply of whatever fashion trend took your fancy. Swimsuits all year around! More than five shoe stores! Shops open later than 6pm on a Monday! The choice was overwhelming and, while I loved hunting down special pieces from vintage stores, I hate to admit that I was was seduced by the bargains that could be snapped up from fast fashion retailers.
When I moved back to New Zealand I made a conscious decision to buy only second hand, vintage or small run made clothing, and I have to say that this has simplified my life immensely and made me feel empowered. I am no longer part of a system that creates clothing to be worn once and thrown away. I am no longer part of the "fashion industry" that promotes change for change's sake and creates need and insecurity in consumers. And I am no longer beholden to huge brands that create their clothing with the most mainstream normalised purchaser in mind.
Following this tragedy, Fashion Revolution was formed - "a global coalition of designers, academics, writers, business leaders and parliamentarians calling for systemic reform of the fashion supply chain. The organisation's premise is simple. By asking consumers, designers, brands, and all those who care to ask a simple question “Who Made My Clothes?” they envisage a change in perspective that will lead to a deeper understanding.
Each year they have decided to mark the tragedy with Fashion Revolution Day, where people challenge global fashion brands to demonstrate commitment to transparency across the length of the value chain, from farmers to factory workers, brands to buyers and consumers. It's a simple idea and one that deserves our attention. You can follow Fashion Revolution here and learn about the ways you can help to ensure that all people and products in the fashion industry are treated with respect.
Another easy way to personally redress this systemic imbalance in the fashion industry is to think of your money as power. You have the power to support exploitative systems by purchasing "cheap fast fashion" or you can chose to use the power of that money to support small local industries and the second hand clothing market - one that by its very nature has "reduce, reuse, recycle" as its central underpinning.
It's been a few years since I wrote this blog, but my philosophy of only buying vintage, secondhand, or small run clothing still holds true.
I'm constantly trawling the internet for vintage inspired exercise gear (I think I am going to start my own line as it doesn't exist!) but I thought I would share some of my favourite brands that fit this criteria with you all... and if I've missed anything out please let me know!
MADE IN NEW ZEALAND
Devel Men and Women
Vanessa Kelly Clothing
Minnie Cooper Shoes
Alison Hensley Millinery
Mavis & Bob
MADE IN AUSTRALIA
Ginny and Jude
MADE IN THE UK
House of Satin
Seamstress of Bloomsbury
Vivien of Holloway
Little House of Gorgeousness and Fripperies
Lou Taylor Studio
Emily and Fin*
MADE IN THE USA
ONLINE VINTAGE HEAVEN
Der Fuches Vintage
Wildfell Hall Vintage
Ooh La La
TO CHECK THE ETHICAL RATING ON A CLOTHING BRAND
Good on You
The Tearfund Ethical Fashion Guide
*Some of their products seem to be made in the source country and they seem to have an ethical approach to working with makers from around the world.