After years of mindlessly using single-use plastics and buying into fast fashion, we’re finally becoming more conscious of how our actions impact the world, with 66% of millennials stating they are willing to spend more on sustainable brands. So, for one month during my time at university, when I was given the task of running a social media account centred on a topic of my choice, I chose sustainable fashion. Little did I know that it will open my eyes to sustainability shaming.
In a world of changing attitudes towards the way we treat our planet, I wanted to learn more about sustainable fashion and why it was so important. In doing so, I learnt something else: I was racked with guilt over my fast fashion choices and I had unconsciously given in to the thinly veiled sustainability shaming that is rife on social media and beyond.
As millennials, we’re bombarded with criticism over our sustainability activism due to our apparent lack of willingness to commit to it wholeheartedly.
I joined in on countless tweet-athons and interacted with the biggest (and smallest) sustainable fashion influencers, and as a result, I felt a nagging fear that I wasn’t doing enough.
Similar to those who shun plastic straws but still use make-up wipes when they’re too tired to undertake their holy grail skincare routine, there are a lot of people who practice sustainable fashion consumption alongside the occasional trip to a fast fashion retailer – including me.
It’s important to remember that unlike ditching the £3 make-up wipes for a free splash of water, or replacing plastic straws for paper ones, sustainable fashion is still relatively difficult to access for the general public due to price and visibility.
I came across a minority of sustainable fashion supporters who promoted the mentality that when it comes to making the transition from fast fashion, it’s all or nothing. On the surface, I knew this was a ridiculous idea. So, why did I find myself contemplating donating my entire wardrobe to charity and going on a sustainable spending spree? It was a stupid thought, I didn’t have the money and I was yet to find any (affordable) sustainable brands that I really loved.
While there was no shortage of sustainable fashion advocates that applauded my self-awareness and small changes make a big difference approach, comparison got the better of me. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to pour my heart and soul into making better fashion choices, proving all of the critics wrong.
Cut to now – my wardrobe is still overflowing with fast fashion, but I haven’t failed. As a self-confessed fashion junkie who was hell-bent on keeping up with trends, I shopped a lot. Now, I don’t. I found a way to pour my heart and soul into making better fashion choices without kissing goodbye to fast fashion completely. I’m concentrating on loving the clothes I have, re-purposing and maintaining them, and investing in sustainable items when I can (and when I need to).
I’ve realised that real change doesn’t happen in a New York minute, and finding a compromise that works for you is important.
Millennials get a lot of stick, but we have set in motion a vehicle for change and re-energised the conversation on sustainability and how to achieve it.
Baby steps are still steps in the right direction, and while you should always hold yourself accountable and push for improvement, you should never give in to sustainability shaming – not even from yourself.
Text: Jo Bentham. Jo is a fashion junkie, journalism graduate, opinionated writer and (iced) coffee drinker. Exploring the world of fashion and film, one word at a time.