With the sustainable movement picking up and people starting to question everything that we have previously accepted as the norm, you may have seen people talking about boycotting 'fast fashion'. This may seem absolutely ridiculous at first and you think 'why on earth would I stop buying clothes for $5 or even less?!' But when you actually look into the fast fashion industry the statistics and facts are truly horrifying. Three out of five fast fashion items end up in a landfill and the fashion industry alone is responsible for 8% of carbon emissions.
We speak to Kylie Rickard, a Kiwi mum of 2 that originally started a few years ago with a year of buying no new clothes that has turned a focus on slow fashion for her and her family. Kylie is a wizard at making clothes for herself and her two adorable children.
Firstly could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a Kiwi, Mum to 3 year old Willow and 1 year old Murphy. Long time lover of second hand clothing, and more recent obsessor of sewing.
Could you tell us about what fast fashion is vs slow fashion?
Fast fashion is based on a “quick response” business model, where designs seen on the catwalk are copied, mass produced, and sold as cheaply as possible within a very short time - often in as little as a few weeks. We have become accustomed to lower priced clothing which means we are buying much more than we need, and having less respect for our clothes and the people who made them. This overconsumption and short production timeline is putting huge amounts of pressure on severely underpaid garment workers, and the environment too.
Slow fashion, on the other hand, is a more conscious approach. It’s supporting local, buying from sustainable and ethical brands, shopping pre-loved, creating your own, taking care of what you have, mending, up-cycling and altering. Being intentional about your purchases; choosing a versatile garment to work well in your wardrobe, or buying better quality which won’t need to be replaced after a few wears.
How did you get into boycotting fast fashion? Have you always been conscious about it or did something open your eyes?
I was completely oblivious a few years ago! I used to work for one of the bigger fast fashion companies in Aus/NZ so it was literally my job to try to get customers to buy more than they intended. Sales over a certain dollar value were rewarded with gift vouchers to spend WITHIN THE COMPANY. And I would often buy stuff at the end of my shift just to help my store meet daily targets. I cringe so hard when I think back!
So quitting fast fashion was actually a bit of a spur of the moment thing I did, without knowing much about it. I was about 3 days into 2019 when I read a blog post about this person who stopped buying new clothes for a year. I thought “yeah I could do that!” I started following a few accounts and hashtags on Instagram, where I learned a bit about about the environmental and human impact of the industry. What hit me hardest were the typical cost breakdowns of cheap clothing, where the rich get richer and the people churning out garment after garment are being paid mere cents. Just so we can greedily satisfy our desire for more.
Have you always been creative and into sewing?
I think my creative side has always been there, but it has come and gone through different seasons of my life. I used to sew a bit with my mum when I was a kid, but only got into it heavily in the last few years. When I was pregnant with Willow, I started collecting vintage/retro bed sheets. Some of them were pretty faded and thin down the middle, so I used the nice bits near the edges to make a little patchwork quilt for her. Soon I was replicating her little baby clothes, and then teaching myself how to follow a pattern.
I have a bit of an “I could probably just make that myself” kind of mindset, which is usually great because it’s a very handy skill to be able to make almost anything I want. But then it can be a little annoying sometimes when I end up with a giant list of things I’ve told myself I should make, and it becomes less joyful and artistic.
What are your favourite things to make?
I love making things that aren’t completely necessary. Warm clothes for my kids are practical and cute and all, but it’s more fun to make things just for the creative enjoyment. I made dragon wings for my daughter, because I thought she’d like them. They took over 13 hours to complete, and it felt like art, just quietly sewing, problem solving, creating something cool out of my scrap bin. The wings turned out amazing, but when I finally gave them to Wills she just said “oh, cool” and then didn’t even wear them for weeks, haha!
I also really love using fabrics I’ve found in op shops. I’m currently cutting out a new coat for myself out of a vintage wool double sided tartan blanket.
What are some tips you would give to someone that’s looking into stopping support fast fashion?
If avoiding it all together feels too hard or daunting, try taking it one purchase at a time.
Ask yourself: Could I buy something similar second hand? How much wear am I going to get out of this item? Was someone exploited so that I can have this garment?
What is the hardest thing about swapping from fast fashion to slow fashion?
For me it was the change of habit. I used to find it difficult to walk past a shop when it was on sale. I didn’t want to miss out on another $5 t-shirt or a bargain pair of jeans. But then I spent that first year avoiding malls altogether and it’s heaps easier now. I’ve formed some new habits - scoping out op shops instead of the big fast fashion stores, and scrolling the ever inspiring sewing community on Instagram instead of browsing in the mall.
For somebody else it may be that they’re not interested in sewing their own clothing, or they don’t like wearing second hand gear, or that buying locally & ethically is not always the cheapest option. It’s going to be a different struggle for each person.
What is the best thing about boycotting fast fashion?
Being on my high horse? ;-)
Where do you see the future of fashion going?
It’s an ever evolving industry, a few decades ago things started moving toward that super fast production. But now, we as consumers know better, so we’re asking for better. It’s not sustainable to keep going the way it has been, because workers can’t afford to feed themselves. They need to work, but they must be paid for it. So change is coming, I don’t claim to know what it will look like, but I do think that the change will be positive.
There are currently some incredible people working very hard to get international law changes, requiring a living wage be paid to all garment workers. If you’re interested, Livia Firth and Andrew Morgan have made a short documentary called Fashionscapes: A Living Wage which is well worth the watch!
Has Willow shown interest in sewing and making clothes yet?
She’s always asking to help me sew, but really she just wants to play with my scissors and pins! She’s very proud of her Mummy-made clothes though, and is excited to have her own sewing machine one day.
And finally what is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
When you receive good advice, write it down so that you know how to answer a question like this! Also, don’t overwater your plants. Also, drink more water!
You can keep up with Kylie (and her ridiculously cute children) on Instagram - @kylie.ricardo