You know that feeling you get when you've had a crappy week and you just need a pick me up? For lots of people (us definitely included), shopping is the answer. It's a Friday afternoon, the end of a long stressful week at work, and you just need a new pretty little black number to put you in a good mood for your weekend. You leave the shops exhilarated with your shiny new purchase and your mood has been lifted. But likelihood is, once the weekend is over you'll have worn it once and shoved it in the back of your closet, only to go through this whole thing week on week because god forbid you be seen in the same outfit twice. Sound familiar?
It's so easy to get caught in this loop, however since starting TEE, we've been reading up on the fast fashion industry and the effect it is having on the planet, and some of the facts are pretty scary; for instance, every Singaporean buys 34 items of clothing, and throws away 27!
Fast fashion has totally and utterly transformed the way we shop. Since huge high street chains like H&M, Zara, Cotton On and Primark have made clothes so affordable and accessible, it's taken out much of the decision process - if we want it, we'll buy it. This affordability alongside the fact that the racks and trends change every season, month, even week, we are shopping more than ever before. But have you ever stopped to wonder how your $5 t-shirt came to be so cheap? What is the true cost of it?
In order for brands to get their low-cost new collections manufactured and to the shop floor so quickly, they must do so as as cheaply and efficiently as possible and this inevitably means that environmental corners must be cut. The main criticisms of fast fashion are water pollution, its negative environmental impact, the use of toxic chemicals, and the sheer numbers that end up in landfill. For a full overview, we'd recommend checking out Alex James' docu called 'Slowing Down Fast Fashion', trailer here (there are a couple of others on Netflix too, so have a scout).
There has to be alternatives and we have to start shopping more mindfully. So you can imagine how chuffed we were when we found out that there was a shop in Singapore where you could clothes swap! On Sunday, we piled up two big bags full of our unwanted clothes (shamefully, a lot of them still had the tags on and had never been worn), and set out for The Fashion Pulpit, in Liang Court Mall (Clarke Quay)!
If you are a petite sized woman, then you're definitely in luck because there is lots here for you, but if you're on the taller side or on the curvier side, then there are still choices but be prepared for a lot more rummaging. Thankfully, we have both grown up as major TK-Maxx and charity shop experts so this was no problem - in fact, we welcomed the challenge!
The store is organised by colour, so take the time to really look through the racks to find your style, size and cut. Just so we could trial it, we went for the one off swap. Lizzy left with 8 items and Sophie left with 6 - not a bad haul for just $35! All the clothes that hung unloved in our wardrobes (for god-knows how long) will now get a chance for a second life.
So, how does it work?
There are 3 types of memberships:
- One off swap: $35 and you bring in 10 items to swap
- One month unlimited swapping at $88
- 3 months unlimited swapping at $208
- 6 months unlimited swapping at $398
They also hold events which encourage you to make used of old fabrics, such as making shoes out of leather leftovers or tote bags from old fabric swatches. Check out their Facebook page for upcoming events.
To delve a little deeper, we spoke to the founder and all-round glorious human behind The Fashion Pulpit, Raye Padit, and got to ask him a few questions:
TEE: What made you start The Fashion Pulpit?
RP: When I was starting my own line Peyar I never knew that fashion was the 2nd most polluting industry after oil. It was only when I heard the Rana Plaza accident in Dhaka, Bangladesh that I get to know the negative impacts of fashion, socially and environmentally. From that day onwards, I slowly change how I approach designing and conscientiously advocate my time in promoting and advancing sustainable fashion. I went from using new fabric to collecting waste fabrics from different fashion houses in Singapore for my designs. I started looking for group/s in Singapore who are focus on the fashion sustainability topic, after knowing that no groups existed yet I then started Connected Threads Asia that is focus in raising awareness and empowering consumer in making fashion a force for good.
I love the fashion industry, for me it was the question of do I want to be part of the problem or of the solution. Fashion is not just about buying and wearing the latest trend, we have a responsibility to play as a consumer.
TEE: What advice do you have for people who are just learning about the effect of fast fashion? What’s one easy change they can make today?
RP: When people hear sustainable fashion, they get very intimidated because it is hard to identify where to start. I would say go back to what you really value or identify the cause you are willing to fight for. If you feel strongly about animal rights, buy only products that are animal cruelty-free brands. If human rights are what drives you – buy only brands that have ethical practices. Or, just follow the 3 R’s of sustainable fashion:
1. REthink: Our dollar is our vote to what kind of fashion industry that we want to see in the future! The fashion industry’s product life-cycle uses processes that are hazardous for the environment as well as global communities. Support brands that ethically produce, choose organic versus synthetic, and support slow fashion versus fast fashion.
2. REduce: Fast fashion produces 52 micro seasons in a year. This means new fashion items are produced in bulk almost every week! Consumers might buy, but who can possibly use so much? Swapping optimises the excess that already exists in our closets, thus controlling wasteful production. Before you decide to buy, think twice, do you really need it? In Singapore alone, we throw 150,000 tonnes of textile waste (approx 120 tees per person). Make sure to maximise the clothes you already own before buying new ones.
3. REuse: Swapping, upcycling, and using second-hand items is an alternative to consumerism. It doesn’t take away from the material joys from people but instead encourages them to change their mindset in how they consume. Hence, it stops us from engaging in impulsive buying patterns. Pre-loved clothing makes sustainable consumption joyful! Think before you buy or throw a shirt, that takes 2700 litters of water to produce (approx. 2 years of drinking water for an average person).
TEE: What are you personal goals? What is it that drives you?
RP: I have a lot lol. But, what I wanted to see the change of mindset towards how we use fashion and our relationship towards our clothes. What drives me is the idea that there are still tonnes of things to do to make fashion a force for good.
TEE: What do you think the fashion industry will look like in 20 years?
RP: Fashion will always thrive and what I want to see in the next 20years is that we will no longer have this conversation because sustainability is embedded from all fashion businesses and consumers.
Hopefully, we've given you a little something to think about with this and perhaps there were some things mentioned that you just had no idea about. And listen, it's never going to be as easy as going completely cold turkey, but even just acknowledging that this is the fact of the industry will hopefully lead us all to make more mindful choices as consumers. Yes sometimes you might need that Zara shirt, and that's cool - just make sure you wear it! It's the impulsive, excessive shopping for the sake of whacky trends or for one-off events that we need to get out the habit of. Swapping clothes, shopping second hand, repairing old clothes - these all give beautiful clothes a second life and means it delays their sentence to landfill. We must be better with our clothes, and we must reduce our contribution to landfill.
Small steps people!