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The Year I Ditched Fast Fashion

Nov 16, 2018
Article by Claire Van Ryn

It all started innocently enough. A flippant New Year’s resolution. A fun challenge to take on with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, and then a bunch of friends who later caught on when they read about it on my blog.

We resolved not to buy a single piece of new clothing for a whole 12 months. Every clothing item accumulated for our wardrobes in the 2017 year had to be pre-loved; purchased at markets, op shops, garage sales, Facebook fashion pages, Gumtree, eBay. Except underwear. Underwear was the exception.

We’d seen the docos and the horrifying statistics of waste, environmental damage and worker exploitation, and we felt uncomfortable about it. The fashion industry is seriously out of control. I mean, when Australia alone sends 500,000 tonnes of textiles and leather to landfill every year, we need to be asking some questions.

Here are some more jolt-you-fromyour- fashionista-reverie stats: according to Roy Morgan Research, 1.7 million Aussie folk buy a new pair of jeans every month. Fashion journalist and sustainable fashion advocate Clare Press reckons that women these days are wearing garments an average of seven times each, and they only wear 40 per cent of what’s in their wardrobe. At least our unwanted fashion goes to the local Salvos or Vinnies, you say. Well, word has it that only 15 per cent of garments donated to charities are actually sold, with the rest sent to developing nations, sold as rags or, you guessed it, thrown on the tip.

Fashion has become as disposable as coffee cups, and not much more expensive. And therein lies the problem. Sorry, I’m on a roll here, I’ll get back to the story in a sec. But people of my grandparents’ vintage remember a simple wardrobe with one or two “Sunday best” outfits. Now, if I have a cocktail party on the calendar, I’ll head to the wardrobe where I’ll find about 20 options, and then I’ll go and buy something new because “I’ve already been seen wearing it” or “I couldn’t find anything.” At least, that’s what I used to do.

Last year changed everything. It sounds dramatic, but scrutinising my spending habits was seriously lifechanging. That #nonewclothesforayear challenge revealed some uncomfortable truths about my fashion consumption. Maybe you’ll identify with some of them.

Firstly, I’m an emotional shopper. I used to shop to feel good about myself. Having a bad day? Shopping was my cure. But it never provided a lasting solution to whatever had upset my equilibrium. Last year I found other ways to handle emotional lows: walking in nature, a cuppa with friends, art, prayer, journaling, healthy food, a jog. These things left my heart feeling full, where a fashion splash tended to give me a short high before disappointment set in.

Secondly, I learnt that it’s easy to shop second-hand. The turnover of fashion is so fast that a small commitment to scour op-shops and markets comes up with the goods. I didn’t even compromise on quality and favourite brands. They’re all there. It just takes a bit of time. Some of my favourite finds: a caramel-coloured doublebreasted jacket, a pair of black and white culottes, a denim pinafore dress and high-waisted jeans. Each would have retailed well above $100, but I bought them all for about $60 and with the knowledge that my purchases were alleviating the fast fashion crisis. One garment at a time, right?

Thirdly, the fashion industry is a very loud voice telling us we need more, more, more. We don’t. Most of us need less. Part of the stress of deciding what to wear (any day of the week, to be honest) is caused by having too many clothes to choose from. We need to get better at savvy shopping: selecting quality base garments that won’t go out of fashion, that suit our unique body shape and character, and won’t fall apart on the second wash. This is tied to self confidence and body image. Being ok with the way you are, happy to express your unique and wonderful differences. The minimalist movement has entered the wardrobe and gosh it feels good. To purge yourself of single-use clothes so that every item is something you wear often and love, well, it’s an art but it’s an art worth learning.

This year I altered the criteria so that I could buy new clothes, as long as I was satisfied that they were ethically made. That is a much harder undertaking, let me tell you. There are great apps, research, blogs and podcasts to help scout out brands that are doing the right thing. But I’ve found it easier to buy second-hand, or not at all. Fashion is no longer an addiction for me. I like wearing pretty things but I’ve seen the grip it had on my head, my wallet and my body image. Clothes are a fun way of expressing yourself, but they don’t define me.

To market, to market… Look up these Tassie clothing markets on social media:

The Clothing Cupboard @theclothingcupboard Pop-up market at venues around Tasmania.

My Closet Market @MyClosetMarket St Ailbes Hall, Launceston, every two months. Next: June 30, 12-3pm.

Overdressed Market @overdressedmarket City Hall, Hobart. Next: May 20, 10am-2pm.

Preloved Clothing Market @prelovedclothinghobart Various markets and clothes swaps, once a month at various Hobart venues.

The Clothing Exchange @clothingexchangeaustralia A clothes swap event at different times and places around Tas and Aus


Other great resources:

The Good On You app: gives a star rating for clothing brands based on their manufacturing processes. Free on the app store.

The 30 Wears Challenge: every time you buy something new, ask yourself if you will wear it a minimum of 30 times.

Build a capsule wardrobe: a collection of a few essential items that won’t go out of fashion and can be paired with seasonal garments.

Listen to Clare Press’ podcast: The Wardrobe Crisis (

Research your fav brands via the annual Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Guide (Google it).

Photos by Claire Van Ryn & Overdressed Market

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