We Profiled 4 Indians Who Have Given Up Fast Fashion - Homegrown

We Profiled 4 Indians Who Have Given Up Fast Fashion

Fast Fashion (n) A phenomenon in the fashion industry whereby production processes are expedited in order to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible, as defined by this website.

With a new H&M opening up around every other corner, and seemingly magnanimous sales announced by Forever 21 every other week, fast fashion has climbed right into bed with us, and is here to stay. From two main seasons, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, we now have 52 “microseasons” per year with new trends flooding stores every week too. All this so that consumers have reason to come back to the store every week, and buy something new to wear—a pattern that’s more affordable than ever before too. This industry is wholly an embodiment of the nature of most of our choices these days - cheap, quick and easy access. Have you ever stopped to wonder why your clothes, from fashion houses from Sweden and Spain, are priced as low as they are?

As irresistible as 800 rupee distressed jeans that look like they’re straight off the ramp are, the truth of the matter is that someone is paying for these clothes - just not you. Low wages, intensive labour and mass production are factors that drive low cost fashion, and oftentimes the effects of these are further reaching than we can imagine. This industry is devastating the environment, and in ways we can’t even fathom. According to GreenPeace, a typical pair of jeans takes 7,000 litres of water to produce. For a t-shirt, it takes 2,700 litres of water to make just one – that’s the amount of water an average person drinks over the course of 900 days! Fancy that, coming from a country whose biggest war will be waged against water scarcity. They also go on to say that each year, over 80 billion pieces of clothing are produced worldwide, and after its short lifespan, three out of four garments will end up in landfills or be incinerated. Only a quarter will be recycled. We wonder, is this fashion still as cheap as you once thought it to be?

While this is situation is most definitely a cause for concern, more and more seem to be aware of its perils too. In fact, we manage to track down more than a few people who are taking steps in the right direction in an effort to eliminate fast fashion from their own lives. We’ve profiled people who have given up fast fashion, to switch to something that is sustainable, environmentally friendly and still fashionable all the same.

Sheena Best, Editor and Creative Director at Lover


HG:
How long has it been since you gave Fast Fashion up?

SB: It has been several years. High school was the last time I properly shopped for fast fashion (mostly during sales overseas). In the years since, it’s only been a handful of times. I’m thirty now.

HG: What were your reasons for doing so? How did you decide to do it?

SB: Early on, it was because I absolutely hated and still hate synthetic fabrics on my skin. I didn’t like the throwaway quality of fast fashion and I noticed how quickly and badly it responded to being laundered. I wasn’t aware of the environmental impact of fashion until I was older. I also discovered thrifting when I was in school and I loved both the bargain and the thrill of finding clothing that nobody else had.

HG: In what ways did the switch affect you and your personal style?

SB: For one, it led me to actually discovering my own personal style. Thrifting was a mixed bag and I experimented a lot, and my style was no longer dictated by trends. My money also went a lot further.


HG: Where do you get your clothes from now? Have you started getting stuff tailored?

SB: I mostly buy stuff from Indian designers I like. I have no problem wearing the same stuff over and over. I still thrift shop when I travel, I love a rummage, I can’t resist vintage Ralph Lauren and I shop whenever there are pop-ups in Bombay. They’re also listed in this piece. Sometimes I buy textiles when I travel so I’ll get those tailored into outfits once or twice a year. I get stuff tailored mostly to extend its life, so I alter stuff a lot.

HG: Do you think anything about the ‘fast fashion’ conversation is different in the Indian context?

SB: It’s a recent phenomenon for one. Both domestic and international fast fashion retailers are now each pushing hundreds of new styles onto shop floors every few weeks and with our collective spending power, that’s a lot of damage. It’s also equally scary because we’re one of the producers of fast fashion and our own resources and rivers are fast depleting or dying as a result.

HG: Do you genuinely believe that almost anyone in India can make the switch? Is affordability an issue?


SB: I genuinely do. It requires a change of mindset above all. I would argue I spend less than most fast fashion consumers. You have to want better things, rather than more.

For advice on how to build a sustainable wardrobe, read Sheena’s story here.

Ahaana Khosla, Fashion Journalism Student

HG: How long has it been since you gave Fast Fashion up?

AK: About 4 years. I haven’t walked into a Primark store since 2014, but I have to admit I haven’t given up fast fashion completely. As a student on a budget it’s very difficult to ‘give up’ fast fashion. But I have made a commitment to slow down the way I shop - in order to be more sustainable.

HG: What were your reasons for doing so? How did you decide to do it?

AK: I decided soon after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2014. The collapse was an eye opener for me and I began to get involved with the Fashion Revolution. I wrote to brands asking them where their clothes were made and got no responses. This made me realize that this was an issue that most people chose to turn a blind eye to.

HG: In what ways did the switch affect you and your personal style?

AK: The change hasn’t really affected personal style or me much. But yes, when I’m walking down oxford street and see sale signs all over H&M, it is quite difficult to resist walking in, but invariably I don’t walk in and save myself the guilt and the unnecessary pinch on my wallet.

HG: What advice do you have for someone who may want to make the switch?

AK: To be perfectly honest, I think it is almost impossible for someone to shop completely ethically or sustainably, so my only advice to someone thinking of making the switch would be to slow down the way you shop. If you buy one fast fashion item a week, change that to a month and invest in fewer items that may be more expensive but will last longer.

HG: Where do you get your clothes from now? Have you started getting stuff tailored?

AK: No I don’t really get stuff tailored but I do love ethical fashion brands like Reformation and make a conscious effort to shop there as much as possible.


HG: Do you think anything about the ‘fast fashion’ conversation is different in the Indian context?

AK: I think fewer people in India are aware of the ‘fast fashion’ conversation and I’m not sure if most people even think it’s a problem since over 70% of fast fashion production happens in countries like India.

HG: Do you genuinely believe that almost anyone in India can make the switch? Is affordability an issue?

AK: To be perfectly honest, like I mentioned previously I think it is very difficult to make a ‘switch’ completely. Affordability is definitely an issue but what needs to change is the way people think. While it is completely natural for someone to want to get the most out of their buck, this throwaway fashion culture needs to change. People need to understand that while investing in a slow fashion item may not seem like the reasonable thing to do at the time, because the fast fashion alternative is so much cheaper- it all adds up and doesn’t pay off in the long run.


Aditya Fernandes, Graphic Designer

HG: How long has it been since you’ve given it up?

AF: About 3 years now, while living in London.

HG: What were your reasons for doing so? How did you decide to do it?

AF: I got tired of walking into high street fashion stores and seeing SO much clothing that couldn’t possibly be bought in the time before the next season of new designs came in. I also noticed that often the quality was quite poor and fabrics didn’t even feel nice. Almost all the labels on the clothes said “Made in India/Vietnam/Bangladesh” and I was trying to consume more locally, even with the food I ate. After watching documentaries and hearing about the Rana Plaza incident, and learning about just how polluting the industry is I decided I could no longer support it. Overall it didn’t feel ethical, to have zero connection to the clothes I was wearing, and to know that people were being exploited on the other end.

HG: In what ways did the switch affect you and your personal style?

AF: It has done wonders for my personal style, I now wear only things that I design which is terribly exciting. My fashion designer mum showed me that I could get high quality garments made at very reasonable prices and my money went straight to the fabric supplier and tailor. And these are clothes that I have now been wearing for 1 to 3 years.

HG: What advice do you have for someone who may want to make the switch?

AF: Start being more self-expressive by getting your clothes made for you. Buy high quality fabrics and go to a tailor. Take any clothes that you already own that fit you well and get it copied in a fabric of your choice. India has such a huge variety of textiles so it is really easy and fun.

HG: Where do you get your clothes from now? Have you started getting stuff tailored?

AF: Yes! My mum has good suppliers of pure cotton and handloom textiles which I buy fabric from. I also head to Okalipuram to get more funky fabrics. I pretty much only wear tailored things now, apart from a few shirts and a pair of trousers that are classics / won’t go out of style. It’s great because I pay way less for something way more me and that means I have total control over how I express myself.

HG: Do you think anything about the ‘fast fashion’ conversation is different in the Indian context?

AF: I don’t think anyone in India even knows what “fast fashion” means, and that really scares me because there needs to be more talk and action against it and it is not happening. Modern, urban India needs to realise that fashion, especially fast fashion, is something that you can choose not to subscribe to.

I don’t get the hype over foreign brands setting up here. I personally like to dress differently, so I don’t bother even checking out their products. But a lot of people I know buy into it like it’s the only choice they have to be cool or trendy to move the fashion scene forward, which is not the case.

HG: Do you genuinely believe that almost anyone in India can make the switch? Is affordability an issue?

AF: YES. Instead of paying ₹3000+ for a shirt from a foreign brand that everyone else has, I now pay ₹1000, for something that really fits me as its tailored. We have the choice to spend a lot of money on foreign brands that are probably made in India by underpaid factory workers, or spend a lot less money on something one of a kind, made by a tailor in your city, with your own design input!

Ashima Gandhi, Founder and Creative Director at Stray Style

HG: How long has it been since you gave Fast Fashion up?

AG: I was never really into fast fashion. Back in the day, people used to hold a certain pride in owning brands and at some level I was influenced by the rush and would pick up a few styles on sale. However, there was less charm in those clothes picked up from a mall as I could easily spot some people wearing the same. I have always been a thrift shopper, and still am. Along with that, I started making my own outfit about an year ago or more. About 8 months back, when I launched my website, I had a vision to focus and collaborate with sustainable fashion labels. My first post was titled “slow down.” Ever since, slow fashion became a conscious choice.

HG: What were your reasons for doing so? How did you decide to do it?

AG: I found many reasons with time to be convinced to make this change over the years. Homogeneity in fashion triggered it and I started to reject trends. There has been an old perception about fashion being frivolous, which always made me uncomfortable. I moved away from such stereotypes and started to learn about the craft, fabrics, colour theory for the love of story and purpose.Slow fashion brought an awareness about the process and helped me to recognise my personal style, comfort and originality in it’s own way.

HG: In what ways did the switch affect you and your personal style - affordability/variety/etc

AG: The biggest challenge was to find happiness in less. I can say, it exists. I do not own as many clothes as I used to and I am absolutely comfortable in repeating an outfit. It’s a creative process to mix & match, and make a whole new style from the same wardrobe. It really helped me to evolve as a fashion stylist and create new and quirky ways to wear the same garment.

HG: What advice do you have for someone who may want to make the switch?

AG: To begin with, I would say “Do not follow trends.” I think fast fashion thrives on trends and fashion forecasts. I don’t understand why are we so concerned about what’s in and what’s out? We let trends and seasonal forecasts define fashion for us, which leads to consumerism. In such a creative industry, we modify what we need and what we want on the basis of market. When we realise that fashion is a celebration of individuality, an expression; our outlook towards fast fashion begins to change.

HG: Where do you get your clothes from now? Have you started getting stuff tailored?

AG: It’s a fair mix between thrift shopping and tailor made clothes. I love culture and often pick up textiles from different states and countries while travelling, and make my own outfit. It feels right! Also, I have my favourite contemporaries like Bias, Doodlage, Péro. When possible, I am happy to buy from them.

HG: Do you think anything about the ‘fast fashion’ conversation is different in the Indian context?

AG: Yes! It’s identity. As Indian, we are constantly stuck between western vs. Indian. Post globalisation, we found ourselves in the middle of different cultures and identities. I remember, back in the day a woman wearing a saree / ethnic wear would be seen conservative and somebody sporting a jeans would be considered liberal. Teens to home makers, many were in a dilemma suddenly. Such labels and stereotypes have confused us at a major level.

HG: Do you genuinely believe that almost anyone in India can make the switch? Is affordability an issue?

AG: I believe it’s not as big a question of affordability as much as it’s about finding a connection with the garment and to have personal touch just like good old days. My mom’s eyes shine with great memories when she shows me her collection of saris, which are still as new as ever. I believe, no matter what the situation be, it’s always about our own choices. So, why not? About ethical clothing, India crafts and textiles, I would just like to say that all of this, have always been here. I see hashtags “bring sari back” and I wonder where did the sari go anyway? Our perspective and attention had drastically changed post globalisation. I feel conscious and ethical fashion is not a trend as it may seem at first; it’s a revolution.

If you or anyone you know has given up Fast Fashion, please write in to us at [email protected] with the subject ‘Fast Fashion’


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