Conscious Consuming in a Fast Fashion World

Chances are you're reading this because you love fashion, but we all have to wear clothes. The question is: where do they come from and who made them?

Miron wears Kowtow overalls and top/ Tess Norquay trucker jacket/ Camille Walton earrings/ Kathryn Wilson boots/ Hand-made Pac man buttons. Photography: James O'Neill

Fashion Revolution Week falls on the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse which killed 1138 people and injured many more. And today, the effects of that disaster continue to reverberate around the world affecting the entire garment industry, and us, as consumers.

An increasing awareness and demand for transparency has forced designers and brands to rethink how to move forward in an industry where the speed of production has contributed to poor working conditions with manufacturers struggling to keep up with the supply and demand chain. The growth of fast-fashion has also led to an increase in landfill - as we accumulate more, we equally discard unwanted garments that might have been bought as a fast-fashion purchase.

Miron wears Kowtow Runaway Overall and Building Block rib top/ Tess Norquay trucker jacket/ Camille Walton earrings/ Kathryn Wilson boots/ hand-made Pac man buttons. Photography: James O'Neill

Jacket by  Tess Norquay.  Photography: James O'Neill.

Jacket by Tess Norquay. Photography: James O'Neill.

While the rise of E-commerce has enabled us to access the latest international trends and brands, what happens to those garments when they arrive in the mail and fail to fit? Do you return them or forfeit the international postage, adding them to a growing pile that's mounting up in the back of your wardrobe, eventually making it into the same landfill?  Either way, we need to be more conscious about how and what we consume. If we can't do it all the time, we can still shop with intent and ask the right questions.

If you're shopping online head to the label's ABOUT page to find out about their ethics and values.

Support local designers and labels and ask about their manufacturing processes. Their staff should be knowledgeable and willing to discuss how their garments are made.

For many emerging designers, including those on the NEW KID Designer Directory, working with a sustainable and ethical focus is the only way forward in the industry. 

Wellington-based Tess Norquay develops her garments with a focus on small quantities with an approach to minimal waste. But she doesn't deny that this presents a range of  challenges.

"The most challenging thing is striking a balance between clothes that are fun and exciting, but are still wearable over a variety of seasons and years," she says.  "I don't want to make something that someone wears only a couple of times, [and ] then [discards]."

The young designer says creating a "season-less wardrobe" is too often limited to basic shapes and colour palettes, but she is working towards a model that will bring the right components together.

"In terms of what needs to change [in the industry], I'd really like to see transparency in clothing production become more prevalent than it already is."

Even though there has been a major shift in the industry Tess feels that the process of buying clothing can be stressful when companies are not as transparent as they could be. 

"It would be nice to not have to worry about unconsciously condoning fast fashion," she says.

The Wellington-based designer and recent graduate of Massey University's College of Creative Arts (Fashion), hopes that as a result of an increasing awareness that everyone in the supply chain has the opportunity to be paid a living wage.

"I hear a lot of 'oh well, the people in sweatshops need work too', as a justification for the pitiful amounts they are paid, and it's not good enough...I'd like to see each garment that ends up on our shelves to be valued accordingly for the work that [has gone] into it," she says.

Shoot credits: Model: Miron Girmay from Kirsty Bunny Management / Photography: James O'Neill/ Hair and Makeup: Michele Perry/ Creative Direction and Styling: Sonia Sly

Special thanks to James Gilberd, Saba Girmay and Bex McGill for back stage assistance