At What Cost?

Hey, nice shirt! 

Where’s it from? 

No, I don’t mean what store, I mean where is it actually from? 

That’s a question we need to be asking ourselves more - Where do our clothes actually come from? The problem of fast fashion is a tough reality for us to face, but at drastic times like these we have to confront the hard truth. So what exactly is fast fashion you ask? Simply put, it’s trendy clothes and accessories at super-cheap prices. Copying styles inspired by high-fashion runways, it’s hard to resist these fashionable and affordable items. 

But it’s not just your wallet that’s paying for this. It’s the environment and those most vulnerable within the fashion industry who have to deal with the real cost of fast fashion. Did you know that the fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluter after the oil industry? Think about that. Australians are the world’s second largest consumers of textiles, buying on average 27 kilograms of new clothing and other textiles each year. Is this really necessary? Especially considering that in just Australia alone, more than 500,000 tonnes of textiles end up in landfill each year.

What’s more devastating is the impact on the people involved. One in six people work in the global fashion industry yet the majority of these workers are women earning less than $3 per day. It’s plain to see how unethical this is.

It’s not all doom and gloom and end of the world from here though. There are so many simple methods we can undertake to minimise our impact. It’ll guarantee you peace of mind, a rocking wardrobe and possibly more change in the piggy bank. 

        1. Be Shop-Savvy 
There’s this little gem called The Ethical Fashion Guide which annually reviews and sheds light on what companies are doing to address labour exploitation. With a handy grading system ranging from an F to an A+, it’s a tool you can carry around with you whilst shopping. You can sigh with relief knowing that companies such as Cotton On Group, Zara and Bonds are at the top of their books. 

2. Think Local 
Here in Australia we are spoilt with so many talented designers and artists. More often than not, these small businesses remain ethical by sourcing local materials and supplies and by paying their workers fairly. Why not kill two birds with one stone and support our Aussie businesses whilst shopping sustainably? 

For minimalist, staple pieces, try Oakie Label and Ricepaper the LabelAuguste the Label and The Only Label are great for pretty, everyday wear. Check out Jericho Road ClothingTogetherness Design and Tara Whalley for some colourful and playful designsFor funky festival wear, Flare Street is your go-to. Some ethical swimwear brands include In Your Arms and Pretty Pool Swimwear.
Or try Kat the Label for some lovely lingerie

3. Round Up Your Friends
    In the depths of your closet, you’ll be sure to find a deep, dark hole of forgotten and unworn clothes that need a new home. And the wondrous thing is, your friends are probably in the same boat. Why not get together and do a clothing swap? That top you always envied could be all yours. 

4. Can We Go Thrift Shopping? 
    It’s time to hit up your local Vinnies or Salvos again. They’re your one-stop shop for all your one-off finds without that expensive price tag. Whether you find some oversized tees, daggy sweaters or patterned pants, you’ll also be supporting the charities that run them. I’ve even gathered the assistance of my friend Rochelle to showcase some of the fresh looks you can put together from the humble op shops. Yep, everything – down to the shoes – are secondhand. Let me know below which look is your favourite.


So yes, a disclaimer is needed here. I, like many others, can admit I am not perfect with this. Not even close. We live in a consumerist society where this has become the norm. So I'm not asking you to never step foot into a shopping centre again or stay up at night beating yourself up because you bought something on sale... I'm asking you to be be open and aware of the impact fast fashion has. Any little step you may take, if that's just venturing into your first op shop or deciding not to buy a tee that you know you didn't need, is a great step in itself. Change doesn't begin overnight. Change begins with people realising they have a choice; that we all have a part to play in this cycle. 

This article first appeared in Universal Magazine Edition 34: Trends

Statistics obtained from: 
Fiona Pepper, Australia’s obsession with new clothes and ‘fast fashion’ textiles hurting the environment, ABC Radio Melbourne (Jan 2017)
Baptist World Aid, Ethical Fashion Report (2017)
1 Million Women, 5 crazy facts from new fashion documentary ‘The True Cost’ (June 2015),
Jennifer Kurdyla, 4 Facts You Need To Know About Fast Fashion, Peaceful Dumpling (June 2015)


  1. This is an awesome and extremely relaxant post! Thanks Maggie - Mia x


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