This is the story of how I went from fast-fashion obsessed to a slow fashion advocate back in 2016.
I didn't pay much attention to the clothes I was wearing before. I was really happy to get new trendy affordable clothing from fast-fashion retailers regularly, without caring about #WhoMadeMyClothes.
I was shopping at H&M, C&A, Adidas, ASOS, Esprit, Gap, Mango, NewYorker, Nike, Primark, Rip Curl, s. Oliver, Zara and more almost weekly.
I always get excited when buying new clothes. It's entertaining and a great way to feel your best in a new outfit. Expressing yourself through the clothing you pick is amazing to have more confidence and creativity.
I used to change my outfit 3 to 4 times per day. Trying out different combinations and styles is very enjoyable. I am happy when I look great.
But to be able to change outfits so often, I had to buy from fast fashion brands and retailers, where new cheap clothing comes in quickly.
I didn't care much about the latest trends. But I was obsessed with trying something new that would make me feel and look better.
I wasn't aware of the disastrous social and environmental impact my shopping habits had.
I love great clothing. Shopping for clothes is fun. It's a great activity to do with friends and family. It helps me relax, take time for myself, and focus on what I like.
Fashion fills a void and makes me feel like I am worth something. I was always looking for something new to try on.
Back then, I already knew that there was a better way to make clothes. With sustainable, natural or organic materials.
What I didn't know was that the large brands and retailers I was buying from support modern slavery and the destruction of our environment.
There are obviously positive aspects to slow fashion. But I wasn't aware of the huge negative consequences fast fashion was responsible for. Fast fashion is so much worse than I thought it was.
Unfortunately, it took me years to learn what fast fashion really is.
I didn't realize that I was wasting a huge amount of money on new clothing. I had no room left in my closet and I still had difficulties to dress up in the morning.
I didn't pay much attention to fashion blogs or magazines. So getting a new piece I just saw wasn't my primary motivation.
It was just fun for me to spent time in shopping malls and browse new clothes that could fit me.
I had already worked out my personal style, even if it changed a lot over the years. But I had the feeling of doing something good for myself every time I replaced old clothes with new ones.
I felt more confident than ever and truly empowered. I just didn't know about the negative impact I was having on the planet.
Fortunately, my interests and values started to change over time as I grew older. Now I truly want to inspire people to change as I did.
Fast fashion had tricked me into thinking that clothing was disposable. Buying clothes from fast fashion brands and retailers is so cheap. I could wear them one time and throw them away just as easily.
I didn't know that the clothes I was wearing weren't exactly ethically produced. I didn't feel guilty about anything in my wardrobe.
To me, new, trendy, inexpensive clothes pushed to high-street stores, shopping malls, and online outlets weekly were totally normal. It didn't see anything wrong with it.
I had barely known, during my childhood, the time where brands would only create new collections 2 to 4 times each year.
I wasn't exactly sure how fast fashion brands and retailers manage to sell new clothes so cheaply. I never questioned the materials used or the production locations and labor costs involved.
Fast fashion was already very popular in the 80s when it became the norm to transfer textile and apparel production to faraway countries.
I never heard about the dangerous working conditions, unfair wages, and environmental pollution. Fast fashion brands did their job well of hiding what was truly going.
Then, I saw Andrew Morgan's documentary “The True Cost” in 2016. This documentary presents the human and environmental impacts of the fashion industry.
I found out about the 2013 collapse of the clothing factory outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh, in which more than 1,000 people were killed and thousands more were seriously injured.
At the time of the collapse, the factory was producing clothing for major Western clothing brands.
With increasing price pressure and growing competition in the fashion industry, clothing manufacturers have to offer continuously lower prices to avoid losing customers.
Fast fashion was inevitable. Trendy, inexpensive garments manufactured at lightning speed in overseas factories and traded in thousands of chain stores worldwide.
To keep prices down, fast fashion brands have to cut manufacturing costs and employ workers from the poorest countries in the world.
I never thought much about where my clothes came from. But I was shocked when I started learning more about the people and places behind the labels in my closet.
The apparel industry employs millions of the poorest workers in the world. 80% are women aged from 18 to 35. Many of them work in precarious conditions and are deprived of basic human rights.
The apparel and textile industry is also the second-largest polluter worldwide after the oil industry.
Almost 20% of the world's wastewater is produced by the fashion industry (U.N. Partnership on Sustainable Fashion, 2018).
20,000 liters of water are needed to produce one kilogram of cotton (WWF, 2020). Equivalent to a single t-shirt and jeans.
Cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides globally, although it uses only 2.4% of the world's arable land (WWF Panda, 2000).
Worldwide, 80% of the discarded textiles are destined for landfill or incineration (Global Fashion Agenda, Pulse of the Fashion Industry, 2017). Only 20% are actually reused or recycled. Up to 95% of the textiles that are deposited annually can be recycled.
I now realize that consumers will play a key role in calling for change.
We can start by reading clothing labels and thinking about where and how items are made before we buy them.
For what we already own, we can wash less, repair more, throw away less, and consider reselling.
We can give our wardrobes a longer life and deal with our clothes much less casually for ethical reasons.
It's my passion to work hard and do everything possible to positively influence the clothing industry and our consumer behavior.
Human rights violations such as child labor and forced labor must no longer exist.
I want to help the world and as many people as possible. I want to contribute to improving people's health, ensuring workers in the production chain have good working conditions, protecting the environment and changing the fashion industry.
I make sure that I am focused on this core task every day of the year.
I want to contribute to the achievement of the 17 most important goals of our time, for a sustainable and flourishing world.
The 17 Global Goals are political objectives of the United Nations, which are intended to ensure sustainable development on an economic, social and ecological level.
The goals were designed based on the development process of the Millennium Development Goals and came into effect on January 1st, 2016, with a term of 15 years (until 2030).
These goals can play an important role in achieving climate neutrality set out in the Paris Agreement in the second half of the 21st century.
The fashion industry is putting pressure on resources, polluting and degrading the natural environment and its ecosystems, and causing significant negative social impacts at local, regional and global levels.
Environmentally friendly clothing and awareness of a sustainable lifestyle are now very important to me.
In our consumer-driven society, the concept of a circular economy has become a priority due to demographic change and the scarcity of resources.
Waste collection, sorting, reuse, recycling, and energy efficiency are important elements for the transition to the sustainable and circular fashion industry. This transition depends on enabling technologies and creativity-based innovation.
Unfortunately, ethical and slow fashion is still very expensive and not accessible to most people. But it's a priority.
Fast fashion barely pays farmers and workers anything. Whereas slow fashion puts the well-being of people first.
Slow fashion also tries to minimize our carbon footprint, resource extraction rates, and consumption of clothing.
I made a commitment to slow fashion and I don't think I will ever be going back to fast fashion.
I now feel a stronger connection with every piece of clothing I own. I deeply care about who made them. I don't throw them away as easily as I used to.
I hope to contribute to the sustainable fashion community and use business as a force for good.
I am still at the very beginning of my slow fashion journey. I will share everything of importance as I learn more about conscious fashion.
I am now obsessed with low-waste, minimalism, veganism, and sustainable living.
I will continue my ethical fashion transformation and I encourage you to join me on this journey! It has changed my life for the better and will do the same for you.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.