This is the shirt that changed the way I shop.
It’s not made under fair trade principles. It’s not made using sustainable materials. It was made for fast fashion, but it and I are taking it slow, because this shirt began my journey to change the way I shop.
Because of this shirt, I have thought hard about how I shop and challenged myself to shop differently – to shop better. This shirt is a reminder of my resolve to shop in a way that has a positive impact on the world and the people I share it with, not a negative one.
This is the shirt that I saw in a fast fashion store in September 2012 when chambray shirts began to trend again. This is the shirt that I paid not-too-much for, but now know those who made it probably paid quite-a-bit for (cheap labour, cotton pesticides). This is the shirt that I was thrilled to bring home from the city and excited to wear for a few weeks. This is the shirt that disappointed me when, a couple months after buying it, it began to lose shape. The cotton got thinner, a small hole appeared on the back. This is the shirt that I resigned to the back of my wardrobe because, even though I thought it not ‘new’ enough to wear anymore, I still considered it too “new” to throw away.
This is the last piece of clothing that I had bought when I heard about a string of garment-factory fires and started to research the fashion industry. This was the shirt that I took out from the back of my wardrobe, when I went to see where my clothes came from. I looked at its tag: ‘Made in China’, a tag I’ve seen many times before. But this was the shirt that, for the first time, made me think about what it meant for something to be made in China. Who made it? Under what conditions? And how much were the paid? I had no answers and I felt guilty.
This is the shirt that I held on to while I learned about the ins and outs of ethical, sustainable, slow fashion. I began to buy pieces of clothing for their stories. I looked for clothing that was quality, timeless and designed to transcend trends. This was the shirt that, eighteen months after beginning to shop ethically, I began to see beauty in again. I realised that in old, worn-in pieces there can be comfort and a strong sense of personal style. I decided that this shirt would not go to landfill, but stay in my wardrobe for me to wear as the chambray shirt trend peaked and waned over the years (as all trends inevitably do). I mended the hole in the back and reconciled my guilt with buying into fast fashion, resolving instead to make my future shopping choices the best they can be – and encourage others to do the same.