Challenging myself – and you – to rethink fashion - FreedomUnited.org

Challenging myself – and you – to rethink fashion

  • Published on
    February 1, 2024
  • Written by:
    Kiki Lindenau
  • Category:
    Activists, Supply Chain
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I’ve always been someone who loves to buy new clothes for the sake of buying new clothes. For the longest time, I didn’t consider the consequences this may have for the world and the people who produce these garments. Then, I met Nasreen Sheik and everything changed. Nasreen is a wonderful person – and a survivor of modern slavery. Hearing about the condition in which she was forced to make pieces of clothing by hand, earning close to nothing, and only getting paid when she finished a certain number of items per day was shocking. She spoke about getting ill due to the toxins in the material and having to sleep in the factory. I had to learn more about the hidden truth of fast fashion. 

The problem with fast fashion 

Fast fashion is defined as “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” In pursuit of keeping the cost down as low as possible, fashion brands end up exploiting workers along their supply chains, subjecting them to inhumane conditions and unsustainable wages. According to the Global Slavery Index 2023, G20 countries are collectively importing US$148 billion worth of apparel goods and US$13 billion worth of textiles at risk of being produced by forced labor every year. It is estimated that one in five pieces of garments is produced with Uyghur forced labor. Read more here 

Pledging to commit to sustainable fashion 

When I learned about this, I knew I needed to change something. I found Freedom United’s fashion pledge – a first step to holding myself accountable. The pledge reads “I believe that style should never come at the expense of people or the planet.” That is something I could get behind!  

Through them, I learned more about forced labor and labor exploitation in the textile industry, which led to me quitting fast fashion as best as I could. It was hard in the beginning, the dopamine rush from buying new clothing items was missing, and it was difficult re-wearing my clothes more often when society pressures us to buy new clothes for every occasion. But then I started traveling and for the last 1.5 years now, I have been living out of a suitcase. This made me realize that I really don’t need many clothes.  

So now, I want to take it one step further.  

The “Rule of 5” against overconsumption 

This year, in 2024, I am taking on the “Rule of 5” challenge, developed by Tiffanie Darke. I was inspired by Emily, who owns lander line, and who spoke at Freedom United’s webinar on the relationship between consumerism and modern slavery. The rules are simple: I am allowed to buy only five new things for your wardrobe in 2024.  

What’s allowed:

  • Underwear and socks (only what is needed)
  • Renting
  • Altering
  • Swapping
  • Borrowing
  • Dressmaking
  • Thrifting

For all these, that the goal is to keep consumption as low as possible, so I am challenging myself not to go crazy.  

What’s not allowed:

  • Buying more than five pieces
  • Shoes and accessories

It sounds shocking at first but having the first month of the year behind us, I can already feel the effect. Being allowed to only buy five pieces, I really think about which ones are worthy enough. For me, these are going to be timeless pieces of high quality that I know I am going to wear over and over. Produced by ethical brands with a guarantee that there is no forced labor in their supply chains.  

In the end, it’s a small habit change that we can all do to help humanity and the planet. And why do we need that many clothes anyway? So, are you in?  

Make sure to follow us on Instagram to stay updated about my progress.  

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William F P
William F P
4 months ago

Of course I’m in (like anyone with half a brain – and a heart!) and have been doing this quite naturally – to eschew guilt if nothing else!

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