Starting a sustainable business in isolation- Will COVID-19 end fast fashion?

One click. It’s as simple as that. One click and we contribute to an industry that is responsible for 10% of the annual global carbon dioxide emissions, 14-16 hour days for exploited workers and six bathtubs worth of water just to make one cotton t-shirt. 

 I’m not blaming the consumer here, we are sucked into a world of new collections, cheap prices, promo deals and free delivery, making it extremely hard to resist that £5 Boohoo Bandeau that would just go so well with my new Topshop jeans.

 However, fast fashion is a matter of supply and demand, and with the average customer wearing an item only 7 times before discarding it, we have to take individual responsibility for our contribution to an industry which produces 400% more clothes than it did 20 years ago. 

 As someone whose second home is a charity shop, who loves rooting through vintage sales and warmly welcomes hand-me-downs, I try as much as possible to follow a reduce, reuse, recycle mantra when it comes to fashion. Sustainability is was what I had in mind when starting my little clothing business – cydsline designs– during lockdown. I use 100% organic cotton black and white t-shirts, and source from charity shops and other second-hand stores when I can, upcycling them with hand-painted line-drawings to create a contrast print. I want the clothing I make to be indicative of people’s style; personal and unique, so all items are custom-made and can be personalised by sending in an image from which I can make the design from!

My brand would be nothing without Durham. I have been completely inspired by other student brands who started at university, especially Demoo Jeans, who upcycle second hand jeans with gorgeous ribbons and painted patterns. Seeing their entrepreneurship and incredible success made me think-maybe I can give that a go! Unfortunately two weeks into launching, lockdown was announced. I have been amazed at how well it’s been going despite this, where Durham’s tight-knit community has been integral in spreading the word through social media.

Starting a business based on a sustainable ethos has made me question whether there has been a paradigm shift in ethical consumption during this pandemic. The fashion industry has been hit hard recently, with clothing sales plummeting by 79% in April in the US alone. However, where there is deterioration, there is also increased exposure to the status-quo. 

“I think it’s an opportunity for all of us to look at [the fashion] industry and to look at our lives, to rethink our values and to think about the waste, the amount of money, the consumption, and the excess that we have all indulged in.”àDame Anna Wintour, Editor-in-chief of Vogue

Although the severe drop in clothing consumption is a reflection of the global economic uncertainty and limited public access to non-essential shops, Anna Wintour’s comments about the industry resonate. Patience is a virtue, and I believe that the patience we are exerting to stay in lockdown and reduce the spread of the virus comes with an abundance of time and space to reflect on our current behaviours. As a result, we can pay more attention to our relationship with fashion consumption to create a new future for the industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for people to resort to faded, pit stained and holey clothing, I just think we cannot continue to accept the blind consumerism that underpins so much of the fashion system. This means reducing the number of items we buy each year which contribute to the supply and demand cycle of fast fashion, reusing the clothes that you have instead of wearing them a few times and throwing them away, repurposing items with some creativity to express individual style, and most importantly, recycling them in a way that benefits others (by reselling or donating to charity).

Everyday choices. Ordinary decisions. Significant impacts.
Think before you click. 

To see more Cydsline Designs and how you can get one of your own – follow @Cydslinedesigns on Instagram!





Feature image by ev. Available on Unsplash

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