Category Archives: Fashion/lifestyle

Fast fashion: about as good as fast food.

To kick off this extended review of Lucy Siegle’s book, “To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?” I’ll start with a bit of personal background (which kind of reflects the way Lucy guides her discussion in the book, something that I found quite helpful). The next bit will look at some of the core points from the book that particularly interested me, and the last bit will be a critique and discussion of what I think Lucy could have expanded, and where I think I will expand my fashion future. 

In my first year of Uni I met some amazing people. They seemed to know so much more about why the world was so screwed up. Young and eager, I wanted to do right by myself, and others, but I didn’t really know how. I tried to educate myself by attending Oxfam’s meetings about Fair Trade, and joined the Greens on campus. I began to question everything I bought. How was it made, and by who, and at what real cost? It sounded “green,” but was it? What’s the alternative? The questions always seemed particularly pertinent when it came to clothes and shoes (now it’s food). I started appreciating my mother’s addiction to buying things second hand, and bought a pair of No Sweat sneakers, which I walked to Uni in almost daily until they got holes in the soles (it didn’t take long, actually, and I felt a little betrayed to be honest). This is about the time fast fashion, the topic at the centre of Siegle’s book, began to kick off in New Zealand. Anyone who has bought a few new items at a mall in the last few years will know what I’m talking about: clothes and shoes that have become so cheap that even students can somehow afford them. Lots of them. Enough to be on trend for every trend. Then came the fashion blogs, which made buying all these cheap items socially acceptable (with a few gifted luxury extras): if these individuals, who now work with labels at the design level and get interviewed by international fashion magazines, could do it, surely everyone could. With fast fashion, it was. It was all incredible enticing. Like Lucy, when fast fashion emerged, I simply stopped having time to think about the wider consequences of the garments I was about to buy. Every sale item felt like a score, not a sore, even in my fairly eco-conscious mind.

One day I just stopped reading the countless (literally…I was too lazy to count them) fashion blogs in my google reader. I felt tired, and the magical fairy dust of fast fashion wore off. It’s a bit like the feeling you get after having too much fast food actually. Boy do the first few bites feel worth it, but then you need a lie down. Well, during this lie down, I stopped being interested in acquiring the next addition to my wardrobe (which had overflowed so much I had to dedicate a second rack to my wearables). Don’t get me wrong, there are pieces I still adore, and I haven’t stopped caring what I put on in the morning. There are still things I admire (even started a fashion blog dedicated to my admiration). I’m still not sure why I stopped wanting to buy new things, but when I read the blurb of Lucy’s book I felt like my neglected conscience finally broke out and did a smug little dance. My willful ignorance had finally found an exit.

As it turns out, the rather grisly truths about fast fashion were far worse than my conscience had imagined. When Lucy told her story about being sucked in to the sales rack, I felt relieved that I wasn’t alone. This relief soon turned into horror at the reality of continued sweatshop labour that has arguably gotten worse since the Nike and Gap scandals, and remorse for the people (mostly women) making our frivolous bargains a reality. Then there’s the guilt and fear about the ecological consequences of fast fashion that will inevitably come back to haunt us. My boredom with fast fashion turned into revulsion when reading Lucy’s book. I felt physically sick at some points, because quite unlike with food, the fast fashion purchases I had made were totally unnecessary – not just in a survival sense, but I mean they did not make me more popular, or happy…hell, some of my fast fashion doesn’t even make me look more attractive (and I know I’m not alone in doing this!). They were made in vain, in all the senses of the word.

It has been a few weeks since I finished the book, and now I feel a bit empty (not in an emotional way, just in a bit of a “now what?” way). I’ve had a peek at my long-dormant fashion blog feeds, scrolled through some relatively inspiring sustainably-minded designers, and currently am re-coveting some $200 bike pants I’ve been wanting for over a year. No new fashion purchases in months, although I did attend a clothing swap. I don’t feel empowered at all though, and I will elaborate on this in my eventual critique, but for now, I’m still waiting to be woken up, this time not into the nightmare that is the real world, but hopefully something that I realise is not a dream after all.





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Eco survival week at UC

A quick message about Eco Survival Week on campus from the 11-15 October. Check out the awesome events and hop along to some if you have time. There are so many amazing events I’d love to get involved in but since two of my papers didn’t get offered formal extensions, I need to get myself into writing mode!

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Filed under Events, Food, Free, gardening, Pre-loved clothing

Fair trade clothing in NZ

Cue Micah clothing, a Salvation Army initiative that is bringing fair trade clothing to New Zealand. It looks like they’re still starting out, as they aren’t yet available in retail stores, and their prices are really reasonable (especially the sale items, which offer tees from $15). I’m keenish to get this economics t-shirt, but to be honest, I’m really not short on tees at the moment. Also, it seems a little unfair to generalise to all economics textbooks, although I recognise the Adbusters reference to Mankiw’s economic textbook (used by most first year macroeconomics students).

They currently have a design competition going, with $250 worth of clothing as the prize, so if you’re visually inclined or even just want something specific on a t-shirt and think it’ll be popular enough, why not try sending them something? I might send them some stuff without expecting the prize thingee since it seems like a worthy cause and I like playing around on Photoshop. If you have any text suggestions, leave a comment.

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Biking love

Just discovered a new blog called bicyclette – very pretty so far, it really makes me feel all whimsical about biking again. Also the peterboro basket is actually awesome – for US$46, it comes with a lifetime warranty. Who does that anymore?! The only thing I’d be concerned about is that it’s pretty easy to steal, and considering how gorgeous it is, I’d probably be pretty upset if that happened.

While we’re on the topic of motivating bike blogs, if you’re needing a little extra motivation with the onslaught of freezing cold winter mornings, check out the following blogs all dedicated to making biking seem less daunting, especially style-wise (we’re talking heels and dresses here though). While most of these seem to feature people without helmets (a definite no-no in my opinion), they certainly do inspire!

Maybe it’s just the image conscious consumer in me.

If you’re interested in practical but wearable city biking attire and have a few hundred dollars to blow, then look no further than Outlier! I posted about their pants a few days ago. Still. Want. If you want a nice page that shows all the garments they’re selling, check the shop page.

Also, Frocks on Bikes organise activities that encourage gorgeousness whilst biking – they’re nationwide, so check them out.

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Pants for biking

Ok, I may be breaking my own rules about what goes on this blog, just a little. However, I think I can say with some confidence that any females reading will appreciate this (although, there is a man version which came out first…but I’m getting ahead of myself).

Biking in jeans, rain pants or a skirt can be perilous, so these pants? Just what every bike-riding girl would want, especially if they biked to work in them. Sadly, I do not have US$180 spare (plus upward of $30 shipping), but they’re a beautifully tailored pair of pants that are pretty and practical. That doesn’t exactly sound revolutionary, but trust me, it is. Especially when it comes to bikewear.

Also, how about a round of applause for a biking apparel company that doesn’t even touch on the subject of lycra? Not a hint of fluorescent to be seen. Bravo.


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The Uniform Project

uniformprojectFeeling like a little fashion fixation? Yes yes, we’ve heard it all before: “fashion with a conscience” – like those “buy one pair of shoes and an underpriveleged child will get another pair!” deals that I always question the point of. However, despite all that gimmicky nonsense, I can’t help liking The Uniform Project. Basically, the idea is getting 7 dresses, all the same, and using vintage, pre-loved items (and anyone can donate items to the cause as well) to create a new look every day. Even nicer is that the entire site is a fundraiser for the Akansha foundation, a non-profit which works to provide education to Indian children in slums.


Yes, thank you, I can indulge in caring about style while I read “Approaches to theorizing international communication” (which is a pretty good summary of the last three years worth of my Mass Communication degree…the summary-ness of it may be why I got a little distracted…ahem).

…On close inspection, maybe I just wish I had those legs 😛

Happy perusing for the week!

UPDATE: They are now finished for the year but it looks like there will be another follow up. The first year raised just under $80,000 and put more than 200 kids in school, yay! Also there’s this great discussion going on “sustainable fashion”.

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Filed under Fashion/lifestyle, Pre-loved clothing