Is quarantine the perfect time to give up fast fashion for good?

workshop sewing

By the time you read this the UK will have been under lockdown for roughly one week, and our lives as we know them have been drastically changed. We don’t know how long it will last before these restrictions start to ease off, but it has me wondering whether our habits will be the same when we come out the other side – and with regards to clothes shopping, is that necessarily a bad thing?

For starters we’re not able to shop as much and hopefully we’ll realise we don’t need as much. I’ve come back to Glasgow from London and I’ll be living on a capsule (read: suitcase) wardrobe for over a month. There’s no point in buying anything new – there’s nowhere to go. So will I feel the need to treat myself to as many new things to wear when we return to normal?

I’ve become increasingly bored of Instagram influencers ‘living their best lives’ posting a new ‘gifted’ outfit every day and encouraging their followers to buy something unnecessary to keep up with impossible trends that change as soon as we buy into them. Instead of chasing trends in the now closed high street shops, we should aim to stop shopping fast fashion once and for all and start to support small businesses that actually need help paying their bills. Apparently it takes roughly 66 days to form a habit – if we’re under quarantine for three months we can kick our high street shopping one – the high doesn’t last that long anyway.

H&M, Zara and Topshop will probably come out of this situation relatively unscathed. The girl making a living selling hand-made dresses from her spare room may not. Shop small and you get the feelgood factor of knowing you’re helping a real person with real feelings.

As a freelance illustrator I know too well the feeling when someone makes a purchase from my Etsy shop – it’s just a few pounds to them but to me it’s someone who has parted with their hard-earned money and chosen to spend it on something I’ve created – it feels bloody great!

I understand a lot of us are worried about paying our own bills, and not in a position to help small businesses in the creative community stay afloat. But if you’re still craving a retail therapy fix and can spare a few bob, consider lining the pockets of indie makers or those of your local vintage shop, instead of a billionaire’s.

If you’re going cold turkey and shopping no more, maybe now is the time to learn how to sew your own clothes. London department store Liberty says sales of their sewing accessories have increased 380% from the same time last year! With all this spare time at home we could learn how to sew, alter and repair our own clothes – meaning we buy less. Head to your local haberdashery shop (if it’s open – if not they may have an online shop) and buy a sewing kit – even the most basic ones usually have all you need to get started. Keeping clothes for longer has an environmental impact too: if we doubled the amount of time we kept clothes for, fashion emissions would be cut by 44%. Movements like the visible mending one have really taken off, and tie dye was a major trend for 2019 (if you care about that kind of thing). So before you answer the call of the online shop – go through your wardrobe and reach for the needle, thread or dye – and not the mouse!


Through the exhibition 'Sewing Box for the Future', V&A Dundee have set up a resources page, with downloadable cards that provide ideas about how we can help to reduce fashion waste. Click here to visit.


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