This week, Trinity students gathered in a full auditorium to hear from slow fashion influencers about how they can make their wardrobe more sustainable. Alba Mullen, a final year Politics and Economics student in Trinity College Dublin, who also runs her own sustainable fashion page called Traashion, moderated a panel of some of Ireland’s most prominent sustainable clothing activists in the Slow Fashion Panel Discussion and Upcycling Masterclass. This event was held on Tuesday night and run by STAND and Suas Trinity as part of the annual STAND Student Festival.

The lecture theatre was packed as Geraldine Carton from Sustainable Fashion Dublin, DJ and influencer Tara Stewart, Genevieve Sann from Transparent Magazine and Dylan (Dread X) Chapman from ILL Hippie lined the stage.

The opening discussion focused on how each panel member first got into the area of sustainable fashion. Carton, the cofounder of Sustainable Fashion Dublin, was inspired to leave her job with a women’s magazine after questioning all aspects of the clothing production process. She co-created Sustainable Fashion Dublin as an initiative to promote the “positive, guilt-free aspect of sustainable fashion.”

For Stewart, while working unaware as an influencer for a fast-fashion clothing brand, she was put in contact with Sustainable Fashion Dublin and promptly ended her contract on moral grounds. “I love upcycling and making clothes that I like, making them work for me.”

Chapman began to look at men’s clothes differently when he was around sixteen years of age – the complete lack of catering for men’s fashion and ability to express themselves, especially in Ireland, encouraged him to get involved in slow fashion.

As for Sann, two years ago the Netflix documentary The True Cost (a documentary thrown around a lot throughout the evening) opened her eyes to the problem and inspired her to create her magazine, Transparent.

Many tips were given by the panellists throughout the course of the evening:

  1. Look at your own wardrobe and look at what you have, as we go through four times more clothes than our parents, and keep them for only half as long
  2. Swap clothes with your friends as they’ll more than likely have similar interests and styles
  3. Use apps like Pinterest for information on reworking something you have already or tailoring something you’ve found
  4. Use resources like Depop to buy used clothes but be careful that they are authentic and not just bulk-bought
  5. Buy local so you know exactly where your clothes are coming from and how they are made
  6. Attend Swapshops, like the one run by Sustainable Fashion Dublin
  7. Go to charity shops to both support the charities and keep it sustainable

An extra piece of advice is not to give to clothing banks. In fact, they give a lump sum of only three per cent to the represented charity of the huge figure they receive from textile recycling. Instead, Carlton recommends to donate directly to the charity shop, labelling bags as “sellable” and “recyclable”. This way, shops can gain seventy per cent of the figure from textile recycling.

Carlton also explained greenwashing. “When a brand promoting sustainability overemphasises how ‘good’ it is, it’s usually hiding its ‘worse’ things… 90% of the other clothes are being made in horrendous conditions.” For example, she revealed that the Aral Sea has actually decreased to one tenth of its size due to its water being taken to grow cotton plantations.

Stewart recommended “treating getting out of fast fashion as breaking a habit” – don’t shop while bored, unfollow certain influencers and within a few months even your ads on social media will change. Chapman emphasised the amount of resources available for self-education on the topic – “open your mind and engage with each other.” If retail therapy is your downfall, then find something else to replace it with.

As for the most important takeaway for each panellist, Stewart maintained that you should not beat yourself (or your friends!) up about sustainable fashion. Instead, “really see it in a more positive light”. Carlton mentioned elongating the lifespan of your own clothes and emphasised that sustainable fashion is not supposed to be regimental or boring. “It’s a way to express yourself, have fun and decrease your carbon footprint!” Chapman, the only male on the panel, said to be logical with your clothes – “do you really need to get that same shirt in a different colour?” Sann said to “just try your best, be critically minded, and don’t fall into greenwashing traps!”

Following a quick and easy DIY solution to one-use cotton pads by cutting up and sewing old towels and t-shirts, Carlton really summed up the whole atmosphere of the evening. “It’s not about a small amount of people being perfect, it’s about a huge amount of people making incremental changes.” No shaming or passive aggression was directed towards those who “shop fast” – in fact, many of the panellists themselves are only very recent converts to the world of fast fashion – just a sense of understanding. There was an emphasis on “doing your part” and just being positive about fashion overall.

 

 

Photo of the Slow Fashion Panel Discussion and Upcycling Masterclass by Shannon Takahashi, 

 

 

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