When somebody tells me that they love my ruby embellished slippers, I can tell them the story of when I first went solo travelling and crossed the Dubai Creek on an 'Abra' boat to discover them in the bustling souks of the old city and proceeded to get involved in a vibrant negotiating process to purchase them. Seeing these slippers in my home and reminiscing about travelling fills me with joy that I would not be able to experience if I just headed to a store like Topshop or H&M to buy an appropriated pair.
While I'm blessed to have had this experience and understand that we cant buy all our clothes on an adventure through a county we have never travelled to before the stories that our clothes tell do not have to come so far from home.
When I go into a vintage store and see a 1920's embellished clutch bag, I immediately think of Breakfast at Tinnifys and the aftermath of the first wave of feminism where sequin-clad flapper girls threw all the rules out of the window. Endless possibilities enter my mind as I am transported to a speakeasy in New York city playing roaring playing jazz, where all the women wear paintbox red lipstick and pretend that their conspicuous looking drink is 'just fruit juice'. I often find myself interested in how fashion reflects social, political and cultural change so, for me, vintage fashion feels like experiencing a taste of the past. I think that many of us want our clothes the feel unique and choosing vintage fashion is a beautiful way to fulfil this desire.
As many of us can't afford to buy fairtrade and organic clothing, vintage can be not only a cheaper but more sustainable (and exciting!) way to add new pieces to your wardrobe. By going vintage, you can shop guilt-free (so long as you're not going crazy on the purchases!) knowing that no cheap clothes that perpetuate labour exploitation and environmental degradation are being produced in the process.
When we choose to buy from cheap fast fashion retailers, we decide to tell the story of exploitation, degradation and heartache. Next time you go shopping, ask yourself what stories you want your clothes to tell.
If you are interested in the stories behind clothing and promoting ethical fashion alternatives check out Craftivist Collective's thought-provoking mini-scrolls that you can DIY at home. A gentle message such as "If clothes could tell stories what would yours tell stories of love and joy or sadness and despair?" beautifully wrapped and hidden in high-street stores is a profound way to plant a thought in someone's mind and help shift consciousness away from the lures of consumer capitalism.
Ella, President SOAS EF x