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Is The Sustainable Fashion Movement A Futile Bandwagon?

By Éadaoin Fitzmaurice

September 6, 2019 at 10:50am


I unlock my phone, open Instagram and start to scroll - picture after picture of Electric Picnic outfits; it's the same every year but this time, I notice something different...

Every caption includes a small anecdotal ego-feeding paragraph detailing how the person in question thrifted one part of their outfit.

Since the beginning of time, festival attire has been acquired in vintage and charity stores across the country but why this year are such practices worn with a badge of honour?

The answer is simple but the question around the actual benefits of it is where I'm puzzled:

The 'Sustainable Fashion Movement' is 2019's top trend.

This is an extremely positive initiative and it's great to see so many people engaging in the conversation online and putting it to practice, but that some things aren't sitting well with me about the execution of the whole thing.

Now before I dissect this statement, let me throw in those all-important disclaimers:

  • This is in no way a personal attack to anyone - it's something I've noticed across the board
  • I myself have even tried to better my sustainable practices in the last few months as a result of online influence
  • Any effort should be acknowledged and it's great to see people eager to make a change in their shopping habits

Now that we've cleared that up (and you know I'm not just going on a rant to be a wagon or get a reaction) let's dive in.

There have been some incredibly positive changes as a result of the sustainable fashion movement. People have become more educated about the effects of their spending habits and have also been making more of an effort to avoid fast fashion brands.

My issue does not lie with people hopping on this side of the movement at all - this is the side that can really make shit happen and change for the better. If everyone swapped their monthly payday outfit splurge for a vintage find, sure we'd be laughing. If more people took to the streets to march for climate action then the political system will start to prioritise it.

The people who are actually implementing sustainable practices are making a small but effective difference.

The sustainable fashion movement online, however, is where I begin to scratch my head.

Sometimes it feels as though people are hopping on this particular bandwagon for an ego boost, a growth in following and recognition, which is obviously not for the right reasons.

As of late, I've noticed large influencers and companies greenwashing online.

As great as it is to see people wanting to make the effort and seeing the demand for it unless they are properly implementing these practices in their own day-to-day life I wonder if it's counter-productive.

For example: Let's consider an influencer who has a large online following becomes a brand ambassador with a huge fast fashion clothing company and as part of their contract they have to promote the clothing on offer for a six month period.

The purpose of such partnerships is so that these brands, who are doing indescribable damage to the environment and also *possibly* running sweatshops, become an appealing option for a consumer next time they need to purchase an item of clothing - because their favourite influencer said it's great.

I worry that if fast fashion brands are being promoted by an influencer as well as sustainable practices, it will elude to their followers that it's still ok to buy from these brands, so long as you pick up one or two things in a vintage shop now and then.

There needs to be more of a push on this and in my opinion it's the responsibility of the influencer, if they really care about sustainability, to distance themselves from the companies that we all know are causing severe damage to the planet.

I understand that everyone needs that paycheck but it just doesn't sit right with me if someone wants to place themselves as an "ambassador" of the sustainable fashion movement and still encourage their followers to purchase from these companies - it seems like a huge contradiction.

Thankfully, I have seen some influencers that once worked with fast fashion brands taking a step away and making a huge effort to change how they talk about fashion online, creating outfit posts and videos online related to sustainable fashion. This is so great to see and I really admire them for making the change.

As I said, any effort is great and I completely acknowledge that, but I think it's imperative for people who are highly educated and are completely devoted to the sustainable fashion movement to be the ones at the forefront of the online movement instead of someone who is doing it for the wrong reasons and keeping up with trends.

There are people out there like Sustainable Fashion Dublin who live and breath this lifestyle. In my opinion, these are the accounts and the profiles that should always be linked to this topic because they know their stuff.

Of course, it's lovely to see people dip their toe into it and expand the conversation across a multitude of accounts online and see it from different perspectives but again, if we want to make a real change and impact we can't be taking the piss with it either.

Here are some accounts that I feel are really making a true and positive change and influence online:

Sustainable Fashion Dublin

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Holy Moly our Cork takeover was some ride 🌸 We were nervous about taking our sustainable baby on a road trip but honestly, could not have received a warmer welcome. Saturday’s charity shop crawl attracted the most gorgeous group of sustainable fashionistas, what’s more we were blown away with the quality and quantity of fab clothing in Cork’s charity shops. We had one of our proudest moments to date in SVP when we saw our picture and article celotaped to their store front in anticipation of our visit 😭 After a few sneaking @kinsalegin G&Ts in @electriccork last night, today we ran our first ever swapshop and sustainable flea outside the pale in @theriverlee. If our stories are anything to go by, you’ll know we had an absolute blast. We are beyond proud to say today’s event was another sellout, every attendee left with ‘new’ clothing and in the process we extended the life of so many amazing pieces. Stopping clothes going to landfill and revamping wardrobes, what a win win. Whilst on the pride train, we’re v proud of making our sustainable trip carbon neutral through @vitaireland, an INCREDIBLE charity that you should all follow. To all the cork legends who partied with us this weekend, you’re absolutely class, and to all you fellow culchies (I Taz Kelleher am also a culchie) who were watching on in FOMO, fear not SFD is coming to a city near you soon 🌟♻️🌟♻️🌟 (This is an extremely random pic of us sitting with a chess board... )

A post shared by The Useless Project (@theuselessproject) on

Keelin Moncrieff

Molly Parsons:


The Sustainable Fashion Movement is a powerful one that can make a change, but please, if you care about it, engage with the Influencers who are really making changes.

To learn more about the effects fast fashion has on the world, The True Cost is a great place to start - click here to watch it.



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