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Friday, April 5, 2019

Fast Fashion: Make It Stop

After being an entrepreneur for 8 years, here’s one important thing I have learned; you don’t have to be big, but you have to be meaningful. It’s interesting, because everyone who decides to become an entrepreneur will usually dream to one day become as big as possible. “Scale up, scale up, scale up”. That’s what I thought and aimed for too, but it all changed after having myself exposed to new things that inspired me more. It all first started when I got interviewed by a startup investment company a few years ago, and upon our discussion, she told me that my dream was too small. I remember leaving the meeting room feeling really strange thinking about why she said what she said. I didn’t really know the answer at that time, but the thoughts continued to linger. Today, I understand fully and am very proud about it. I am proud because when I was offered to scale up my business, I did not want to. It just did not resonate with me. The idea of having a mass shoe brand that can be available in every shopping center was definitely tempting and sounded “really successful”, but I discovered that I was and am looking for something more than just scale and financial success. Perhaps because I’m not a businessman-entrepreneur, but more of an artist-entrepreneur. I am not obsessed with catering to what the market wants. I choose to design from my heart, design what connects to me personally, sell to people who share the same taste with me, and make the whole process meaningful. I take more pride in having an “indie brand” rather than a mass brand. Sometimes, keeping your brand small(er) allows you to sustain your brand values better too, because you are not under pressure to reach crazy sales target and end up in unnecessary price war. I want my customers to buy my idea, my original design, not buy something simply because it’s cheap and it looks like that piece you just saw on the runway.

In addition to all this, I have also learned how “fast fashion” is really, really bad. Brands like Zara, H&M, Fashion Nova, they are like heaven for trendy shoppers because in these shops, you can find so many new items every week at an affordable price with designs that really make you look always up-to-date. But have you seen Zara sale outlets that sell their past-season items? Even after 80% discounts, there are still A LOT of items remaining. Imagine this pile of discounted items in one store, happening in different cities, then in different countries. That’s A LOT of clothes that eventually when not sold, become waste and end up in the landfill. That’s just one source. Excess fabrics and production rejects from the factories, they also end up in the landfill. Clothes that we no longer wear and sometimes throw away because they look ‘too used’ to donate? They end up in the landfill too. That’s three major sources of clothes that become waste. That is A LOT of waste. Just like plastic, clothes are harmful for the environment too because a lot of fabrics contains chemicals that hurt the earth.

The solution? Buy clothes that you really love, that you will wear often, that “sparks joy”, and comes from companies that care better about the true essence of “style” and also the environment. Fast-fashion brands are crazy about 'speed' so that they can keep up with trend demands, and when you talk about speed, that means one thing too: they probably employ their workers to work day and night, to work long long hours and fast fast fast. It’s torture. And that so-called affordable price? It can only happen from lowering down the production cost by 1) paying their workers less, and 2) using cheap fabrics. Are we really gonna ignore this?

Buy local, buy from small entrepreneurs who really put value into their design and production processes. Buy original designs, not a rip-off or a knock-off. Appreciate the “idea” behind the things we buy. And appreciate that ideas have a price and those prices cannot always be “cheap”. A piece of clothing is a piece of artwork too. Learn to save up to buy quality rather than quantity. Lastly, learn to know your real style and not be obsessed with only following the trend. Learn to mix and match the things you already have so you can keep rewearing your items in different, exciting ways. Buy vintage, there’s nothing gross about it. 

All in all, give value to fashion. Give value to the clothes you wear, and when you wear them, wear them proud because you know they are representing something good.

To entrepreneurs: Know the kind of entrepreneur you want to be. You can seek for advice from coaches and investors but don’t let them steer you into becoming someone or something that does not feel right to you. Know where you stand and don’t let numbers blind you. Dream big, but in your own definition of “big”.

To consumers: Know that your fashion choices have a significant impact to a lot of people and also our earth too. Be mindful.


Vanessa said...

Amen to that!

Unknown said...

Well said. So deep.. :)

Sarina Iskandar said...

I love these kinds of posts and it's more impactful coming from someone like you because you are an entrepreneur and a business owner. I wish more business owners did the same. Thank you for this post!

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