Thursday, April 23, 2020

Sustainability and Lolita Fashion: are our frills gentle enough with the enviroment?

Hey there, stranger.

It's Fashion Revolution Week, a time we, as consumers, should raise our voices higher than the rest of the year to ask questions to different fashion brands and create awareness into the fashion industry. And in this time of pandemic and quarantine, what a better way to use our social media channels to ask brands who made my clothes? or what is in my clothes? (#whomademyclothes? #whatisinmyclothes? campaign). Under the pressure of all the consumers, we can make brands change and set a new sustainable path for the future of fashion.

But why do we need a Fashion Revolution Week?

(text from their website)

On the anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which killed 1,138 people and injured many more in 2013, we encourage millions of people to come together to campaign for systemic change in the fashion industry.

We are living in a climate emergency and the fashion & textiles sector is one of the most polluting and wasteful industries. The industry continues to lack transparency, with widespread exploitation of people working in the supply chain. Never before have there been this many people on the planet in slavery, and fashion is a key driver of this reality. Brands and retailers are still not taking enough responsibility for the pay and working conditions in their factories, the environmental impacts of the materials they use or how the products they make affect the health of people, animals and our living planet.
Every year, from Fashion Revolution they try to point the focus on different themes related to fashion, consumption and the way we treat not only our garments but the people who work within the fashion industry. In 2020, these are the main focus for this FRW (images from their stories at their Instagram account):

And this is why I want to treat some of these points emphasizing in the fashion I love the most: Lolita Fashion. Please, join me in this conversation about our most beloved fashion.

When Lolita fashion started to be popular during the late 90s and early 00s (what we call Old School Lolita nowadays) the quality and materials of the garments that most of the brands designed were quite different from nowadays. Nice soft cotton, the finest lace for the details and the exclusivity of the pieces, plus the feeling of timeless and the possibility of becoming a long-lasting piece in your wardrobe made lolita fashion popular not only inside Japan but also outside of its frontiers. The delicate pieces also taught us something else: how to take care of your garments so they will last longer. 

With Lolita Subculture getting more attention and fans around 2005, brands started to produce more pieces and to release new products faster. By 2010 there were lots of brands selling overseas, giving this way the chance to foreign Lolitas to buy their precious garments. This brings some positive consequences for the community, but also some negative ones, as the production was escalating (of course, never like fast-fashion retail, but on a smaller scale) and the competition was appearing from other countries, like China. Also, the carbon footprint that the packages were generating (let's not forget that most of the time, when you order online the package travels by airmail unless we ask for the contrary) was adding more to the negative part of Lolita Fashion (as any other fashion whose products you should get online).

And in the last 10 years, there's been some events that, in my opinion, had added quite a negative attitude to the fashion: 
  • The over-excessive use of polyester in their released; polyester comes from petroleum and although its production is cheaper and easier than cotton or other natural materials, the damage that it causes to the environment is much higher (polyester generates microplastics that goes straight to our oceans, for example). Also affects the quality of the products, since it has decreased considerably, and not to talk about bags or shoes; I don't get why, but there are lots of Lolita shoes that have a terrible quality (well yes, they're made of cheap plastic, that is why, you genius)! 
  • The arise of the replicas, which usually are made with lower quality materials and most of the time they don't have anything to do with the original design and disappoints the consumer (not to mention how this can damage a small brand).
  • Lots of brands stopped to produce their garments locally and moved to other suppliers (mostly Chinese), causing this a negative impact in their traditional supply change and making more difficult the tracking of the production and supply chain; therefore, the transparency of lots of brands is quite a mystery and we don't know the resource of materials or how the workers in their supply chain are treated. Let's not forget that the prices of the big brands haven't decreased, but their production cost has.  
  • The awaking of Taobao and its multiple brands have damaged the Japanese labels since they can't keep up with the number of releases that the Chinese platform can offer and they cannot compete also with the cheap prices. 
  • Due to the previous point, the amount of compulsive purchases has risen, and it's common to see how people buy cheap garments that they use just once or sell right away due to not meeting the expected product expectations that they had in mind (think that product has already travelled around the world, so its carbon print has increased by now).
  • The pressure of the online community about perfection and the ideal of what a Lolita is. How many times people have been nitpicked for not wearing the exact tone of red/pink/blue? How many times we've bought a piece/shoe/accessory that we've only used once just for that event or for that photo? Is it worth it? 

But of course, not everything is negative. As I said before, most Lolita clothes usually have a higher quality than fast-fashion, therefore, they tend to last longer, especially if you take good care of them. I've got some pieces I bought new maybe 12 years ago and they still have their flow. And due to this, Lolitas tend to sell their brand and a dress can have several owners and still shine bright like a diamond! I've got some garments from the early 00s era and they're still like new. The second-hand market is huge and this is quite helpful.

 Metamorphose skirt from 2002, vintage shirt, second-hand boots

Also, if there is something that Lolitas love is a good meet, and a Swap Meets is one of the best events that you can attend! People take with them the clothes they are not using anymore and they sell them or swap them for something different. Sometimes you can find real bargains, and sometimes people around you can even give you ideas about how to combine that dress you're not that sure to sell.

 I got this beautiful Leur Getter JSK and the pink blouse a couple of years ago at a Swap Meet!
Btw, those socks are over ten years old

Through the past of the years, there's been another trend inside the Lolita community that has penetrated deeply in it, and it's the love and support for the indie brands, like Peppermint Fox, Indrolita Couture, Summers Tale Boutique, Violet Fane, I Do Declare, Lady Sloth, L'Esprit de la Noblesse, Hats by Issis Starlust and much more. They create their own prints or accessories, working by hand and/or looking for the most sustainable way to build them. 

Moreover, there are some brave Lolitas who are upcycling their closets! From little adjustments to completely new garments, using pieces that don't spark the initial joy from the beginning, these artistic souls are creating new clothes or accessories for their closets.

 Two examples of what the amazing @fantasy_seamstress has done with two Violet Fane pieces! Aren't they stunning?
Photos used with her permission.

In summary, and not only after doing some research but also after asking on my social media to my fellow Lolitas about their opinion, I believe that Lolita Fashion is more sustainable than regular fashion but we should we aware that NO FASHION IS SUSTAINABLE, especially at 100%, and WE SHOULD CHANGE OUR COMPSUPTION HABITS. 

Due to COVID-19  and this society that we're living at the moment we've learned that our ways were not the correct ones, and we should change them if we want to survive and be more gentle to our lovely Earth. 

What can you do, as a Lolita, to help? 

  • Invest in quality pieces that you're sure you're gonna use. Stop buying compulsive, think twice. Not only the environment but your bank account will be thankful. 
  • Buy locally, buy second-hand. If you buy overseas, try to choose a more eco-friendly way of shipping (by boat instead than by plane, for example). 
  • Support indie brands, especially if they have products that you're interested in.  Instead of getting it from Aliexpress, text that designer you like and ask them for a payment plan if it's too expensive. 
  • Upcycle what you have. Tired of that sad white blouse? Dye it, change the lace, choose other buttons! Need a pair of off white socks? Why don't you take a pair of white ones that you're not using and dye them with tea? Not fitting on that dress anymore but you love it a lot? Take it to a local seamstress and fix it!
  • Learn how to take care of your garments! This is something that I put a lot of emphasis on at work and with customers, read the care label, wash it always with the colder water possible, use a bag for your delicates and/or a special bag for retaining the polyester microplastics. Don't wash too often, handwash if possible or even better, steam it! I've been chasing a steamer now for a while since we use them at work and not only is a fast way of ironing but the steam kills any bacteria in your clothes. Here you've got a guide from F Yeah Lolita on how to clean your Lolita clothes
  • Ask brands about your garments, demand them to disclose their information and be more transparent. There's a lot of information about how to do this at the Fashion Revolution website.
That's all I've gotta say for today. Of course, I could keep talking about this, but now it's YOUR turn for making a difference. 
I hope you found this article interesting and that it has helped you to get new ideas and open your mind a little more. I will leave on my Instagram account a highlight with all the stories sharing the answers I got there since they're all very inspiring, thank you all for them!
 Two little fanzines I got a while ago at an exhibition
 Skirt from Alice and the Pirates and socks from Emily Temple Cute (second hand)
Sailor cardigan bought over 10 years ago
Shoes are around 3-4 years old
Until next time!

Disclaimer: none of these brands sponsors me or paid me to talk good about them, FYI 

This post was featured on Links à la Mode fashion roundup by Independent Fashion Bloggers.
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  1. Thank you for writing this! Usually we think lolita is a fashion that doesn't cause damages to the environment, but as you said, no fashion is sustainable. I often buy mostly second hand lolita pieces, and sometimes I buy thrifted clothes to turn them lolita if they have some potential. Reading your post I realized I can do so much more to help the environment besides buying second hand. Thank you so much!

    1. I'm happy this made you think about the enviroment and how we can help more! Thanks for reading it!

  2. Super currada la entrada! Yo creo que en un principio se nos fue de las manos también. Hay un grupo de Facebook que se llama Your daily whatever you want to wear y estoy viendo que los mejores looks son los upcycled!

    1. Es que es increíble lo que puedes crear con algo viejo que no usabas, es echarle imaginación y tener un poco de maña!

  3. Yes to everything here. No fashion is 100% sustainable, but lolita and vintage fashions do better at this than mainstream fast fashion. And hopefully many lolitas also apply their good habits from llita fashion into the other styles that they wear. I know that since I got into lolita, I could no longer overlook the poorer quality of fash fashion clothes (it's particularly apparent in cardigans, so many of the ones in Primark or other high street shops just feel horrible to the touch!). And as my style changed to things that current trends are not offering, I moved to shopping second hand a lot more often. If I do buy something from a mainstream shop, it's usually to keep, which also helps. There was a great article once (that I can't find now) about how donating your clothes to charity shops isn't always the most sustainable option (many of the clothes the charity shops can't sell go to poorer countries, where they flood the market there instead, which in turn drives out local craftsmanship and traditional clothing, since used clothes from the West are sold there for dirt cheap). So often even when we thing we are doing something good, we may still be contributing to something harmful, which is why the fashion industry continues to not be sustainable. But in smaller, niche fashions making sure that things actually are reused and recycled is easier, as we each have a greater degree of control over what we do and where our clothes go.

    1. I know very well about the donations, I work as Sustainability Ambassador in a store at Amsterdam and I'm in charge not only of our recycle program but also to look for solutions about all these issues; we can't keep donating but also we can't recycle everything, as some of the fibers don't have a good quality for this... So yes, the solution is buy less, take care and mend your clothes, be more concious when buying and choose quality, not quantity... These are habits that we should apply ASAP!


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