After working together last year on a photoshoot campaign in Bristol, we asked Poppy aka @poppy.my.wardrobe to write our first Trash Talks guest blog about her experience working in the sustainable fashion industry so far.
Poppyella Oakey: My journey so far of being a ‘slow fashion’ model. Highs and lows.
Let me just hit you with some statistics, right off the bat.
Of 71 leading clothing retailers in the UK, 77% believed there was a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some stage in their supply chains.
By 2030, It’s expected that there will be 148 million tons of fashion waste.
That is a lot to digest. Believe me, I know.
Fashion is plagued with unsustainable and unethical practices, and I am here to break some of those down for you, from the perspective of a model.
My name is Poppyella Oakey, and I am a model from Wiltshire who chats on social media about slow fashion to just about anyone who listens. Highlighting issues around environmentalism is something at the core of my message, throughout everything I do.
I got into modelling on a whim, thanks to a small slow fashion brand from the coast who invited me down to shoot with them one breezy afternoon. Fair to say I had a ball, and something in me just said ‘Poppy, you gotta persue this’. So, I did.
I think that I was a bit naive, not realising how deeply fast fashion and over consumption had infiltrated. Directly and indirectly, these practices had touched almost everything.
My first hurdle with sustainable practices came even before I stepped in front of the camera.
At the start of my journey, going into this without an agency, I quickly realised that I needed a whole host of clothing that I didn’t already own to build a portfolio. It is a common practice for novice models to collaborate on unpaid shoots initially, to build a solid body of work.
Getting that clothing the *right* way would be easier said than done.
I browsed all the charity shops in my small town, over and over again. I managed to pick up some seasonal dresses and tops, however finding well-fitting jeans and black heels eluded me. As a straight sized person, I realise that even that is a privilege. It was relatively okay finding clothing my size; however charity shops often just fail to stock anything but 8-12. This is something that really should be mentioned as is thrifting is still very inaccessible to many people, be it in person or online.
I managed to scoop up most sustainably, although it took a little while to search for what I needed.
Working with photographers who rely on fast fashion to build their in-house wardrobes is something I stumbled on constantly.
Vividly I remember one of my early shoots, a photographer had arranged the wardrobe. Brilliant, I thought.
I arrived and was presented with armfuls of dresses from Shein, still in the packaging it was sent in. The labels were to be kept on so the garments could be returned after the shoot.
Most people most likely just wouldn’t know the massive environmental impact that this routine costs to the planet. It is hardly spoken about in mainstream media, ads are run like its nobodies business, and influencers promote it daily.
The US returns alone create 5 billion pounds of landfill waste and 15 million tonnes of carbon emissions ANUALLY.
The moral dilemma I face every day.
The question that seems to trail me wherever I go is the question of greed.
As a model, I will tell you for free that following the ‘norm’ and working in fast fashion would grant me a bigger pay check. Fast fashion is not only easier to consume, but also easier to profit from for someone working in my industry.
The quicker and easier way is in this circumstance something I plan on avoiding.
As long as I have the choice to pick my jobs because I have a reliable income, I will choose to work for brands that care as much for the planet as I do. ‘As long as I have the choice’ being the key phrase however.
“Dignity is when I will not bend, for anyone. I don't care if I make a dollar, I'm doin what I'm doin. Then there's times the electric's about to shut off so I dress up like Lady Gaga." – Sharon Needles
The future for me in slow fashion
It will be interesting to see how the world of fashion evolves in the next 10 years, and how slow fashion focused models like myself will fit in.
As it stands, there are no big agencies in the UK that are focused on sustainable and ethical fashion. I hope to see that change as the market for eco-friendly goods continues to grow.
Big discussions need to happen within the industry, shifting the norm of overconsumption and cheap labour to a more sustainable future. Fast fashion will make you a quick buck, but contributes heavily to the irreversible damage to the ground we all walk on.
I am to continue to work for slow fashion brands well into the future, and hopefully there will be more opportunities to do so as the fashion world continues to evolve.
Thank you so much Poppy for sharing your experience. If you'd like to find out more about Poppy and her work, check out her website and Instagram below!
If you'd like to write our next Trash Talk guest blog, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!