“A fast-fashion addict turned slow-fashion advocate”, is how Leah-Jane Musch describes herself in her blog Un-Material Girl.
Australian, she has been in Milan since August 2017 studying fashion and inspiring people all over the world to give sustainable fashion a try.
For those who are new to the concept, Leah explains simply: “fast-fashion is purely trend-driven, while sustainable fashion is created with the environment in mind, and ethical fashion is created with the people producing it in mind”.
Despite being considered a capital of fashion, even in Milan the topic of ‘fashion’ can be scorned as unimportant when far from the high-couture catwalks. According to Leah, this is because fashion is often understood as disposable. “The value of clothes has been associated with their prices, and not with the stories behind them”, she explains. When buying a €4 t-shirt from a fast-fashion brand, one is not inclined to think about where this piece of clothing comes from, or how has its production affected the environment. Naturally, one does not expect such t-shirt to last very long either, and that doesn’t seem to be a problem since we are encouraged by the trend-driven industry to buy always more and more often. Since questioning this pattern does not seem to happen instinctively, Leah is on a mission to remind people to take responsibility for their own decisions when it comes to what we wear.
Shifting from mindless fast-fashion consumerism to sustainability is a learning process. The starting point for Leah’s journey was watching the documentary The True Cost. “My life changed from that point onwards” she states, explaining that once one becomes aware of the consequences of our consumer decisions, the environmental imprint and the lives involved in the making of our clothes, it becomes impossible to ignore its problems. For more inspiration on shopping smarter, Leah also recommends watching the documentary The Minimalists.
Adopting a more sustainable lifestyle can sound daunting to those just encountering the idea, but being a fashion lover herself, Leah is living proof that sustainable fashion is not only possible but actually looks great. She shares her tips:"I still enjoy looking at trends on Instagram and Pinterest, but I look for sustainable alternatives". For example, start by doing some research on what brands you want to support, especially in regards to how they treat the environment and the people involved in the making of the clothes.
And if you think buying sustainably means spending more money, she offers a fun alternative: go on an adventure hunt for vintage shops and secondhand markets in your town. Fortunately for those living in Milan, there are quite a few here. Shopping second-hand is a more sustainable option because it gives items a much longer utility life, leading to less saturated landfills, and you might be surprised at the cost-benefit. That being said, during this interview Leah was wearing a fully second-hand shopped outfit, including flattering high-waist jeans and an Armani 100% wool sweater that she found at a garage market for €5.
And when shopping, the final step is: choose carefully. The process of consuming more sustainably is not just about changing the venues in which we shop but, in Leah’s words, “it’s all about being conscious” also when it comes to what and how much we buy. Ultimately, shopping with more awareness is rewarding because one ends up curating a wardrobe where every piece of clothing is loved.
If you still need more convincing for giving sustainable fashion a try, Leah adds two extra advantages with a smile: “it is almost impossible that anyone else in town will put together the same outfit as you and you will always have an interesting story to tell when someone compliments your clothes”. So, for those encouraged and inspired, here are two places in Milan to start from, both recommended by Leah as her go-to in the hunt for sustainable and fashionable finds in her newly adopted city.
Alzaia Naviglio Pavese 52. Tue-Sat 11.00-19.30. Mon-Sun 15.00-19.30.
Monthly secondhand market:
To know more about Leah and follow her sustainable fashion path, check out her blog at www.unmaterialgirl.com and her Instagram account @unmaterialgirl.