What Does Fashion Mean To You?

Words by Kat Mallett

The word “fashion” is an ambiguous one, as it can have different meanings for each individual. Whilst I have always been interested in clothes and the way I present myself to the world, my relationship with fashion has developed with age. Now, I see fashion as a way to present and express myself creatively, without the need to be artistically gifted in drawing, design, or textiles (which spoiler alert, I am not!)

From an early age, I was always interested in fashion. I used to save up my hard-earned paper round wage and my pocket money to buy a pair of mom jeans from Topshop or a winter coat from H&M. Despite my persistent interest in clothes, I have made a few questionable outfit choices. One that stands out is from a mufti day at secondary school, where I wore a pair of red chinos paired with a Beatles graphic tee. The worst bit is at the time I thought I was the next Alexa Chung – how naïve I was. However, it is fashion disasters like this that have helped to shape my style today.

As well as my fashion faux pas’, the rise of social media sites like Instagram and YouTube have helped to foster my love of fashion. The prominence of internet bloggers and influencers has given people a new and accessible source of inspiration that is often a lot more relatable and achievable than the previously sought-after high-end magazine mood boards seen in the likes of Vogue

The fashion market is now saturated with accounts posting daily outfit inspo, providing content such as looks for less or haul videos, offering users access to fresh fashion visions on demand. However, the problem with such abundance is the tendency to get caught up in temporary trends. It has become worryingly easy to be left with a once on-trend ‘micro bag’ that undoubtedly looks adorable at the time but becomes totally useless in the long-term. The impact that such fast fashion is having on the environment is unsettling, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimating that the industry generates 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year.

Scary statistics such as this have helped to increase my awareness of fast fashion, which has consequently helped to reduce my consumption. Although I am far from perfect and like many others I am guilty of an online order here and there, I now consider the longevity of an item of clothing before I purchase it. For me, fashion is now about trying to consume as consciously as I can within the constraints of a student budget, in a constantly evolving fashion market (as I said nobody is perfect!). As I have matured, I have implemented small changes to my consumption, ensuring that when I buy an item of clothing I have multiple ways of styling it and ordering from Depop or Etsy to support recycling and small businesses.

It is also safe to say that the past year and the seemingly infinite lockdowns have changed lots of people’s relationships with their wardrobes, including mine. The buzzword of the past four fashion seasons has been comfort, withthe full tracksuit and oversized hoodie seeing new heights of global appreciation. Despite the tantalising prospect of pub gardens in the warm sunshine and countless nights out to compensate for this past year, many of us are not willing to surrender our work-from-home attires just yet. Personally, I know that I am enjoying the jogger trend a bit too much and know that they have become a permanent fixture in my wardrobe for the foreseeable future.

As well as the rise of practical fashion, I believe the influence of second-hand fashion will continue to grow. Apps like Depop and Vinted are surging in popularity, with Depop now boasting over 21+ million users, suggesting a move towards more sustainable and ethical practices. My goal is to sell more of my unwanted clothes on Depop and buy from other sellers as and when I can. So, when I leave uni and attempt to join the ‘real world’, I want to begin to invest in pieces that are more expensive but ethically made, and will therefore earn their spot as a permanent fixture in my wardrobe.

If I had to pick one thing I have learnt on my ‘fashion journey’ so far (cringe), it would be that fashion can reveal a lot about a person; but it is important to remember that first and foremost it should be FUN and a way to express who you are. So, wear the obnoxious zebra print hat and enjoy yourself (as sustainably as possible, of course.)