“There are millions living in slums and I have a drawer just for belts — there’s something wrong with this equation.”
She cites a study from 2006 that found British women were consuming four times as many clothes as their 1980 counterparts, and sending 30kg of textiles and clothing to landfill annually.
Since then, the continued rise of “fast fashion” — the business model that sees labels bring trends from catwalks to stores in a matter of weeks — has led to widespread environmental degradation, unsafe working conditions for garment workers and a waste problem much bigger than ever anticipated.
But how does one start the process of slowing down? We asked Press to give us five tips for beginners.
Identify a goal and be realistic
Press stresses the importance of not taking on too much too quickly.
“You can’t solve pollution, fair living wages and over consumption in one garment, at least, not easily,” she says.
She says we need to clarify the causes that are most meaningful to us before diving headlong into the racks.
“Work out what matters to you. Is it animal welfare, is it organic textiles, is it ensuring that a living wage is being paid to the people who made your clothes?
“And ask: can I buy smarter with that goal in mind?”
Some people are put off by the suggestion that they might have to divest themselves of all their favourite treasures, she says, but they needn’t be.
“I think we can make it quite difficult in the conversation about slowing down consumption by … generalising that people that want to slow down are minimalists,” she says.
“What if you’re not? Aesthetically speaking I can’t think of anything worse than Marie Kondo [Japan’s superstar organising consultant].”
Get tech savvy and do your research
“That doesn’t have to mean three days of wading through supply chain audit reports,” Press says.
“No-one is realistically going to do that …. but it is possible to spend an extra five minutes doing a bit of googling.”
Press suggests websites like Ethical Clothing Australia and free apps like Good On You, which provide information on the environmental and ethical impacts of retailers’ and designer’ production methods.
For those seeking to pass on unwanted clothes in a productive manner, there are also Buy Nothing Facebook groups.
These groups host online communities, based around geography, where fashion lovers can trade and donate items without any cash changing hands.
Reconnect and shop local
Do all the checks and balances of developing a slow fashion habit seem overwhelming? Press says you should just “simplify things and shop local”.
“Shopping local means that you are reducing air miles and therefore reducing your eco-footprint,” she says.
“And if things are made in Australia, they are much more likely to be produced ethically and without sweatshop conditions.
“There are so many amazing local designers that I’m seeing and they know exactly where their fabric’s come from — they bought it up the road — and they know who’s sewing it.”
She’s quick to point out how enjoyable this can be for people who love the thrill of the chase.
“For people who love fashion for its sense of discovery, going into an obvious, high-street shop should be the boring alternative. Embrace your inner-hunter gatherer!”
Befriend a tailor and get fixin’
“I always buy things that are built to last,” Press says.
And while wear and tear are eventually unavoidable, she says throwing things away should be our last alternative.
“Make friends with your local cobbler or tailor. They do still exist, but if we don’t support them, they won’t for much longer.
“We’re the first generation that has lost the habit of fixing clothes, either ourselves or through a service, but it is becoming more cool to embrace repair culture.”
She says doing the right thing doesn’t have to be a chore.
“We have a habit of going shopping as a social activity … but what if we flipped that?” she says.
“[We could] make the fun thing to do on a Saturday going to join a sewing workshop or a knitting class, or heading to a repair cafe. That is just as much fun and just as social.”
And for God’s sake, don’t throw your clothes in the bin
If all her other tips seem too hard, Press hopes you can, at the very least, follow this last one.
“Don’t put any textiles into landfill, because there is a more ethical solution, even if it takes a little longer to find,” she says.
“That practice is, to me, the worst thing. Fashion’s not disposable — it’s not a perishable item — and it’s not biodegradable.
“Even supposedly biodegradable, organic fabrics like wool don’t biodegrade properly in landfill because the conditions aren’t right. Landfill isn’t compost.
“I think it’s to our very great shame that we chuck this stuff in the bin so readily.”
Some charities sell unsaleable clothing to companies that recycle textiles into industrial rags and other byproducts — find one in your area. Several fashion brands also offer clothes recycling services, including H&M, Patagoniaand Nike.