It was just over a year ago when Fionnuala dedicated a whole episode of her Bandwagons podcast to what has been dubbed the biggest bandwagon of the last few years; Sustainability. She explains, “I was becoming more aware of the topic of sustainability from social media and found myself suddenly starting to understand the impact that my buying was having”.
After the podcast, Fionnuala decided to give sustainable fashion a shot, deciding to bring her fast fashion purchases to a complete halt. “I just wanted to see how long I could do it for or see how difficult I would find it”.
Fionnuala found the decision to only buy clothes in a sustainable way (ie. secondhand via charity shops, vintage shops and Depop) immediately impacted her in a positive way. She explains, “It just became a real thing for me and I really held myself accountable which I’m very proud of”.
Whilst not a “die-hard fast fashion shopper” before, Fionnuala did rely on the high street because of two factors: convenience, and vintage fashion’s frequently inaccessible price point. Fionnuala admits that she often experienced guilt around spending a lot of money on clothes, which would explain her penchant for the Sales rail. That being said, this guilt is also what lead her to embracing the charity shops with such open arms. Fionnuala explains, “I couldn’t believe how good the quality of the clothing was, and half the time you end up paying so little money for it! I was hooked.”.
The biggest challenge? “Altering my original chain of thinking and consciously amending my purchasing decisions.” Fionnuala recalls one particular occasion with her sister, who was due to get married, and was suggesting various high street shops that Fionnuala might source a dress from, “and I just had to be like, I can’t engage with this”.
Fionnuala recalls how her new sustainable fashion challenge required a sudden halt on all online shopping. “I had to almost tell myself that the internet doesn’t exist anymore, none of these sites exist”. Without the usual ease of purchasing endless amounts of clothing at the tap of a button, Fionnuala had to think outside the box and explore the options that lurked beyond her usual solutions.
At this point, she went down two supremely sustainable routes; rental and renewal. Fionnuala found some fantastic pieces in rental boutiques such as Dublin’s Rag Revolution and started to see clothes for the potential they had within, not just for what they looked like at face value. Fionnuala started to approach clothing item differently; enjoying the potential that upcycling and tailoring clothes to fit her shape and preferences leant. “For example, a plain dress suddenly presented so many possibilities; I’d look at it and think can I alter this so it’s a bit jazzier for a wedding?”.
Fionnuala feels sustainability has helped her to discover her own personal style. She says, sustainable fashion “helped me realise my own individual style and kind of led me away from being so trend-driven”.
Sustainability has also helped Fionnuala find some great, one-of-a-kind pieces. She recalls one garment in particular that featured on our Thrift Stories series back in 2019. She recalls, “I remember I shared my red power suit that I got from a Saint Vincent DePaul charity shop; an item that set the standard I now set everything else against; it needs to be this quality, it needs to fit in like this does, it needs to be this amazing”.
Fionnuala recognises that sustainable fashion can be challenging, although it becomes easier with time. She also feels that we need to get better at looking in our wardrobes before making a purchase. She explains, “You’d be surprised what you have there, either in its original guise or maybe look at it in a different way and think about how you might be able to upcycle”. As far as Fionnuala is concerned, the world is our oyster when it comes to our wardrobes.
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“You know those pieces where, if you leave it behind you just know you’ll hate yourself for it? I had that with this dress from SVP.☝🏻 When I tried it on, I thought I’d have to get it altered to fit better - it’s such a strong, boxy fit and I didn’t want to look like a little girl playing dress up... But when I brought it home to my mam and suggested getting it altered, she talked me out of it and - I’m so glad she did it! This is my ‘Power Bitch’ dress now.💪🏻 I wore it all to interview Samantha Mumba and she loved it - if that’s not a testimonial for the ages, I don’t know what is!” . . . YAS QUEEN!l🙌🏻🙌🏻 Who else is absolutely adoring @fionnualajay’s “Power Bitch” ensemble for today’s #thriftshopstory?! 😅🤩 Thanks so much to Fionnuala for sending this over to us, you dream human you.💖 . . . ...and if YOU want to feature in our #thriftshopstories series then just slide into our DMs and we’ll take it from there ♻️👗👌🏻
Fionnuala recognises that sustainable fashion can be challenging, although it becomes easier with time. She also feels that we need to get better at looking in our wardrobes before making a purchase.
She explains, “You’d be surprised what you have there, either in its original guise or maybe look at it in a different way and think about how you might be able to upcycle”. As far as Fionnuala is concerned, the world is our oyster when it comes to our wardrobes.