Sadhbh Sullivan interviews the Irish fashion entrepreneurs
In a world of fast fashion, where designs move from the runway to the high street in as little as two weeks, it seems as though many of us are oblivious to the implications of our clothing choices. With the ability to pay as little as €3 for a t-shirt, how does this affect the environment, and how does it affect those involved in the production process? While many of us tend to avoid such topical questions, Trinity graduates Aishling and Ally of The Nu Wardrobe battle the injustices of the fashion world with their latest entrepreneurial venture.
The Nu Wardrobe is an online clothing platform that allows university students and graduates to pool their clothing resources to create a shared wardrobe, allowing students to borrow and lend their loved but under-worn pieces. On speaking to founder Aisling, the brand’s mission was clear; to reduce our fast fashion footprint through creating a network of individuals empowered to make a change:
“Our vision with is to fill the void of fast fashion. We want to look good, but experimenting with fashion comes at a high cost. Cheap clothes can result in human rights issues, and has massive environmental impacts. We want to pool our fashion resources together so that we can still enjoy fashion and try new trends without an environmental and monetary cost. We can all share together and save together.”
Although many of us tend to shy away from the many repercussions associated with the fast fashion industry, Aisling and co-founder Ally have faced the challenge that we ignore on a regular basis. Their inspiration to create a change was inspired by their time spent in India as volunteers. Aisling tells me of the “dark side of fashion” she found there.
“We saw the people who were actually impacted. The garment workers, people [working] growing the crops. The real environmental impact; dirty rivers, dirty drinking water.”
Although the pair returned not knowing what to do, the problem seemed massive: “sustainable fashion seemed like a luxury. We couldn’t afford it. We couldn’t afford to buy Stella McCartney or invest in sustainable pieces. We didn’t have the money for it. We needed to find a solution that meant young people could access fashion in a sustainable way.” However, The Nu Wardrobe was not the duo’s first suggested solution to the ever-growing problem. “We started running swap shops. From there we realized that we all have amazing pieces in our wardrobes that we love and want to keep, but we only wear them once or twice a year.” Aware that we all share our clothes with friends, the pair decided to connect this sharing creating a community; a system to
“cut fast fashion out of peoples’ lifestyles”.
Although The Nu Wardrobe is a clear attempt to create a sustainable fashion environment amongst young people, Aisling’s perceptions towards fashion are unchanged by her environmental advocacy; “fashion is an important part of life and self-expression; life would be so dull without it”. The Nu Wardrobe is not about excluding shopping from your lifestyle, but rather becoming responsible for purchases. Aisling advises that we can make a change through “investing in fashion that’s beautiful and represents you and what you believe in rather than keeping up with trends. We’re losing our personal style because we’re all dressing the same. It’s time to break that mould.”
Staples that Aisling recommends investing in before styling with pieces from The Nu Wardrobe include a lined jacket, a low block heel, a versatile black or nude dress, a blazer and a statement accessory that “screams ‘you,’ and really fits your personal style”.
Although fast fashion has such a huge impact on both environmental and human rights issues, the question remains as to whether our society is aware of this impact. According to Aisling, “most people have an idea about it. When we hear about it we want to switch off because it just seems so bad. What on earth can we do? We need to educate people not only about the solutions, but about the issues. Students want to be part of the change. Finding a solution that’s accessible empowers students to make a difference. When you use The Nu Wardrobe you can feel good, knowing that what you have done makes a positive impact.”
The future of The Nu Wardrobe seems bright. Following extensive testing, next on Aisling and Ally’s agenda is to open up to a broader community. At the moment, users pay a borrow fee of €5, but all is set to change in the coming year. With future plans to charge a membership fee and offer rewards to lenders, the duo’s current aim seems to be to build a community of people that care. “We have to build a valuable community in order to get people to contribute, but we must also have contributors in order to build a valuable community!”
Joining the movement is simple; log on to www.thenuwardrobe.com and sign up to lend to and borrow from the wardrobe! Whether you’re looking for the perfect dress for the ball, or you simply want to try out something new and different, the wardrobe has something to offer for everyone! If you’d like to get involved behind the scenes, The Nu Wardrobe currently has brand ambassador opportunities for UCC students. All the details are available on the website. In the words of Lucy Siegle, “fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying for it.” It’s time for us to make a change.