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Impact 0273: Goodbye fast fashion, hello Thiccy Thrifts!

Olivia Fones and Megan Seng · 22 November 2021
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Passionate about minimising carbon footprint, environmental pollution and advocating for labour rights, art undergraduates Olivia Fones and Megan Seng founded Thiccy Thrifts in 2019. 

Thiccy Trifts has a  small, yet powerful mission – to achieve anti-establishment and equal power.

“Small, humble and local over big, hungry and global saves the world bit by bit,” the duo shared.

What started as a platform for them to clear out their closets soon flourished into a thriving online business with a following of over 3,100. Today, Olivia and Megan carry an array of curated, thrifted finds and reworked clothing, which grew from their collection of items that had both desirable elements and flaws that needed to be fixed in order to be marketable.

In April this year, an article by Channel News Asia reported that   “the fashion industry released 2.1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions in 2018… more than the airline and shipping industries combined (900 million and 1.1 billion tonnes respectively)”. 

Meanwhile, in another article published on Today Online in 2019, Asia-Pacific Managing Director at Forum for the Future, Ms Ariel Muller, warned that “​​it is projected that by 2050, the fashion industry will represent 26 per cent of our global carbon emissions, which is on par right now with where the agricultural system is”.

So, how exactly does slow, sustainable fashion labels like Thiccy Thrifts address these concerns?

What is Thiccy Thrifts?

Dubbed a “slow, individualistic fashion label”, Thiccy Thrifts offers consumers a sustainable alternative to shopping at stores owned by massive fashion conglomerates. One can find edgy and stylish products ranging from pants and outerwear to jewellery and bags to elevate their fashion game.

In addition to selling their items, the 20-year-olds use this platform to advocate conscious living through educational posts, such as how to identify and reject capitalist schemes in a highly consumptive and consumerist society.

“We practice this by supporting local trade and regional artisans. Otherwise, we accept donations or source materials from secondhand shops to reduce waste and regularly support charitable causes,” they added, discussing how Thiccy Thrifts translates its values into actions.

The Inspiration

It all started with a concern – how people were not seeing, or worse, ignoring the existence of labour camps and sweatshops. 

“The cotton produced by the Uyghur people in Xinjiang camps are being used in products worldwide, and a lot of it ends up in the fast fashion industry. These are also embroiled in political disputes, so boycotting production on a whole is easier said than done. 

“Textile waste and water pollution in Indian rivers from toxic chemicals affect the livelihoods of those who are living in the area and depend on these natural resources,” the duo stressed as they introduced the driving factor behind their cause.

But this doesn’t just affect the said individuals. It also affects each and every one of us indirectly through bioaccumulation as the same toxins are being found in increasingly high concentrations in the food that we eat today.

As Olivia and Megan gradually gained confidence in their sewing abilities, they started actively looking for raw materials and patterns to address the underrepresentation of their styles such as up-and-coming designer street fashion and 60s to 80s prints and silhouettes – in affordable, sustainable fashion labels.

Their experience thus far

Being more involved in the manufacturing process has taught them about the qualities and properties of different fabrics, which also influenced their choice of natural fabrics like linen over polyester. Commenting on the concern of the usage of synthetic fabrics (e.g. polyester, nylon, rayon, spandex/lycra), they shared: 

“Polyesters are known to release lots of microplastics with each wash, and this is also reflected in how such garments tend to thin out quickly. Aside from our pre-existing preference for natural fabrics, choosing to use cotton and linen ensures that the quality of our products do not degrade as much with time, and buyers also can worry less about their microplastic output.”

As art students, they aspire to incorporate meaningful messages into their work, like their marine lino series, which aims to give marine life some representation in the community of sustainable fashion and get people interested in the environment. The response, as you may have guessed, has been nothing short of positive.

“We were really blessed to get noticed by many in the local ecology circle through this, and people are requesting for a Part 2. Given the reception, we hope to be able to sponsor the planting and care of a coral fragment the next time around!”

The inspiration stems from their childhood spent around kelongs, beaches and seas, which allowed them to now share a general love and appreciation for marine life.

The struggles

Consumers today are obsessed with chasing fads, even if they are short-lived to stay relevant and “hip”. It also doesn’t help that large fast-fashion manufacturers are capitalising off that habit, without sparing much thought on its implication on the environment.

If the items curated and created by them do not satisfy their audience’s yearning for what they deem as “trendy” clothing, they fear that it might not sell well, which results in a surplus of stock. It would essentially be a waste of fabric.

But opting for the more marketable avenue of creating pieces that ride on trends would be a bad idea, as that would ultimately result in more textile waste when it eventually dies down – the very problem that fast fashion introduced in the first place.

Their solution: to only use the very limited resources they have to produce timeless pieces, based on the demands of their consumers.

Even though people seem to be becoming increasingly aware of the damaging effects of fast fashion on the environment, why are they still not supporting sustainable fashion?

They first noted that fast fashion can offer youths who are easily influenced by celebrities and influencers to desire for the same level of indulgence. Youths get access to a larger wardrobe at a wallet-friendly rate. 

For the majority of both fast-fashion manufacturers and consumers, quality may not be a cause for concern, since such clothes ride on micro trends that do not last very long.

They acknowledged that those willing and able to look past this consumerist mindset and possess the patience to curate a wardrobe they value are severely outnumbered by those looking for a quick clothing fix without considering the environmental impacts of their actions.

They added, “Sustainable shopping does not mean only buying from ethical and expensive fashion brands. It refers to conscious consumption, and until youth are able to understand this distinction, there is little chance of changing the current rate of consumption.”

It is a difficult cause to fight for because generating any new garments at all is no good for the environment. But what the people behind sustainable fashion labels like Thiccy Thrifts aim to drive forward is the provision of fashion that is of equal or higher quality, merely produced at a slower and more conscious rate, while ferrying support away from large corporations bit by bit.

Their goal now is to focus on honing craftsmanship and establishing a brand that makes better garments with materials that exclusively support eco-friendly, small-time local trade and regional artisans.

“Where we shop may give more control to those of excessive power and allow them to shackle whole communities and destroy ecosystems. Instead, we can support businesses that provide transparency regarding their production chain, give credit where it’s due and try to preserve or improve planetary health.

“Mutual aid is something that has appealed to us lately that we aim to explore, and we’re really just getting started, so we’ve got lots of work cut out for us!”

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