Can you love fashion and be an environmental advocate at the same time? It might seem irrational, but it’s not impossible thanks to the sustainable fashion movement. As you might have discovered, the fashion industry has a debilitating impact on people and the planet. Fast fashion is getting even faster, thanks to the onset of online mega-brands like Boohoo and Fashion Nova, who produce thousands of clothes in a matter of days rather than weeks. This overwhelming supply is met by consumer demand for what’s new, trendy and exciting, evident in $800 Shein hauls going viral across TikTok.
While deeply disturbed by the pace and waste created by fast fashion consumption in Asia, it was the spark that inspired Raye Padit to create The Fashion Pulpit, Singapore’s first dedicated swapping destination. Today, you’ll find him wearing many hats; from clothes sorting for new swappers, to filming his bi-weekly community swap stories, to speaking at panel talks about the future of fashion. As part of our #Down4Earth campaign, we chat with him about the rise of clothes swapping in Singapore and the new R’s of sustainability.
What defining moments shaped your mission to fight fashion waste?
It was an accumulation of experiences and realisations that led me to start The Fashion Pulpit. At first, I dreamt about being a fashion designer. But my perception of the industry changed after learning more about fashion’s negative social and environmental impact. Following that, I started a non-profit organisation with the aim to spread awareness of what is happening. By showing the good, the bad and the progress, we could encourage people to change the way they consume and see fashion. Through this exploration, I was able to recognise the concept of swapping as a tangible action to solve textile waste. It’s a key way for us to maximise under-utilised clothes in our wardrobes while providing an alternative means of acquiring ‘new’ clothes too.
Fast fashion has a wallet-friendly price tag, but has a massive impact on our world. How is swapping part of the solution?
Unless you’re a nudist, fashion is part of your daily life. We wear clothes every day and that’s partly out of necessity, but it’s our appetite for more and more clothes and our collective throw-away culture that’s hurting the planet and the people. This is where clothes swapping comes in. Swapping helps you extend the lifespan of your clothes. This means we can reduce on average 20% of textile waste, water usage, carbon emissions and land use per person. Swapping also lets you explore your personal style through “new-to-you” garments, without you generating more waste. At the same time, swapping can rekindle your relationship with clothes and help you reflect on your buying habits.
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about swapping or thrifting?
Most of us still carry unchallenged beliefs about secondhand clothing. There are links to lower socioeconomic status, poor hygiene and superstitions about past wearers. However, I’m encouraged that in the past few years with how much our community has grown. Plus more and more people have become open to secondhand consumption. That being said, we make sure that we curate our store very carefully to ensure that there’s a great variety of styles, designs and brands to offer. This way, we can help organically resolve issues or concerns surrounding the stigmas of secondhand. We make it our job to constantly educate and give visual proof that secondhand clothing is still fun, fashionable, better for our wallets and kinder to our planet.
Despite the uphill climb, how do you stay motivated to create a sustainable fashion business?
The sustainable fashion movement in Singapore is at an early stage; while we have seen lots of improvement, there’s still a long way to go. I stay motivated to create a world where we no longer have to talk about sustainability because it just becomes everyone’s default practice. Hearing about the lifestyle changes our community is making is validation for us that what we’re doing matters. Just to see more and more people, in whatever way, try to engage in circular fashion consumption is heart-warming and very rewarding for me and the team.
Finally, how would you like to see more individuals and brands be #Down4Earth?
I’d love to see more of us practice three simple Rs:
- Reducing consumption and thinking before you buy your next garment
- Reusing existing pieces in your wardrobe, and…
- Rethinking what fashion will be in the future by using your wallet to vote
#Down4Earth is a social awareness campaign launched by ZERRIN on World Environment Day 2021. The campaign features Singapore-based sustainability advocates with a passion for urban farming, circular fashion, composting and more. They prove that there’s more to sustainability than the quintessential 3 R’s and there’s something everyone can do. Discover more about the campaign. Photography, styling and production by ZERRIN STUDIO.
With a background in fashion and textiles, Durva is an ardent photographer and advocate of social justice. She enjoys writing about fashion, socio-political issues within sustainability and partakes in the occasional 'who wore it better' banter on Diet Prada.