I’m beyond thrilled to introduce my first interview subject in my “Fashion Week” series, the one and only Aja Barber. If you’re not following her on Instagram, you should be! She’s a wealth of information, a genuinely kind person, and one of the reasons I’m so happy that I decided to join Instagram in the first place.
A note for people who may not be familiar with Aja’s work: always be respectful when entering her social media space, or the space of any BIPOC person. She also has an excellent Patreon, where you can support her work and learn even more! I highly recommend it.
Could you please briefly introduce yourself and your work, with whatever details you would like to include?
My name is Aja Barber and I’m a writer, stylist, and consultant whose work focuses on fashion, ethics, and sustainability and all its intersections … so feminism, race, colonialism, who makes our clothes and why, and why are we dumping our old clothes on those nice folks who don’t actually want them. And why are we buying so much?
Could you tell me a little about your approach to sustainability and slow fashion?
I microblog every day Monday – Friday on Instagram about fashion and diversity or race and feminism … whatever the order of the day is. I only wear and tag slow fashion and ethical brands on my Instagram. I take the approach that we all have some fast fashion in our wardrobe (it was pretty impossible to avoid the last few years and especially if your body is bigger like mine) but I will never sell you fast fashion or promote it in my space because we all need to be moving away from that. I encourage people to move away from fast fashion at whatever your intersection is. Because we all know there’s so much privilege surrounding a great many of these subjects.
What are some of the problems with fashion today? [massive topic, I know!]
Fashion has absolutely NEVER included everyone. If you’re not a certain body type or skin colour or perhaps have a disability, often fashion leaves you out in the cold. I’m about building a more ethical movement where people feel as encouraged and excited about fashion as I do. But we don’t get there carving the same old paths and allowing the same voices and bodies as always to dominate.
How can consumers make the best purchasing decisions possible? Could you give us some action items?
First things first! Stop buying so much! No, you don’t need a new dress for that wedding. You have a perfectly lovely one and I guarantee you no one knows you’ve worn it already. If anyone makes a comment, they’re just being rude and who cares what they think anyway. Fast fashion has survived by putting subtle pressure on us through marketing and implying that we have to buy, buy, buy no matter what! Stepping out of the cycle and taking a break for just a month is actually massively rewarding and will have you thinking twice about what’s already in your wardrobe.
Number two. Buy secondhand. I’ve always been a keen second hand buyer … I just didn’t talk about it a lot because secondhand clothing still has a stigma about it, which is frankly ridiculous. We’re all going to be doing a lot of secondhand shopping in the future because the world has more clothing garments on it than humans and we have to start wearing what we already have. Developing your personal style makes secondhand shopping a lot easier.
Number three. Get away from the high street. Invest in small independent designer (spoiler alert, I find many small makers can price some things similarly to high street … like especially if you’re paying about $40 – $69 [US pricing] for your clothes). It takes a lot more energy and effort but you will be surprised how rewarding it is. Investing in small business is investing in people! Often, I find after years of buying from the same makers, I end up with the occasional freebie or a garment named after me. Knowing who made your clothes is utterly fulfilling.
What else would you like readers to know?
I know, it all feels daunting. Climate change. Changing all our life habits. But fashion (which accounts for 10% of carbon emissions) and who and how we buy is within our grasp! You’ve got this! I’m cheering for you!