Meet the Change Makers : Rebecca Hughes
10 Questions with Rebecca Hughes : The anti fast fashion activist that is is taking on the industry one Instagram post at a time. @theniftythrifter_
Rebecca Hughes isn’t like any other Instagram personality in the sustainability space. The British instagrammer, who has been who has been actively working against the fast fashion industry by promoting "No new clothes 2019" and confronting the CEO of Boohoo.com, is without a doubt an influencer-to-watch. Becky is known for having strong opinions on the fashion world and the way we treat the things we own in our wardrobes. Becky stands out from the typical influencer crowd in more ways than just her unique style and we love it. We caught up with Becky and asked about her journey towards sustainable fashion and how she's finding No new clothes 2019.
Was sustainability something you have always been interested in and felt strongly about?
When I was younger, I definitely did not care as much as I do now. My family were pretty eco-conscious, so I had some awareness of how important climate change was, but it was never something I thought too much about. This may have been because of my naivety and a lack of awareness as to what was really going on but also because no one was really taking climate change seriously at that time. Back then, I thought it was mostly to do with ensuring that you switch off your lights and use the shower less often. Although these things are important. it never occurred to me that sustainability was something that affects EVERY ASPECT of our day-to-day lives. It is my strongly held belief that in the light of the evidence every person should be considering their everyday actions and work to reduce their environmental impact on the planet.
Why did you start your journey into no new clothes in 2019?
It all began last year when I had ordered a haul of clothes from one of my favourite fast fashion retailers. When the clothes arrived, nearly everything I had ordered was faulty or broken. It was only really then that I started thinking about why the quality was so poor, who was making my clothes and where had they come from. Only after doing some in-depth research into fast fashion did I really start to understand how detrimental the impact of the industry was to both the environment and workers’ rights. I was shocked. I felt so guilty and I knew that I could not carry on buying from these fast fashion retailers. There HAD to be a slower approach to fashion that did not rely on human beings working for below the minimum wage, in harmful working environments, and an approach that didn’t contribute to the emission of dangerous amounts of greenhouse gases. I decided that for my New Year’s Resolution that I would not buy any new clothes in 2019. The only clothes I would buy would be second-hand (and I would only buy if I truly felt I NEEDED or perhaps DESERVED it)!
Are you finding your journey challenging given the constant new trends in the fashion industry?
100%! I think fashion is intrinsically connected to the way we feel about ourselves– people follow and want to keep up with trends in order to be relevant and ‘cool’. I still see pictures online of friends wearing fast fashion and think ‘I love that top!!!’. However, I always end up listening to reason thinking about the impact it has on someone else’s LIFE and the detrimental effect fast fashion has on the environment. It was definitely not worth selling my soul to look cute in that top. I would also often use trends as an excuse to buy a certain item of clothing for a night or an event, post it on Instagram and never wear it again. This disposable clothing culture is too often idealised by fast fashion brands and is both pernicious and simply unsustainable. I could easily find a top just as cute (and better made) at a charity store and show I care about my impact on the world.
You’re wonderfully outspoken on social media, how do you find the confidence to be un-apologetically yourself?
Well it did not start out like that - I grew up thinking and feeling like I had to act like something that deep down I was not. However, my personal growth has definitely matured between the ages of 18-22. Back when I started university, I was deeply insecure and mostly felt lost with regard to what I wanted to do with my life and which direction I was headed. Discovering that I wanted to be more ethically conscious gave me a purpose - something for which I developed a passion that will be instilled in me for the rest of my life. I wanted my Instagram to be an open, honest and transparent place that allowed me to vent my feelings. By being as outspoken as I am online, I feel that my followers can trust me, as well as relate to me as a young fashion-loving 20 something who even today feels confused and betrayed by the fashion brands she once loved.
Speaking of being outspoken, one of the reasons we love you was after reading about your encounter with the owner of fast fashion brand BooHoo. Can you tell us more about this?
It all happened when I posted about him on my Instagram page. I decided that I was fed up of his posts that only displayed him on yachts or travelling on jet planes etc. I thought these pictures were particularly shocking considering that BooHoo are not a brand that are transparent about the prices their workers are being paid or share ANY hints that they are making steps to becoming more environmentally conscious. My thought process was HOW can we celebrate and idealise a man who is doing THE LEAST EVER to help protect our planet. In venting my thoughts about this on Instagram, I decided I would tag him, in the hope that maybe *on the off chance* he may be inclined to defend himself and his brand. Alas the next day I was reading the comments on my post and clicked on his name in my caption. Needless to say, he had blocked me. I think what shocked me the most was the fact that he decided to block me rather than engage in an open, honest and frank online conversation via a direct message. Considering I have a mere 2,600 followers to that of his *cough* 577,000, it perplexes me that he would feel the need to BLOCK little old ME. This certainly leads me to believe that he must have something to hide which for someone like me taking an ethical approach to fashion is truly the scariest thing.
What are some of your favourite sustainable fashion brands that you support?
I haven’t bought any new clothes this year, only second-hand and vintage. However, this hasn’t stopped me delving into the ethics behind brands that are making ethical choices and making conscious and effective steps towards maintaining sustainability. Lucy & Yak are a brand that I’ve really loved over the last couple of years – and will continue to so. Sites such as Vestiaire and renting sites such as Hurr also have my support. I have recently considered the ethics of more independent brands that are using sustainable practices. ThinkThreads on Etsy is a go-to for sustainable but gorgeously designed jewellery that is made from 80% recyclable material. I also LOVE upcycling and get real inspiration from accounts such as @lucid.seams who focuses on improving upon the clothes we already have. I also love Sloanie as well as my Organic Basics underwear!
What are your hopes for the future of the fashion industry, in terms of becoming more sustainable?
I hope that one day fashion brands will all take a slower approach to fashion and think ethically and start using greener, more sustainable materials. It only takes a quick Google search to find out what materials provide the best contribution to sustainability. In the final analysis it mostly comes down to fashion companies reducing the amount of clothes they produce, as well as the consumer recycling and re using materials that they already possess. In the future I hope that people will think first, choose a more cyclical approach to fashion and not just to buy for the sake of buying.
What are your top tips for living a consciously sustainable life?
In terms of fashion, use charity and thrift shops instead of heading straight to the high-street stores! The stigma that comes with charity shops is simply outdated – if you like what you see just give it a wash and wear it with pride!!!! Carry out detailed research into brands and use those that are making a conscious effort to improve the outlook for sustainability within the fashion industry. There are lots of brands out there that do CARE. If the Fast Fashion brands at least acknowledge and then take on board the sorts of high-principled standards that we as the end consumer demand hopefully they will eventually all adopt practices that are principled and for the benefit of our planet’s future.
Any tips to your followers for the Christmas season?
Fast fashion brands will be out in force in order to persuade you to buy from them. The pressure to invest in the sparkles and some celebrity’s glittering new collections will be thrust into our faces constantly over the next few months. If you care about my message then it is vitally important that you resist these pressures and perhaps look into your winter wardrobe for items you forgot you had from the last few years. If you do take action like this do please tell me about it. If you do choose to buy new – make conscious decisions – rather than going for a random splurge online. The other day I wrapped a present for a friend up in one of my old scarves. It meant she had the present I had bought her as well as a gorgeous new second-hand scarf. The zero-waste present of my dreams. This approach is definitely something that I will be replicating during the Christmas season.
What’s next for you in 2020?
I will certainly continue with spreading my slow fashion message to my followers and build my presence online. I love to do presentations and give talks on sustainability and the harmful effects of fast fashion and this is an area that I would like to do more of. Together with a good friend of mine we are looking to do an epic clothes swap in early 2020 – so watch this space! I will also further my research into discovering more new sustainable brands that can show that they also care about the environment, such as Priest London.
For 2020 my overall message would be that it is more important than ever to INVEST in items of clothing that are good quality and that you can wear, look after and love for years. The throw away approach is NOT a viable option.
I will continue to shine a light on both the villains and the heroes – brands that destroy and those brands that employ sustainable practices who demonstrably show that they do want to change the face of fashion for the better and thereby contribute to the sustainability of our planet for future generations to enjoy.
3 things you're loving from Priest London?
Gunas Rotunda in Red
This bag is just beautiful. A perfect red for Christmas and the ideal accessory coming up to party season. I’m in LOVE. The bag is Vegan and ethically made.
Sienna U-back bralette
This would look flawless paired with old jeans and a thrifted checked shirt for daytime or alternatively I think this looked like the perfect bra for chilling in the house or writing emails in bed. A perfect gift for Christmas!
Latelita Rose Gold Cowrie-shell-choker necklace
I love this Latelita Rose Gold Cowrie-shell-choker necklace. You can never go wrong with a shell necklace – I feel like it’s the ultimate accessory to be able to look effortless from day to day but can also be worn elegantly with a bardot top or LBD for a night-out