Tara Stewart
Fashion

“I felt guilty thinking I was contributing to a bigger problem and influencing people to buy fast fashion”

Welcome to The Sustainable Shopper. Each week, Stylist will talk to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This week, Tara Stewart – DJ and founder of Dirty Laundry sustainability podcast – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about why she stopped working with fast fashion brands, vintage shopping and how buying a sewing machine is the “best thing you can do”. 

Have you ever stopped and thought about who made the clothes you’re wearing? Wondered if they’re getting paid a fair wage? Or, have you consciously shopped at more sustainable brands? This is where the Sustainable Shopper comes in. Here at Stylist, we’re continuing the conversation about sustainability, particularly in the fashion industry. In order to do this, each week we’re interviewing a person we believe is making a difference. Whether that’s from owning an eco-friendly brand, discussing important issues over podcasts or sharing their knowledge through social platforms. We want to listen, learn and adapt in order to help make small changes that collectively will make a difference to the planet. 

This time we sit down with Tara Stewart; DJ, radio presenter and host of her own sustainability podcast Dirty Laundry (listen at Apple Podcasts and Spotify.) After working with several fast fashion retailers in the past, Tara cut a sponsored social media post short in order to assign her beliefs as a slow fashion advocate.

We find out why Tara made the shift from fast to slow fashion and why it has been a change for the better. 

Tara Stewart
Tara Stewart

Tara: Up until 2 years ago, I used to work with fast fashion brands – mainly DJing for them and getting paid to wear their clothes. I always felt so proud that I was being asked to wear clothes by brands that had huge influence and I had looked up to for years. It wasn’t until I watched the groundbreaking documentary ‘The True Cost’ which documents the lives of garment workers around the world. It opened my eyes to the devastating effects this industry could have on people and the planet. The documentary asks us to consider who really pays the price of our consumption habits, and upon watching it, I became obsessed with finding out as much as I could about the garment industry from production to consumption and everything in between. 

At this point, I had three posts left with a fast fashion brand under contract and had already been paid by them. I felt so guilty thinking I was contributing to a bigger problem and influencing people to buy fast fashion with the swipe up links I was being paid to post. It was a huge decision for me to risk my career to stand by my beliefs, but I came to the decision to back out of the contract and explained why I felt I had to do this to the brand – it wasn’t a decision I’d taken lightly. Despite the moral reasons I’d given them, they gave me their bank details and I paid them back. At the time I was so scared that I was making a bad decision in terms of DJing and my career but looking back, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done and has brought me to where I am today. It’s tricky as a DJ because I do still get booked for so many events and parties by fashion brands, but I now try to pick ones without the ‘fast’ involved to align my personal morals with work. 

I decided to start my Dirty Laundry podcast as a way to learn more about sustainable fashion – I was pretty nervous to start. I wanted to make the series easy and in short episodes so people could come away with more knowledge than when they started. I hope this has worked for people because I know it has for me. 

A highlight since starting my podcast last year has been interviewing Richard Malone. The designer is another pioneer in sustainable fashion as he’s making a difference with his collections made from recycled plastic and netting from old fisherman nets. As well as using sustainable materials, he also works with farmers in Tamil Nadu and is part of projects that regenerate farm land in India that has been ruined from over production. 

My absolute dream guests for Dirty Laundry would be Edward Enninful because he is at the top of the fashion world and has seen it from the inside for so long. I would also like Stella McCartney, aka the OG of sustainable fashion.

Along with Stella McCartney, I also love We Are Kin founded by Ngoni Chikwenengere. The brand is size inclusive and only makes clothes from end of line fabrics so each collection is limited and by pre-order only. It’s rare to find a sustainable size inclusive brand that actually does cater to all sizes – Birdsong is another great one to look out for. 

Richard Malone is another pioneer in sustainable fashion. The designer was a guest on my podcast and is really truly making a difference by making his collections from recycled plastic and netting from old fisherman nets. As well as making his collections from sustainable materials, he also works with farmers in Tamil Nadu and is part of projects that regenerate farm land in India that has been ruined from over production. He is really passionate about so many social issues and I really think Richard is the future of fashion. 

I’ve massively changed the way I shop, instead of opting for fast fashion, I shop at the likes of Depop and vintage stores. I adore fashion and have always used it as a way to express myself, it’s like this creative armour for me and I usually hope people will ‘get me’ once they see what I wear before I speak. I’ve also started altering my clothes – buying a sewing machine is the best thing you can do, trust me. Just search YouTube the basics and invest in a sewing machine and you will be so thankful, especially when you get the holes in the thigh area, a thread comes loose or a button falls off, you will be able to fix it yourself instead of throwing it away. 

I would like to see everyone make small changes to be more sustainable but when it comes to the industry I would like there to be more transparency and for the huge brands and corporations to make true changes to their business models because they are the ones with the most control. On a different note I would also really like for brands to become more size inclusive, especially sustainable brands, because fashion should be accessible to everyone.

We can slow down our shopping habits by only buying key pieces less often that are better quality so they last longer but always buy pre-loved and vintage first if you can. Try switching to a menstrual cup or biodegradable pads and tampons. Ditch your reusable face wipes and use reusable face pads instead. And don’t beat yourself up, nobody is perfect and we all are trying our best to navigate life without the added stress of sustainable living. Just try and slowly add these positive habits into your life and before you know it, they will have become your new norm.

Tara’s Sustainable Shopper edit

  • Nike puffer coat

    Nike coat
    Nike coat

    Known for its sustainable sportswear, Nike it a go-to for trainers, activewear and eco-conscious coats. This key puffer style for winter is made from a down alternative using 100% recycled materials. 

    Shop sportswear ecodown coat at Nike, £237

  • OrganiCup menstrual cup

    OrganiCup menstrual cup
    OrganiCup menstrual cup

    Replace pads and tampons with this reusable menstrual cup. You can get it in three different sizes, it’s vegan, made from medical-grade silicon and you can use the same one for years.

    Shop menstrual cup at OrganiCup, from £21

  • True Vintage jacket

    True Vintage jacket
    True Vintage jacket

    Giving vintage clothing a new home is a great way to shop more sustainably. Reuse, rewear and relove old clothes – someone else’s ‘junk’ can be your treasure. 

    Shop dodge nascar racing jacket at True Vintage, £105

  • We Are Kin dress

    We Are Kin dress
    We Are Kin dress

    Made in an East London studio using end of line cotton materials this amazing zebra dress is a style you can wear across all seasons. Head to sustainable site We Are Kin for dressing and tailoring you’ll love forever. 

    Shop The Juliet midi dress at We Are Kin, £95

  • Axiology lipstick

    Glow Organic lipstick
    Glow Organic lipstick

    For all things natural beauty, Glow Organics is the destination. These creamy vegan lipsticks are made from over 70% organic ingredients. 

    Shop Axiology lipstick at Glow Organic, £29

  • Tommy Hilfiger jacket

    Tommy Hilfiger jacket
    Tommy Hilfiger jacket

    Investing in great denim is always a good idea when it comes to pieces that’ll have longevity. Tommy Jeans is the iconic brand to rely on and this low-impact jacket made from recycled materials is one you’ll want to show off for years to come. 

    Shop Tommy Jeans denim truckerjack jacket, £127

  • Upcircle face mask

    UpCircle face mask
    UpCircle face mask

    Made with the fine powder of discarded olive stones this vegan, cruelty-free mask created in the UK is a guilt-free beauty treat. UpCircle also has 100% recyclable packaging for all of its products.

    Shop clarifying face mask with olive powder at UpCircle, £18.99

Images: Tara Stewart/Eoin Greally/courtesy of brands

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