It’s the “S” word buzzing around the Fashion industry, causing upset, change, denial, confusion, overwhelm and paralysis.


It’s enough to cause anxiety in someone caught in the spiral of fast fashion, an eye roll from those who have been practicing it their entire lives and an almost instantaneous glaze over when brought up in conversation. Whether we’re being fed information about sustainability, urged to buy from sustainable and ethical fashion brands, demanding brands to share their entire sustainability plan including complete transparency on supply chains or participating in Plastic Free July, its messaging has now become mainstream.


The demand is coming from a loud, increasingly growing consumer minority. In my view, it is one part entitled and another part warranted. Of course, like anything, it originates from a place of care and concern but it’s flawed. The Sustainability conversation feels and sounds a little like commentary. “Be sustainable”, “Live more sustainably”, “Practice sustainability” are all great suggestions but they don’t really resonate with a lot of people.


I know this because I am one of “those” people (which is saying something because I’m an advocate for such practices).

This image introduces you to the author of the blog - Penelope Bell
I’m a huge fan of living a life of sustainable practices


Sustainability can be and is being used broadly (Influencer’s are giving it their best shot!), yet a lot of people are confused about what it actually means/ is, and/or what they have to do to become so. Topical conversations around the word can feel quite polarizing and again, I know this because a lot of my friends have told me so.


These friends of mine are highly educated, well-adjusted and high functioning individuals (and jolly kind ones at that), many of whom are specialists in their fields. Yet they’re not into “it” (“it” being sustainability). If they’re not into it, you can bet your bottom dollar the vast majority of the population isn’t either. And if I’m being perfectly honest, the whole fashion sustainability conversation hasn’t ever really sat well with me either and this is why…


Sustainability – Noun

Def: The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld or confirmed


Sustainable – Adjective

Def: To be maintained at a certain rate or level


Sustainability is a noun. A noun is a word used to refer to a name or a thing. The definition of sustainability doesn’t actually shed any light on what we can do to BE more sustainable. Thankfully, we have experts who can teach us but even on the face of it, some of their methodologies, practices and lifestyles sometimes seem, well, unsustainable.


Not for one minute am I saying Sustainability shouldn’t be used in the fashion language, it definitely has its place in the world and in the industry. Though if you’re like me and just a bit tired of hearing a trending message perhaps consider the word, Conscious. Or even better, Consciously.


Conscious – Adjective

Def: If you are conscious of something you notice it or realise it’s happening.


Consciously – Adverb

Def: In a deliberate and intentional way.


My interpretation of this is:

Consciously is an adverb – a cross between an adjective and verb. It’s a descriptive action we can take and for me, it is a far more compelling and palatable one! Consciousness requires quality awareness whether it is of oneself or of your surrounds. Therefore if you notice something or realise it’s happening, you take deliberate and intentional actions.


It’s for this reason I chose to use the word, “Consciously”, when brainstorming names in 2016 for my 12 month ban on clothes shopping (to start in 2017). It was a deliberate (and conscious) decision to leave sustainability and its off spring out my fashion project’s title. And so, Consciously Spending Less To Create More was created! While its title is a mouthful and its acronym CSLTCM has been mixed up with others like the CSIRO, it best encompasses the movement’s intention.


An image of my Consciously Spending Less To Create More project
These items were on high rotation throughout my Consciously Spending Less To Create More 12 month fashion challenge


Consciously Spending Less To Create More is an adjunct to living A Conscious Life.


For someone like Me, a fashion designer, illustrator and storyteller who studied Fashion Design, Textiles, Clothing and Footwear and has worked in the industry for close to 20 years, I’m closely monitoring the sustainable fashion movement. It feels like the industry is under siege by the consumer and future career options within the industry, under threat. The statistics are right, the world currently has too many clothes and the environmental impacts of fast fashion are horrifying, there is no denying it. However the real problem doesn’t just lie with the companies. Adding fuel to the fire is an unconscious consumer – WE are the reason companies are producing and manufacturing in the first place.


It’s time we need to take a good, hard look at ourselves and our habits and ask ourselves:


Am I carrying out the same scale of sustainable actions in my own life to which I am demanding of these organizations?

And if so, am I willing to be completely transparent and vocal about it?


Am I asking these same questions of other industries with same amount tenacity and passion? And if not, why not?


What I’ve observed from life over my 34 years, is this: Pointing fingers, shouting at people and making them wrong or right is exhausting… Your fingers will get tired, your throat will become sore and you’ll likely become self entitled/ important. (It also verges on dictatorship which we all know never ends well).


A photo to promote thought on where our clothes come from.
Where do our clothes actually come from and what is our relationship with them?


Instead, I challenge you to strip yourself of your own preconceptions, idealogies, agenda, morals and values to really see things for what they are. Talk to people who don’t share the same opinion as you and try to understand and appreciate why. Spend time in places that make you feel uncomfortable whether that be socially, professionally or leisurely and find a way to feel comfortable. Take the time to consciously reconnect yourself and identify the positive steps and actions you’re taking to support your causes, which doesn’t include social commentary.


If all this sounds overwhelming, rest easy – I’ve got you babe! I’ve come up with 5 Ways To Reconnect With Yourself which you can download here.


Next Blog Sneak Peek:

On the 1st September, I’ll begin a new challenge for Consciously Spending Less To Create More and this time I’m inviting you to come along. If you’re looking for ways to lower textile, fashion and general waste in your home and would like someone to hold your hand throughout the process, I’ll provide you with the educational resources, skills and techniques to help get you started. I guarantee it will be fun, supportive, challenging, eye opening, simple, nourishing, cleansing and good for your soul. Stay up to date by subscribing to my newsletter at the bottom of this page.


Until next time, I’ll leave this with you… What can you consciously spend less on to create more of which benefits the greater good?


xx P

About Penelope

I’m a fashion illustrator, designer, storyteller and ambassador who helps brands in the fashion, lifestyle and travel industries, build brand recognition, credibility, loyalty, and trust whilst offering a fresh perspective.

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