Talking Sustainability &
Slow Fashion
With A PhD Candidate 

With Erin Skinner from @slowlyerin

She's overqualified for this chat, but we learned so much - and we are sure you will too.

Her answer to question 5 really stood out as there is a common misconception in Australia that we can just 'copy and paste' what works in other countries, and then assume it will have the same positive effect.

Read on to find out why she's against this...

And if podcasts are more your thing, listen to the audio version of our chat with Erin on 'Striding Forward'. Listen now on your preferred podcasting platform below:
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Anchor

1. Tell us about you and your sustainability journey?

Erin: Well, my name's Erin. I'm currently in my first year of a PhD in psychology. I'm very lucky to be at the University of South Australia, who include conservation psychology in the curriculum for their undergrad degree. So as someone who loves psychology and the environment, it's kind of perfect

I guess like many people, my my quest for sustainability comes from my love for the Earth. I've always had a really deep connection with nature... and I can really strongly recall learning about greenhouse gases and stuff like that in year four.

At this time, Australia was experiencing severe drought and we were in strict water restrictions. So as time has gone on and environmental degradation has worsened, it's just come to the forefront of my passions.

I already thought of myself as environmentally focused, but I hadn't really ever considered where my clothes came from. This was huge for me - I was absolutely a shopaholic.

2. And what drew you to focus on sustainable fashion with your research??

Erin: I already thought of myself as environmentally focused, but I hadn't really ever considered where my clothes came from. This was huge for me - I was absolutely a shopaholic.

It was a well-known joke amongst my friends that I had parcels coming every week and most of money went to fashion items.. but the social, environmental and ethical impact was still huge for me.

A few weeks later, actually, I was starting my own Honours at uni and all the supervisors for that year get up and they present the research projects or ideas that they have on offer. The supervisor I already really wanted to work with got up and said she has a project idea of looking at slow fashion

.The clouds parted and the light shine ddown on me. And it was just like, that's it - I have to get that project. I did it and I've been falling down the rabbit hole ever since.

3. What drew you to research sustainable fashion specifically?

Erin: It was this funny feeling that it (shopping fast fashion) made me feel good.

After finishing assignments or studying, my treat for myself would be to buy something. If I was bored I would scroll websites and stuff.

It was enjoyable and fun, but I look back now and think: how how did I find that fun?

I think that it's a very common thing for a lot of people to enjoy retail therapy.

4. You focus your research into sustainability and slow fashion in Australia - why is that?

Erin: I think you hear a lot in discussions that Australia has such a small population and we're just a drop in the ocean and blah, blah, blah. But when it comes to fashion consumption, that is just so far from the truth.

Fashion stats are hard because lots of them compare different stuff. You know, one stat might look at textile consumption, which includes carpet and curtains, as well as clothing... whereas another might look at apprel, which can extend to clothing and shoes, for example.

But either way, Australia is consistently in the top five countries when it comes to clothing consumption.

There are some cities out there with a population higher than our entire country, and yet we are potentially the second-largest consumer of clothing in the world.

5. What are some of the solutions that you recommend to making fashion more sustainable in Australia?

Erin: Well, it's interesting, actually. Most people, I think, would assume that we can kind of model behavior change off of other Western societies like Europe or the United States.

But Australia has a very unique fashion landscape, particularly because of our population density and the distance between cities.

This means that our fashion industries are largely dominated by large retail companies like H&M and Cotton On Group. We are unique in global scale.

So I think the approach we take has to be unique to us as well, which there is really no research happening in Australia at the moment on this subject. So, yeah, it's really I don't know that one.

6. What's been the biggest change to how you consume fashion more sustainability? How did you make the move to adopting more eco-friendly clothing?

Erin: Currently, yes, greenwashing is the biggest hurdle that we would say in moving towards sustainable fashion.

Obviously, there's always going to be other things that come up as we're navigating these new territories. But at the moment, greenwashing is a really big issue for us and other brands trying to bring sustainable fashion to the forefront.

I think what brands are doing with greenwashing is they're kind of creating this guilt-free buying by the customer. So the customer sees what they perceive so that they're creating these sustainable alternatives. And then they just by thinking that they're kind of doing the right thing, when it's not necessarily a sustainable or ethical choice.

7. What's one easy hack/swap we can all adopt today to be more sustainable?

Erin: For me, I think the most important one, and it's not the easiest, but just asking yourself: do I need this? And that's not just about fashion. That's about anything.

I rearranged my bedroom during the pandemic. I use that as an opportunity to purge heap of things and basically never use. It felt bad with the amount of stuff that I had accumulated because at one stage, I wanted it.

Now I just ask myself every time I go to buy something: do I need this? And the answer is usually 'no'.

8. Do you have any simpler hacks for ethical clothing? Adopting a zero waste/low waste lifestyle?

Erin: My favourite hat or swap so far has probably been silicon reusable bags instead of zip lock bags. I find them to be really practical in embracing a more sustainable lifestyle.

Source: Kappi

9. Where can people go to learn more about you and your journey?

Erin: Well, I'm hoping one day in the future I'll be able to publish my research in a journal. But I guess until then, you just have to keep up with my Instagram, which is @slowlyerin

Conclusion

Now do you see why we think Erin is over-qualified for us!?

She's an expert in all thing sustainable fashion in Australia, and fingers crossed we can start to see her work published in the future.

Like most of us, she was once a victim of slow fashion, but she's changed her ways and there's no reason why you can't do the same (if you already haven't).

Erin was inspired by protecting our planet, and saw sustainable fashion as key pillar in adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle... and now she's an expert and soon to be obtain her doctorate!

What part of Erin's insights struck you the most?