#fashionsdirtysecrets: what can we learn?

Stacey Dooley is one of my all time idols and not just because she’s one of the best dancers on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing. She tackles subjects that aren’t talked of, and should be, head on and her most recent documentary: ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ looks at the shocking environmental impact that fast fashion has. Presenting a show on CBBC called ‘Show Me What You’re Made Of‘, a programme that I used to watch when I was younger, this isn’t Stacey’s first observation about the life of those behind the production of fast-fashion, although it is definitely arguable that this documentary will have a much deeper impact on the everyday viewer. In fact, Stacey actually presented a programme called ‘Blood, Sweat and T-shirts‘ in 2008, I wonder the extent to which fast fashion has changed since she filmed it.

I’m not going to go too much into the documentary itself given that I want to discuss the impact of the documentary, especially seeing as it was given such a prime time position on BBC One. Stacey’s investigation took her from a discussion about the devastating damage that the cotton industry has had on sustaining a vibrant eco system, with particular focus on the Aral Sea to meeting bloggers including Niomi Smart about their influence on their audiences shopping habits. There is just so much to talk about with regards to the content of the documentary, it is informative, not as hard hitting as a film such as the True Cost but is enough to stress the importance the need to change our shopping habits. It also shows just how much bloggers and Youtubers have the power to influence their audience’s shopping habits. The Guardian as well as the BBC have recently commented on this, with hauls contributing to the ‘cut-price clothing’ boom. It isn’t just the responsibility of influencers to change consumers shopping habits but they do have a large audience to share their views with. The Guardian article is well worth the read.

The Aral sea in 1964 on the left and what the sea looks like now

Fashion’s Dirty Secrets largely focused on the sustainable side of fast-fashion and I’d be interested to see what the response would be if she focused on the ethical side of the industry. I didn’t turn to ethical and sustainable fashion primarily for the damage it was doing to our planet, it was more that I didn’t want to fund an industry that was so damaging to its workers. Despite this, I think that focusing on sustainability highlights the rapid decline of environmental conditions that is caused by fast-fashion and, shockingly, I think is more likely to encourage others to act if they think the impact fashion has on the environment may impact the future of the planet and not workers in factories (I fear that it is more possible to justify such practices over sustainability and the state the world is in).

a photo of what is now a desert in place of the Aral sea

The response to the documentary is somewhat overwhelmingly good, the hashtag #fashionsdirtysecrets seems to expose the public’s ignorance to what is the world’s second biggest polluter and there is a general shock that we’ve gone about unaware of the damage that the clothes we buy does for so long. It’s an overwhelmingly positive response but are what is being put into action? Education is key and it’s the first step to making more conscious decisions about the clothes we buy but what comes after? What will the impact be on individuals? My mum watched the documentary for the first time at the weekend to which the response was: ‘how can I really make my shopping habits sustainable?’ To which my reply was that I urge her to read my blog for all tips and a reassuring nudge in the right direction.

In all seriousness, the documentary shouldn’t just shine a light on the issue of fast-fashion for the public to return to old shopping habits and I wanted to see whether the documentary really would encourage a change in people’s shopping habits. After seeing blogger Alice Spake’s tweet on twitter, I wanted to find out a little more about what she learnt from the documentary and whether it has led her to make changes to her own shopping habits.

With regards to fast-fashion, Alice said that she was ‘a lot less aware of it‘ than she thought she was, especially regarding the impact that cotton has. I asked her whether the documentary would change her shopping habits and she responded that she is ‘not a big shopper’  and that she ‘tend [s] to buy key pieces that’ll last the seasons’.  With consideration of the disposal of her clothes, Alice says she donates a lot of what she doesn’t wear any more to charities and woman refuges, concluding that she is going to look into ways to help more. Will the documentary have a resounding impact on other influencers and the everyday consumer? Alice said that: ‘when it comes to bloggers and youtubers because haul videos are so popular and growing in this industry is so much harder now that’ll people are going to share what their audience wants’. 

So yes, the documentary may have ended on a positive note but will it really produce results? Alice herself is committed to making more changes to her own consumerism but what about others? I was actually looking at Alice’s twitter timeline and another blogger responded that she watched the documentary after seeing her talking about it and I think that just highlights the HUGE influence that bloggers can have on influencing the decisions that their audience make, even if you just look at that one response. I think it’s incredibly revealing and just furthers the need for influencers to talk about fast-fashion because we do have the ability to talk about it on such a far-reaching platform. The other response towards the documentary from another blogger thus far is from teen blogger Luxe Kate who wrote about her desire to change her shopping habits in response to the documentary.

It is necessary to note that main stream forms of media have been giving more attention to sustainability lately, including the ELLE UK September sustainability issue and hopefully Fashion’s Dirty Secrets will pave a way for a greater conversation, alongside action, towards sustainability.

The conclusion? I urge you to watch the documentary but beyond that I urge to learn something from it and apply it to your shopping habits. Don’t be afraid to talk about your thoughts with other people, try not to be overwhelmed by the hard truth of the damage that fast-fashion has done and see this as a moment to change the way you buy fashion in the future. And if you’re an influencer reading this post, I urge you to get talking and use your audience to make a change. 

lots of love, eleanor xx


  1. Jemima 15th October 2018 at 9:45 am

    I love this post – this documentary is so important and I think a healthy post-watch discussion is what’s needed for it to have the biggest impact possible.

    Jemima x

  2. Ella Jones 15th October 2018 at 5:25 pm

    I loved Stacey’s documentary a lot, I’m proud that the fast fashion message has finally made it to national television. I’ve changed my shopping habits by eliminating my shopping habit completely – I’ve challenged myself to not buy clothes for as long as possible… we’ll see how that goes, so far I’ve lasted nearly 3 weeks. I’m hoping it will change my mindset on buying clothes.


  3. Kate 15th October 2018 at 6:07 pm

    I’m so glad I watched the documentary as I was always aware fast fashion was a problem , but it’s when you see the drastic consequences like the river not existing anymore and how it changes peoples lives , that’s when it really makes you realise. Thank u for the mention in your post, I’m really going to try to be so much more conscious in what I buy. Your blog is where I shall be looking for help!! 🙂
    Fab post as always!
    Kate Xxxx https://www.luxekate.com

  4. Erin Grace 15th October 2018 at 6:27 pm

    I’m planning on watching the documentary at some point this week when I find the time to sit down and properly take it all in, so I loved reading this post as almost a prelude to the documentary – I’ll definitely make sure to tweet/post my thoughts once I’ve watched it! I totally think we need to use our voices to change the way we think about fast-fashion and sustainable clothing, it’s amazing to have such a prime spot on BBC with someone as fab as Stacey bringing it up and giving the issue an audience, we really need more of that! I’m definitely beginning to think differently about the way I shop – I have always been brought up to donate old clothes to charity and tend to buy staple pieces rather than ‘trendy’ items (I literally wear things from three years ago that I still love dearly), but I’m really looking into how I can make a difference more. Thank you so much Eleanor for using your voice to spread this message! Definitely looking up to your blog for all the sustainable tips x

    Erin // Everything Erin


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