The smart way to find ethical fashion.

Meet Kristina Barrick

By Baobab Avenue, 7 Jan 2020

For Kristina the true cost of fast fashion was a gradual dawning over time. The exploitation of factory workers and environmental impact made her question where she spent her money.
meet kristina barrick

Who are you and what do you do? (for fun and for money!)

I’m Kristina. I work for a large national charity. My job entails working with the tech industry to get them designing more inclusive websites and apps, as often people who represent diversity can be cut out or alienated by popular online products.

Outside of work I’m an avid painter, working with abstract and retro themes.

How did you uncover the true cost of fast fashion?

I think, as with many, it was a gradual dawning over time. You would read the odd article about your make-up brand being built on animal cruelty, see a news report about factory workers being exploited, find out from a colleague about how fast fashion was damaging the environment and eventually start to question where you were spending your money.

When did you discover ethical fashion?

About two years ago I started becoming aware of the reality behind my wardrobe staples. I would binge-buy at ASOS, Boohoo, Zara and H&M (usually in a moment of hungover indulgence). The ridiculous thing is – the clothes snag, stretch and fall apart before you can even get attached to them.

I also used to wear leather and suede and I even had a real fur coat ☹. If I personally was supposed to look after those animals that had been turned into those clothes, feeding them and seeing them each day, I would have done anything to stop them from being hurt, seeing them as my pals.

It’s so easy to ignore the story behind your outfits, and something as seemingly harmless as mass production and waste can also be hard to grapple with; ‘how does this affect me?’. But it does.

‘An estimated 50 million tons of clothing is discarded every year, and most of it will not biodegrade in a landfill. (Synthetic materials like polyester or nylon can also leach chemicals into the earth, and if they’re incinerated, they may become carcinogenic.) The amount of time, energy, and resources that go into those trashed items is usually disproportionate to their quick turnaround.’

Once I started buying clothing from more ethical brands I soon noticed the better quality of the items themselves. You pay more, yes, but the clothes last longer, fit better and are more comfortable.

What made you care about how your clothes are made?

Isn’t it heart-breaking to hang out with your friend’s kids, or your own children and realise that they could inherit a dying planet? The worst thing we can do as a society is nothing. What’s become ‘normal’ now is in fact what’s causing very real destruction for the future.

It’s definitely cool to care, and it’s going to be the ‘in’ thing of the 2020’s. We are all capable of empathy and kindness, and lucky for us, our hands aren’t tied. As consumers we can research brands online and make informed choices on who we shop with.

What’s the first step you took from the dark side of fast and furious fashion towards ethical fashion?

The hardest bit was finding brands and products that were ethical. A lot of my staples were out and you have to do a bit of a re-set on your life. Fortunately, in this digital age, as I started googling I also started receiving a lot of Instagram ads for ethical brands so after a while it was like they found me! Creepy, but useful.

What’s been the toughest part of your journey so far?

To be honest the fashion part is the easiest bit about living more sustainably. Giving up plastic, cleaning products and buying new things for the house is more of a challenge.

I recently moved home and asked people to buy me any housewarming gifts from charity or second-hand shops, people quite enjoyed hunting for stuff and found some real gems. I then had a random splurge one night, it started with a light fitting and escalated to rugs, lamps and a giant beanbag. I hope I somehow counter-acted my own waywardness with the second-hand gifts from others.

Who’s your inspiration? Any cool quotes or tales to tell?

The biggest one would be my stepmum, Olivia. She came into our lives when I was 4 and she was very different from the rest of my family; for starter’s she was a vegetarian, she also made many of her own clothes and one day took us to choose fabric and made us our own (Spice-Girls-themed) dresses, she can also change a lock, wire a plug and win an argument without raising her voice once.

I’ve always admired the compassion and thoughtfulness by which she lives her life. Instead of buying wrapping paper she keeps boxes that deliveries come in and paints over them with poster paint to re-purpose for gifts. She also makes her own soap and cleaning products, has stopped using plastic and doesn’t own a car. She isn’t preachy, but she lives her life ethically with such colour and joy that others want to do the same.

What do you think is the best way to raise awareness?

My personal journey has been very much inspired over time by regular doses of information and in admiring the way others live their lives more sustainably. If you make an ethical choice, tell others. Be openly proud of those decisions, trigger people’s curiosity.

When we lecture angry people, the search data implies that their fury can grow. But subtly provoking people’s curiosity, giving new information, and offering new images of the group that is stoking their rage may turn their thoughts in different, more positive directions. Everybody Lies: What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz