Bronwyn O’Neill on the future of fashion
Bronwyn is fabulous, fearless, determined, and knows her own mind. Her humour and creativeness are infectious. She speaks her mind and stands by what she says, and I still look to her for information and inspiration.
As we began to chat about clothing, in the broader sense, Bronwyn feels that “it’s very important to know where our clothes are coming from, and if we can, to try and cut back”. She acknowledges that it is hard to cut back on fast fashion because it’s so expensive, which then leads and means people have to go to Penneys for things like underwear and socks.
“In a capitalist society, we don’t get paid as much as we can, so there’s no ethical consumption, we can’t care about our planet and ourselves and other people, it’s this mad cycle of negativity.”
When thinking about shopping, fast fashion and buying clothes, the most important thing Bronwyn considers is “do I need this?” She emphasises the importance of shopping local and small businesses.
“If you want to go out and shop, there are so many small businesses you can support, and there’s loads on Etsy and Depop”. Bronwyn touches on the subject of upcycling clothes. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, upcycling is also known as creative reuse, and is the process of transforming by-products, waste materials, useless, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value.
I bought a dress that wasn’t flattering so Mum said she could remake it. Try and think of different ways to use/reuse your clothes, try a swap shop with friends, there’s so many options even with the current Covid-19 climate that you can go to.
As the television adaption of Sally Rooney’s best-selling book ‘Normal People’ swept the country and we became enthralled in the love story of Connell and Marianne, the pair also became something of fashion icons, both on and off screen. Bronwyn, who chatted to Mescal and Daisy Edgar Jones, who play the love-struck pair, mentioned that a lot of the clothes that Daisy’s character, Marianne, wore, were from charity shops and vintage shops. “There are so many amazing charity shops around the country”.
Since Covid-19 hit, for many of us, our lifestyles and habits have changed. Bronwyn hopes that people have thought more about clothing and fast fashion. “I cleaned out my wardrobe in the first two weeks and there was so much that I hadn’t worn or didn’t wear”. However, in a creative twist, and one that I’ll definitely be taking note of, “I picked out clothing items that I wasn’t wearing and paired them with my favourite pieces, it gave them a new lease of life”.
Fashion is so quick to move, but magazines are now showing stuff from the 80s and 90s. If you have a piece you love, give it a few years, it’ll come back around.
Bronwyn touches on the idea of a capsule wardrobe, with this idea of having key pieces. By only having key pieces, and ultimately less clothes, you can save up and buy better quality clothes that last longer, and you can go to more ethical websites for stuff that last longer. There’s a flip side to it though, as Bronwyn looks at the bigger picture and different lifestyles, “if you’re Mum you won’t be buying €50 jeans for your children, it’s just not doable. There’s a way to get value out of your children’s clothing and keep them going, you can pass them on to family and friends or if it’s good quality, you can keep it for younger siblings or you could upcycle.
Coming back to the core of this piece “It’s give and take with fast fashion, and for most people it’s the only option. I would never shame or judge anyone for buying fast fashion, but at the same time, you don’t need a new dress or shoes every time you go out.”
Looking at ideas and ways to be more creative and upcycle clothes these days, Bronwyn imparts some of her ideas. “Scrunchies, scrunchies are really big at the moment, so why not make it into a hair tie, a hair band or a scrunchie, bandana”. “TikTok has great ideas for clothing and ways to upcycle and be creative with them, you can make quilts or pieces for around the home. A lot of people may not be comfortable going out and about yet, so it helps to be able to do stuff at home.”
The rise of smaller, local businesses has been something we’ve seen since lockdown happened, and Bronwyn is a big advocate of this – shopping and supporting local: “With small businesses there are so many options, I love Bean An Tí, they do t-shirts with witty slogans and it’s supporting a small Irish business. 10% of each sale goes towards Rape Crisis Centre and there’s a charity aspect, which I feel is important so I’m happy to give money to that. I know that certain things like t-shirts might be cheaper in a fast fashion store and may only cost €5 but I’d much prefer to spend €20 on something that’s good quality, I know who’s made it, the materials and what’s gone into it. It’s supporting them as opposed to a multi-millionaire. During Lockdown Instagram had a Shop Local campaign and it was really great for small businesses.” “We talk a lot about girl power and that kind of stuff, and there’s loads of t-shirts that say that, but for me, girl power is about putting the €5 I could have spent on a fast fashion t-shirt towards a charity, that’s more important.”
If it’s not from a sustainable brand or small business, I’ll really think about it three times if I want to buy it, I don’t impulse buy anymore
In terms of style, Bronwyn favours t-shirts with slogans that are cool, fun, and quirky. She says “there’s so many companies doing niche, nerdy, silly t-shirts. They’re all homemade and they cater to what I’d prefer to wear rather than something from the likes of Boohoo. There are so many better options than what we’re currently doing and using. Small businesses are my go-to. For example, We Are Talla is great for workout clothing. It’s a sustainable brand and it’s not more expensive than any other, it’s the same price point as many other brands on the market. That’s important, that aspect of sustainability, most of the fast fashion industry is run by billionaire men.”
Bronwyn put it simply: “If it’s not from a sustainable brand or small business, I’ll really think about it three times if I want to buy it, I don’t impulse buy anymore. My big buy during quarantine was a pair of Converse, it wasn’t an impulse buy. My way of also cutting out impulse buying is that it’s a lot easier now that we can’t go to the shops and easily or as efficiently as before.”
As we all emerge from lockdown into this new normal, it’s going to be interesting to see how we adapt and continue. Bronwyn has some fantastic tips above and I relate to what she’s saying. If it’s not a small business or a company with strong values, I’ll really think a few times on whether I should buy it. I’m off to clean out my wardrobe and go create!