Reevaluating the Fashion Industry & Building Sustainable Shopping Habits With Amma Aburam (6/13/2023)

Jun 13, 2023 Annie Cao

Amma Aburam (@styleand.sustain) is a digital marketing expert and content creator with a passion for sustainable and ethical fashion. Her podcast and online magazine highlights issues within the fashion industry and ways to be more mindful about the clothes we wear. We collaborated with Amma to discuss the negative impacts of fast fashion and ways to be a more conscious consumer.



Can you start off by introducing yourself and what you do?

Hi, I’m Amma. I’m a Ghanaian and French digital marketing expert based in London. I’m also a writer, podcaster, and content creator with a passion for changing the fashion industry for the better. My online magazine Style & Sustain is a modern-day welcoming to the future of fashion by showcasing sustainable fashion and featuring other people who share the same views. Together, we can envision an industry where sustainability and ethical practices are no longer a concept, but a reality. And in order to create a fair industry, we need to build solutions from diverse perspectives.



How did you become interested in sustainable fashion?

A few years back, I watched The True Cost by Andrew Morgan, which changed my relationship with clothes and fashion forever. I learned the devastating truth behind the industry and I couldn’t reconcile that something I loved so much could have such a negative impact on people and the planet. So I decided I didn’t want any part of it!

I stopped shopping for three months and started learning how to view clothes differently through spaces like Fashion Revolution. That eventually led to me starting Style & Sustain as a blog to hold myself accountable and to share my journey from a fast-fashion addict to a fair fashion advocate.

The truth is, I’m still learning and recovering. Turning S&S into a magazine is a way for me to shift it from a space of influence to a space of impact. I want this platform to showcase more voices and highlight ethical and sustainable practices that are changing the industry.



In a video feature by @brutofficiel, you mentioned that you believe the 3 biggest issues in the fashion industry right now are workers' rights and working conditions, pollution, and greenwashing. Can you expand a bit more on those?

Absolutely. The video was shot at least four years ago so my views have evolved, but what I said remains true for the industry. Workers' rights are still an issue in the fashion industry, and despite great progress like the Pakistan Accord signed by over 30 brands, garment workers are still paid poorly and work in dire conditions around the world.

Then there's the pollution issue. With up to 100 billion items of clothing produced per year, it’s crucial to ask: where does it all end up? If we keep in mind that there are about 7.8 billion people on this planet, it doesn't make sense. A huge chunk of these items end up in landfills that pollute communities, oceans, and land, especially in the global south.



Finally, despite everything, the fashion industry is a genius marketing machine. As someone who worked in fashion marketing for years, I've seen how brands continue to create innovative and intentional strategies that are meant to trick consumers.

And this is where greenwashing enters the conversation. These days, brands pretend they have sustainable or ethical practices by using vague words, shallow references, and misleading colour designs to fool the consumer into believing they are changing their ways. Sadly, it tends to work, but in places like the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has started setting up policies to counteract this. 



What advice would you give to people who want to become smarter consumers, but aren't sure where to start?

I always say to start with your closet. You have more clothes than you think. Try to understand your style and get creative with what you already own. Then look around you. Collectively, we have enough clothes to go around in our communities. You can share and borrow clothes from friends and family, rent clothes, or even swap with strangers at events. This practice extends the lifecycle of clothes, which reduces pollution and lowers the chances of items ending up in a landfill. 

Thrifting and secondhand shopping is also fun and affordable. Again, you are encouraging a circular economy.

And finally, I would say to shop sustainable and ethical brands if you can. Not only are these companies innovative, but they are the ones transforming the industry by paying workers fair wages and using sustainable materials that reduce pollution. By supporting them, we're helping these brands thrive and giving them more recognition. If you think about it, a t-shirt is not supposed to cost five dollars. Although sustainable pieces are more expensive, the quality is better and lasts longer, so we can shop less often than we would with fast fashion. Think timeless pieces that will accompany you like lifelong friends.


One of your pinned Instagram posts is on waste colonialism. Can you explain what waste colonialism is and what we can do to stop it from continuing?

Waste colonialism is when a group of people uses waste and pollution to dominate another group of people in their homeland. Recorded in 1989, the term came to be when African nations expressed concern about high-GDP countries dumping hazardous waste into low-GDP countries.

In Ghana, Kantamanto market (the biggest secondhand market in West Africa) currently receives 15 million discarded secondhand garments from the UK alone. When this happens, it floods the market and 40 percent of it goes to landfill, while the rest is resold, reworked, and upcycled within the bustling secondhand community. All of this creates more pollution and impacts local textile economies by lessening their appeal and outcompeting them price-wise.

In the market, young women and girls are exploited — they carry enormous bales of clothes and resell them for low wages. But in parallel to this, we can see Ghana's innovation and creativity shine through the upcycled fashion that comes out of the market, as well as solutions in spaces like the OR Foundation or THE REVIVAL.  



What are your top 3 resources and recommendations for those who are interested in sustainability in the fashion industry?

First, I would recommend curating your digital feeds to support brands, individuals, magazines, and spaces that are championing sustainability. Some of my favourites are The Slow Factory, OR Foundation, and people like Aja Barber, Belinda Smetana or Izzy Manuel. I also follow brands like Ikkivi or Loud Bodies. What you see online seriously impacts your habits, so make it an educational space for positive change! 

Second, start with what you have. It can be overwhelming at first, especially when you look at the price of sustainable brands or the pressure that comes with it. What’s important to remember is that it’s a mindset shift more than anything. It’s about seeing fashion for what it is and owning your style instead of following trends. Start with your closet and the people around you, examine your own habits, and then take it from there. Craft your own journey. 

Third, find a community. No matter where you are, there will be people who are also trying to change their relationship with clothes. Fashion Revolution has communities around the world or you can try going to events (like a local swap) where you can meet other like-minded people! 

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