Project Stopshop: Exploring the fast fashion industry

Project Stopshop is a project examining fast fashion consumption and questioning how much we value our clothes. It’s the brainchild of Elizabeth Illing; a recent Fashion Promotion graduate from the University for the Creative Arts in London.

8I0A0961 22.jpg

Illing’s installation features oversized receipts folded into paper t-shirts, each showing information about an individual's wardrobe. It highlights how much use each garment gets and the total cost of many of these rarely worn items. StopShop is Illing’s final major project for her degree and it’s gone viral. Over the past few weeks Illing has amassed an Instagram following that many of us have spent months trying to cultivate and her work has been shared by some of the ethical fashion world’s most influential individuals.

We spoke to the lady behind this feat of visual communication to find out more.

What was the inspiration for StopShop?

Stopshop is my final major project for my degree. I wanted to create something which addressed my conflicting interests in fashion and my concerns surrounding the unethical practices of major clothing brands. 

At the start of this project I considered the negative social and environmental effects of the textile and fashion industry. I found that there was a trend in society for people to want to appear ethical in terms of their lifestyle choices, such as eating a vegan diet and using organic products but that ethical and sustainable fashion was not part of this.

Knowing this, I decided that I wanted to create a project that raised awareness of the issues associated with fast fashion and that would prompt people to change their habits. But it needed to be engaging. I needed to avoid blinding people with facts and figures that would turn them off. I decided to address the consumer end of the problem; something I had access to in the form of my peers who are largely extreme fast fashion customers.

I began data gathering from my own wardrobe. I recorded every garment and categorised them based on how often I wear them:

-        often

-        occasionally

-        rarely

-        entirely unworn

I wanted to show this information because it highlights how little we value a large proportion of our garments. This relates to a lot of people. Next I conducted a clothing usage survey on several my friends, family and students at the university who confessed to having extreme fast fashion shopping habits.

What does the future look like for Project StopShop?

The aim of Stopshop is to lower environmental impact by engaging fast fashion consumers. I am using very personal information to encourage people to think about their own clothes and shopping habits which may be very like those I am displaying. It is shocking to see how much we own and how much money we have wasted on rarely worn garments. The aim is to target the ‘selfish’ characteristics of the audience as in my experience people take notice if something affects them personally.

When reading the quotes on the labels they are both shocking and relatable. This will get people thinking about how their own consumer habits might match those on display. After the recent online attention and success Stopshop is getting I want to continue to develop this project further and generate more content for the website and social media. People are really relating to the fashion consumer quote labels!

What is your take on the fast fashion industry?

Fast fashion culture has become so normalised that even though there are many sustainable products and garments available to consumers, it does not always mean they will purchase them. The attitude of the customer must change if there is to be a noticeable shift towards more sustainable shopping habits. This is the goal of Stopshop! 

If you could say one thing to all the CEO's of fast fashion retail brands what would it be?

 I would urge fast fashion brands to become part of the solution rather than furthering this massive problem, it is not sustainable and, although people are currently continuing to buy into the industry, it can't carry on the way that it is. Brands should want to be the first to make big changes to the way they operate and to realise that in the future sustainable fashion will be a huge business. 

An inspiring project from a young woman who clearly has a very successful career ahead of her. Thank you for talking to us Elizabeth; we can’t wait to see how StopShop develops. Let’s keep fighting the good fight to raise awareness around the negative impacts of fast fashion. Elizabeth speaks wise words when she says this is not sustainable and major brands would do well to catch onto a more sustainable business model sooner rather than later.