In an interview with Ellie McCreanor, Alba Mullen chats about how Trashion was born and her top tips on staying sustainable during lockdown.
Over the past few years, the world has slowly but surely been moving towards a more sustainable planet. With the announcement of Ireland’s Waste Action Plan in early September, it is apparent that the Irish government has taken note, and Ireland’s fashion scene has been no exception. Speaking to the OTwo, Alba Mullen or Trashion as she is known to her Instagram followers, shared her journey into the sustainable fashion world.
“Things really kicked off when I watched the True Cost documentary one Sunday when I was super hungover (highly recommend the documentary, highly discourage watching it hungover)! It really opened my eyes to the atrocities of the fashion industry, particularly fast fashion and the unethical practices that the industry very much has embedded within it” she says. “ I volunteered with Suas Educational Development in Bengal, India for six weeks during the summer of my first year in college, and as a lot of the “True Cost” is based in Bangladesh, it brought back a lot of memories... The women who featured [really resonated with me], as they very much reminded me of women that I myself had worked with in India and when I realised that my actions – buying a shirt in Zara – directly impacted their quality of life, that was it for me. I was fully out. I pretty much quit fast fashion that very day, started following more sustainable fashion accounts, watching YouTube videos about the industry, I redownloaded Depop and joined the Nuw platform.”
Not only did this influence Mullen to change her clothing attitudes, but it sparked the idea for what is now the Instagram page Trashion - the bible for all things sustainability and slow fashion. She Told OTwo “I was actually buying exclusively second-hand clothing for about two months before I even thought about making an Instagram account. I was complaining to one of my friends that I had all these really cool, sustainably sourced clothing but nowhere to brag about them and she quite literally said – start an Instagram?... I guess it was in that moment – over a shared smoke before Trinity Ball – that the idea for Trashion was born!”.
After spending three years studying in Dublin city centre, Mullen is well acquainted with the best spots for second-hand shopping; “I lived on campus in final year so ended up being dangerously close to Geroge’s Street!” - George’s street being arguably the best street for charity shopping in the city centre. She emphasises that, when shopping sustainable fashion, “Charity shops, charity shops, charity shops – are literally the best and only way to go! When people think of ‘sustainable fashion’ I think they envision super eco-warrior girlos from California floating around in flouncy skirts, or super-chic and cool fashion divas in designer vintage and I really think both are just not true! For me, I truly have only ever saved money by ditching fast fashion. I used to buy lots and lots of weekly hauls from the Missguided, PLT and Nasty Gal sales that I thought were cheap at the time but they are far less so if, like me, you wear them once or not at all! Instead now I buy a few items maybe once or twice a month and they are always things I either absolutely love or really need. Charity shops are God’s gift – especially if you’re from outside of Dublin because the prices are so inflated in the city.”
Mullen’s focus on swapping and re-wearing as the most sustainable option really is at the heart of sustainable fashion, in that a huge aspect of it is reducing your impact on the planet through consuming less and reusing more. “I would also urge people not to forget that buying something new, or preloved, should really be a backup idea – instead try swapping with friends (or strangers on the internet through apps like Nuw), borrowing family’s clothes or just upcycling and mending what you already have. All options that are completely free!”
Making the transition from fast to slow fashion can be tough for a multitude of reasons including variety, trends, and cost. However, Mullen offered her second-hand solutions. When asked what her favourite vintage shops in Dublin were, she replied; “During my final year I also worked in Nine Crows, so I would have to be biased and say them! I found some of my most cherished and funky vintage items while processing stock in the Temple Bar store or sorting rails in the Pembroke Thrift shop and I really do think the quality of the vintage pieces are second to none! The owner Emma is an actual inspiration (serious girl boss) and I couldn’t recommend them enough – there is something for everyone with their lad’s section White Noise and now, with the two thrift stores, they’ve made it so much more affordable to get serious stuff on the cheap.”
Second-hand, although maybe the best option for the planet, is not always ideal for basics that get worn daily. Our fashion shoot this month with Irish sustainable brand Pure Clothing is an example of the amazing sustainable Irish brands out there. Mullen’s sustainable pick is ;“I think one of my favourite sustainable clothing brands would have to be Stripe & Stare! They are a sustainable, ethical underwear company who literally make the comfiest knickers I have ever owned. I’m pretty sure the company is Irish, it’s female-owned and the knickers are compostable – so when you’re finished wearing them to death you don’t need to throw them in [the] landfill. Literally the dream, right?!”
We love an Irish sustainable moment, and between the comfy loungewear by Pure Clothing and Mullen’s underwear recommendations we will all be set for another four months of lockdown. On that note, Mullen offered an insight into her pandemic shopping habits; “Two words – Depop & dangerous! I also succumbed to the quarantine hauls and probably allowed final year stress to enable me to buy a lot more clothes than I really needed. Depop was amazing during lockdown because so many people were clearing out old wardrobes that they hadn’t touched in years and I really found some amazing pieces. Lots of vintage shops in Dublin like Nine Crows, Tola, Finders Keepers Bray and Spice Vintage (among others – we’re really lucky in Ireland to have a super selection) were also selling online which made it all the easier to indulge. I really think that sustainable fashion is just about changing your mindset and your environment – once I accepted that I wasn’t buying fast fashion anymore and actively searched for alternatives, I have never had the desire to go to those websites.”
Mullen and so many others with her same passion for sustainable fashion show that the small changes we make to something as simple as our wardrobes can not only make a huge difference to the environment and country’s policies, but to people’s quality of life globally.