Interview with Ashley (bestdressed): Part 2 in the Power of Influence series.
Sparked by the buzz around HRH Megan Markle choosing to shop amongst sustainable brands (yay), we found ourselves interested in learning more about the conscious and subconscious effect of social influencers and how that can shape our buying habits. Throughout 2019, we will be sharing our ‘Power of Influence’ series, talking to people within the fashion and social media realms about how they are using their platform for positive action. In this post, we talk to Ashley AKA bestdressed.
There is something different about Ashley’s videos. There is no big agenda, no preaching or bragging, no shaming when she talks about clothes. There is just this subtle little undercurrent of care and attention in the way she approaches her wardrobe. Thrifting, flipping (making new things out of old things) and the occasional scattering of self-deprecating humour makes for some exceedingly entertaining videos. Being an avid fixer and flipper myself, I wondered what made Ashley start working in this way and what effect, if any, she thinks it has on her audience.
Upon first glance, your youtube channel might seem like many others – OOTDs, clothing hauls and ‘day in the life of’s. When digging in though, your approach to sustainability through thrifting, upcycling and flipping your finds is totally ingrained into everything you do and say. For us, this is such an important and positive message to be spreading, something that others on the platform can seem to ignore. What made you start working in this way? Was sustainable fashion something you’ve always been conscious of?
I’m flattered, but honestly I never made a conscious choice to be a ~hero~ of sustainability! My love of thrifting and tendency to rewear clothes really comes from a financial perspective. When I was a younger, I never liked thrifting, My sister would always find gems, but I’d get bored and frustrated 15 ugly sweaters in and go play Doodle Jump in a corner. But two summers ago, when was in full on chipmunk mode post-wisdom teeth removal, I needed something to pass the time before my cheeks deflated. Lo and behold, I decided to go thrifting, and finally found some cool stuff. From that point on, I was obsessed – mostly because at that point I was still working for $8 an hour at an ice cream shop and could use the cheapest clothes I could get. Plus, I was about a year into my (vastly unsuccessful at that point) YouTube career. I would post a haul or OOTW here and there, but I could never seem to keep up with other girls who would have five completely new outfits each week. Thrifting, for me, was a way to experiment with my style and make interesting content, and rewearing clothes for years (even “fast fashion” clothes from Forever21) was just a product of not having that much money.
In a lot of your videos you alter, adjust, flip your existing clothes (or second hand clothes) into something totally new. Do you think it’s something everyone could and should be doing? Does this satisfy the itch to own something new, without playing into the fast-fashion world?
For me, it’s even better! It’s like Marx’s theory of alienation from the work product, right? There’s something so satisfying about making or altering something yourself. Every time you look at it or wear it you get to be like “Damn! I did that! And nobody else has anything like it!” I know everyone’s not the craftiest or has time to alter their clothes, but I hope I can encourage people to at least give it a try! Something as simple as patching up a hole instead of throwing a shirt out, or cropping an old t-shirt are a great place to start!
Do you feel the pressure from brands to buy? Do you think it’s possible to stay fashionable without buying in excess?
Absolutely. That’s the whole job of the marketing industry. And now social media is overtaken by the marketing industry. So every day, tons of images and videos are telling you that you want new things. Honestly I fall victim to this too. It’s usually only when I’m bored or procrastinating or feeling shitty, but I’ll go into this fervor of opening tabs and adding items to my cart. Normally the total price at checkout stops me though, haha. I don’t go to malls anymore because they make me crazy. Literally my brain just goes: clothes! clothes! more clothes! I sound insane but I swear this probably happens to a lot of us. Luckily, a lot of what’s “fashionable,” at least for a certain segment of internet hipsters, is shifting towards thrifted and vintage clothes. I love that it’s cool now to wear an old oversize t-shirt or a vintage linen dress. Since my entire job revolves around fashion, I do still buy new clothes, but I always think about my purchases thoughtfully and try to mix in thrifted, vintage, sustainable, and altered clothes.
Do you see an uptake in responsibility from your followers when you share content that focuses on sustainable issues? Do their responses show that they’re thinking differently about what they buy and how they buy?
Honestly unfortunately I think it’s a bit of singing to the choir when it comes to sustainable vs. fast fashion. There are still crazy amounts of $300, $500, $5000 Wish/Zaful/Shein hauls online, with audiences willing to watch. I’m chillin over here in my corner of the internet with gals who already love thrifting. And who’s reading this article? Surely people who already care about sustainable fashion. Perhaps that’s just me being a bit of a pessimist. In the long run, I think sustainable content can change how people think, but it takes time. I hope that at least some people who have subscribed to my channel from a fashion video have found their way to a thrift haul, and after watching a couple, have tried thrifting on their own! And maybe my thrift flips makes fellow sewing nerds like me feel a little cooler lol.
Okay now for some quick ones…
- Current favourite piece in your closet?
A sherpa jacket I thrifted from the men’s section! So cozy and looks like it cost a fortune
- Do you remember the first piece of clothing that you ever bought for yourself?
A gray American Eagle hoodie in 6th grade
- Do you still have it?
I wore it nearly every day to school for 3 years (I was one of those kids) but we had to part ways after it was pretty much falling apart.
- Do you know who made the clothes you are currently wearing?
My top is thrifted (so not sure who made it originally) and my jeans are Redone vintage Levi’s made in the US.
- Top tip for others wishing to shop more responsibly?
Start with browsing a vintage or thrift store, finding a few quality sustainable pieces to invest in, looking through your own closet to find old gems you forgot you loved… or even remembering to return items you don’t end up loving – that’s a huge one! It’s so easy, you get your money back, and you don’t end up with clothing sitting in the back of your closet. You’d be amazed by how many people buy stuff and can’t be bothered to return it. I think sustainable culture can be a bit intimidating and make you feel guilty for your past purchases or if you aren’t perfectly sustainable at the start. It’s all about starting small – even if you just stop and think about one fast fashion purchase per month, that’s still awesome!
Thanks, Ashley 🙂
Check back every month for more in the Power of Influence series. We’ll post a new entry on the last day of each month throughout 2019. If you think there is someone we should be talking to, drop us a line on instagram.
We host Fashion Revolution Week in April of every year. This year kicks off on the 22nd of April. Throughout the week we encourage people to ask brands ‘who made my clothes’ in hopes of shining a light on the unknowns of the fashion industry. By doing this, we hope to shift the focus from consumers to brands, and to all the hands involved, be it producers, workers, farmers or otherwise. We track the reach and impact of collaborators throughout Fashion Revolution Week and use the findings to fight for change worldwide, through government and policy. We would hugely appreciate it if you would be willing to share a story or celebrate a brand you love or simply ask #whomademyclothes during Fashion Revolution Week in 2019.