How to Give Up Fast Fashion Forever – Your Instagram Questions Answered
February 10, 2020
Last week I did a poll on Instagram asking about fast fashion: specifically who buys from fast fashion brands and why. Your answers were interesting, different, and insightful so I wanted to tackle them here on a blog post to hopefully help you understand why fast fashion is so bad and, ultimately, how to shop more consciously by overcoming the hurdles you outlined to me!
First Things First:
In an effort to keep this post digestible, I’ve tried to break down your barriers into concise categories. Before I dive in, I wanted to do two things:
1.) Link to one of my very first posts ever (!) here which explains WHY I became anti-fast fashion and shifted my shopping habits. This article is also a great tool for understanding the fashion landscape as it stands today. Both of these will give everything below better context.
2.) I’d like you to consider the following questions before you even think about shopping:
Do I need this item to fill a gap in my closet? Will I wear it at least 30 times? Does it make my heart sing? Is this a trendy piece or a piece that will stand the test of time?
Ultimately, in order to shop sustainably we all need to have a drastic shift in how we approach shopping. The very nature of trying to stay on top of trends is counterproductive to shopping sustainably so the following barriers will never be resolved without that initial shift. Keep this in mind as I address everything below.
Now, onto the barriers you told me:
Cost is a pretty obvious concern for a lot of reasons: sustainable clothing is typically higher priced than fast fashion because a.) workers are paid more fairly, b.) better fabric is typically sourced for making sustainable pieces, and c.) most brands try to be conscious about how they package/ship the pieces as most of them are online and not in malls, etc. With a more sustainable approach to every aspect of making clothes, naturally the price for customers must go up too in order for the brand to stay in business. Fast fashion, by nature, is made rapidly, poorly, and with lower-quality materials. It is not designed to last long at all. In fact, they want it to fall apart on you so that you come back for more! Sustainable fashion is designed well so it will last you (hopefully) a lifetime. What I would say to combat the cost barrier is that when you’re looking to buy something it should follow the rules of the above questions (Do I really need it? Will I wear it 30 times? …etc.). This makes investing in quality pieces more of a conscious purchase and (when the time comes) biting the bullet for a new item absolutely worth it as you’ll only need that one item for many many years to come. An alternative: shop secondhand. I know some people get a bit skeeved out by secondhand purchases (I used to be one of them!), but there is really nothing to be afraid of. I’ll talk more about secondhand below.
Most people said they either had kids to consider (whilst I’m not a mother myself, I can only imagine how much more limited your time gets when you introduce kids into your life so I very much understand this concern!) or they were already used to shopping from certain brands so there was a convenience factor for not having to scour the web learning about new brands. I’m in the process of writing up a post with my favourite sustainable brands as I’ve had quite a few people ask me this question. Hopefully this will be a useful resource for everyone and will significantly reduce your barrier-to-entry. In the meantime, I would recommend shopping secondhand. Secondhand can include charity shops, vintage shops, flea markets (the Rose Bowl Flea Market in LA is exemplary!) or online apps such as Poshmark (you can find me here!), Depop, Mercari, etc. Apps like these make it easier (& much quicker) to shop with a purpose rather than having to scour racks upon racks of potential misses (which happens often in charity shops). If I know I need a new jumper and I’ve actually seen it on a sustainable brand’s website, I’ll typically pop over to Poshmark and search for that exact brand/jumper secondhand where I can get it at a fraction of the cost (sometimes brand new with tags even!). If you have the luxury to scour vintage shops you can find some incredible gems but you do need to allocate some time to do this so the aforementioned apps are typically a better choice when reducing your time investment.
This issue is most common when it comes to finding that perfect pair of jeans! When you’ve already spent years searching for the right pair of jeans you tend to stick to a brand you feel comfortable with. I can empathise here as I definitely had my go-to fast fashion brand for denim prior to my sustainable journey. We all have different bodies that we need to cater to and every brand can’t possibly nail it all. My biggest suggestion is if you’ve fallen in love with a brand’s sizing and are nervous to explore a sustainable brand, try to source this piece secondhand first. Yes, you heard me right: buy the fast fashion piece, but get it secondhand. We really don’t need companies producing more clothing (sustainably or not) so rummaging through the (already plenty) selection from secondhand sources is the best solution. I’m a proponent of getting fast fashion from secondhand so long as you know you’ll adhere to the above questions. I know I sound like a broken wheel, but you need to rethink how and why you shop and you’ll then see that you’ll buy less because you need less. It’s a beautiful shift once it happens!
A common rebuttal when I mention boycotting fast fashion brands is a fear that the garment workers will be out of a job and it’s better that they have someone paying their wages than no-one. I truly understand the thought process behind this one but fundamentally I disagree. This is a complicated discussion with many factors to it, so without going too deep (& making this an entire blog post within this blog post) I’ll touch on just a few things. We have the power to vote with our dollar and it has already made an impact in the fast fashion world. Stricter labor laws are being put in place (unfortunately, not everywhere yet) which has forced fast fashion brands to start taking accountability for their manufacturing processes & treatment of garment workers. As more brands start acting with sustainability in mind, garment workers will have more options for being paid fairer wages & working in better environments. Whilst this demand has made progress (some would argue too slow) it is progress. Innovation requires disruption and, unfortunately, there will be devastating consequences for some in the near-term, but long-term benefits will be much greater for everyone.
A tangential anecdote: My dad was an artist in South Africa. His career was in photolithography. Yep, I’d never heard of it before either. Well, with innovations in photography (digitalization, automation, etc.) his job became obsolete as photolithography became extinct. He didn’t need to adapt within his current role, he had to completely shift gears and learn new skills in order to survive. And do that he did. He is now a successful, self-taught graphic designer. The point of my story is that in order to grow as a society (& reduce our impact on the environment) we need to innovate in ways that will make old processes redundant and this could affect workers. However, I think the path to sustainable fashion is so slow at the moment that there is a beautiful bridge for workers to have access to fairer wages from sustainable brands, opportunities to hone their craft, and a spotlight in the media for customers to understand that if they keep spending their money with fast fashion brands that they are contributing to poverty, child labour, deaths, and pollution of the environment.
A new habit takes 21 days to form. Of course, if we’ve never been encouraged to break our habits, why would we want to? Ultimately, if you don’t have your ‘why’ then you’ll never be ready to shift away from what you’ve been doing your whole life! Hopefully this post, along with everything I’ve linked within here, will give you that reason. If not, then that is also okay! Everyone’s journey is different and if I still haven’t convinced you of the impact of fast fashion, then I welcome you to continue the conversation with me down below!
Oh! If you’re subscribed to fast fashion brand emails – UNSUBSCRIBE! Getting constant notifications of new styles/sales in your inbox is a sure fire way to fall into the trap of wanting/buying more. Heck, I don’t even subscribe to sustainable brands’ emails because I don’t want to be reminded that I can spend my money. I decide if/when I need something new, not a brand trying to profit off of my knee-jerk reactions. This will make a huge difference.
I promise you, I’ve been in your shoes. I used to frequent the mall, purchase things that were on 70% sale and go back for more when brands were inevitably having sales again in a month’s time. Shopping is a habit. You have the ability to break it and create a new one. You just need to understand the motivation behind why your shift is important and I promise you’ll find it after you watch The True Cost movie as well as educate yourself on the disastrous (both socially and environmentally) impacts of the fast fashion industry. Don’t be fooled by brands like Zara & H&M creating “conscious collections.” This is greenwashing and there is absolutely nothing sustainable about these collections if they continue to churn out clothes at ridiculous rates.
If you’re ready to switch your shopping habits after this, I’ll have my list of top sustainable brands published very shortly so stay tuned! If you’re still not yet convinced, please comment down below if I missed something and how I may address it! I’m all ears and want to help as much as possible.