I like shopping. Thrifting, going to big malls, walking down small streets lined with boutiques.
I dislike fast fashion. At least, that’s what I’ll say if you ask for my opinion on the topic. Fast fashion was born when shopping became a hobby, rather than something people had to go do. It allows normal people to wear the latest fashion, fresh off of the catwalk, and keep up with trends at a low price. Come a new trend, people throw their ‘old’ clothes away. Then buy the new trend. Then throw that away too. The merry-go-round continues endlessly. In order to keep up with these cycling trends, clothing must be produced more quickly and at a lower cost. As a result, corners are cut. The environment is hurt. Workers are put at risk, and aren’t paid enough.
You see, most people know the impacts of the fast fashion industry and almost everyone cares about it enough to say that they don’t support it. Saying this out loud is one thing, but what we want is action. We need to link these impacts to our own actions. Only within the past year or so have I become fully aware of this connection: the fact that my actions have a direct impact on the fast fashion industry, even if that impact is relatively small. I am a consumer, and I have the power to choose. I want to help others become more conscious of this power.
So, ask yourself these questions… Where do you buy your clothes? Is buying clothes something you do for fun or is it something you have to do? How does this affect where you shop?
For some people, buying fast fashion is a matter of convenience. It’s cheap and can be found anywhere. For others it’s a matter of entertainment and leisure. It has become a part of our culture: going shopping with friends, trying on and styling outfits in the fitting room. It has contributed to the idea that wearing the same outfit more than once is socially unacceptable, so we must diligently continue to update and cycle through the clothes in our closet.
It’s 2020 and thrifting is trendy. Thrifting is great because you’re not buying anything new or encouraging large brands to keep producing. It’s also good because it stops clothes from being thrown out. Long term, thrifting is cheaper. With a little bit of digging you can find better quality clothing, which will last for longer, at a lower cost. On the other hand, fast fashion is designed to only be worn a handful of times then thrown out, so you’ll need to buy replacements for these clothes.
Nevertheless, the clothes at thrift stores have to come from somewhere, right? This is where the power of the consumer comes into play: you choose where you buy from. We must pick brands that are continuously trying to get better and are currently conscious of their environmental footprint. You can find these brands by simply researching the brand name followed by the word ‘sustainability’. Skim over the headings of the articles and sites that come up. If most of these seem to be positive, then the brand is most likely on the good side of the fight for sustainability. I’ve found that the more transparent a brand is with sharing information about their production, distribution, and how they treat their workforce, the more likely it is that they’re actively working to be more sustainable. It shows that they have nothing to hide.
Do keep in mind that whilst one brand may be great in one area of sustainability, it may not be doing so well in another area. I’ve found that the app ‘Good On You’ is extremely useful in determining which areas of sustainability certain brands excel in and which aspects they can improve upon. This app is also useful for learning about which brands are and aren’t trying actively working towards being more sustainable.
Understandably, fast fashion isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s far too convenient and too good at keeping up with trends for its own good. However, there are fast fashion brands which are working towards a sustainable future. For instance, H&M has pledged to become 100% ‘climate positive’ by 2040 by using renewable energy and maximizing energy efficiency in all areas of its processes. On their website, they have an entire section dedicated to explaining how they’re being sustainable, as well as their environmentally friendly ‘Conscious’ line of products called. I recommend researching the brands that you normally shop at or using the app ‘Good On You’ to find out if they’re helping us work towards a sustainable future as well.
My last piece of advice is to think twice before tossing something from your closet. If someone else were to see your ‘old’ shirt or ‘old’ pair of jeans in a thrift store, they would likely buy it and turn it into something cute. So why can’t you do that too? There are so many ways to upcycle clothing, from painting, to embroidery, to cutting, or completely taking the item apart and putting it back together. I, for one, have only ever attempted several of the millions of youtube tutorials out there on how to upcycle. You may also consider asking a friend or going through the process of thrifting and upcycling your wardrobes together.
In the end, the culture of going out with friends and enjoying your shopping experience doesn’t need to die: it simply needs to evolve. The idea of clothes being ‘old’ and expiring is the true issue. We need to become more resourceful and conscious of our clothing waste and who the money we spend on clothes goes to. We must always be aware of which brands we’re purchasing from and what impact that will have.The easiest way to start? Thrifting.
Written by Kiran Johnson