While we appreciate low prices, as the adage goes, you get what you pay for.
Alternatively, as Lucy Siegle notes, “rapid fashion is not free. Someone somewhere is making a payment.”
However, the fact is that many people pay, from the exploited laborers to every individual on the earth who must cope with the environmental impact.
According to Merriam-Webster, fast fashion is “an strategy to the design, development, and marketing of apparel styles that stresses making fashion trends accessible to customers rapidly and affordably.”
What this definition omits, however, are the immeasurable social and environmental consequences associated with low price tags and mass production of apparel.
Amazed by synthetic textiles (derived from fossil fuels) and a system of disposable clothing, this unsustainable fashion industry is overwhelming our earth and destroying our oceans.
This is why we must all calm down and learn how to avoid rapid fashion.
How do you avoid fast fashion?
1. ASK #WHOMADEMYCLOTHES
On April 24, 2013, an eight-story building collapsed in Bangladesh, killing over 1,100 garment workers and trapping them.
As devastating as the incident was, it becomes much more so when you realize that the employees were compelled to enter the building—a day after several expressed worries about hearing the walls break inside.
This became known as the Rana Plaza incident, and it completely transformed the world of fashion by shining an attention on the plight of garment workers worldwide. Nonetheless, it is only one of several instances highlighting the exploitation of millions of garment workers worldwide.
And, while human rights violations continue to occur often, they are no longer the recognized standard. Numerous firms are standing up to rapid fashion, beginning with concerns for the human individual who created the clothing.
You, too, can play a role in this. Examine your favorite brand’s website to determine whether they reveal whose manufacturers they work with and how they support their workers.
Third-party certifications (such as Fair Trade, B-Corp, WRAP, and SA8000) are without a doubt the most effective technique to eliminate uncertainty from this procedure. They imply that all claims are substantiated by independent auditing and investigation bodies, significantly reducing the possibility of greenwashing.
If you continue to have unresolved questions, contact the brand directly. As more businesses respond to consumer concerns, ask #WhoMadeMyClothes, raise your voice, and help assist the millions of garment workers worldwide by supporting firms that do the same.
2. APPROACH WITH A MINIMALIST ATTITUDE
When it comes to conscientious fashion, less is more by a long shot.
No matter how ethically or sustainably a product is manufactured, it has an effect.
When the inputs for raw materials, the chemicals and water required to process them, the countless hands that stitch the garments, the energy required to run the factories, and the fossil fuels required for shipping are considered, there is not a single piece of clothing on the market that is completely impact-free.
While there are zero waste fashion firms that offset their carbon emissions, employ handcrafting processes, power factories with renewable energy, utilize eco-friendly materials, and reduce textile waste, the best sustainable option is to forgo purchasing anything.
Take a cue from Marie Kondo’s decluttering bible or Susie Faux’s “capsule wardrobe” (a tiny selection of the bare essentials) and pare down your wardrobe to a few dozen things (some suggest 33 or 37 pieces).
When you do shop, do so purposefully. With the exception of underwear, avoid purchasing new items until absolutely necessary.
3. TAKE INTO ACCOUNT HIDDEN ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS
While we may be irritated by the clutter in our drawers or the crammed space in our closets (and then there’s that mound of laundry…), the influence of our wardrobes extends well beyond that.
You should see the detritus of garments in landfills…
Apart from social inequities, “that ideal clothing” has a deluge of social and environmental consequences. What was formerly two distinct seasons for clothing—winter/fall and spring/summer—has expanded to 50 to 100 “microseasons” each year, owing to fast fashion’s insatiable urge to remodel last week’s trends and sell sell sell.
And with so many inexpensive things, you certainly do get what you paid for. However, it is not just the producers who are footing the tab for rapid fashion; Mother Earth is as well.
Take a look at the following statistics, which offer a bleak picture of the environmental impact:
- Fashion is a thirsty industry. It consumes 93 billion cubic meters of water each year (equivalent to the usage of 5 million people).
- Between 2000 and 2014, the volume of apparel manufactured doubled.
- 87 percent of the fiber in our clothing is disposed of in landfills or burnt (many brands burn unwanted garments to prevent fire sales, which hinder sales of full-price “in-season” designs).
- We currently consume 62 million metric tons of clothing, which is predicted to increase to 102 million tons by 2030.
- Around 10% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the fashion industry—more than marine transportation and international aircraft combined.
- Textile waste is out of control (and body). Americans discard 70 pounds of clothes every year, and citizens of the United Kingdom are not much better.
- And if you believe that recycling your old garments is the simple solution, I’m sorry to break the news, but textile recycling rates are the lowest of any recyclable resource.
- Donations of good will to your local thrift store are not much better. Around a third of clothing given to thrift retailers is actually sold. The remaining is rubbish that will be disposed of at a landfill. As a result, it’s critical to think carefully about what to deal with outdated garments.
4. IMPROVE THE VALUE OF MATERIALS
When we go shopping for nutritious food, what is the first thing we search for? The list of ingredients. The same holds true for sustainable fashion. Each garment’s materials have a considerable influence (usually the most significant of all considerations) on a number of environmental and social costs.
Certain materials are more difficult to recycle than others, and many materials, particularly those that are synthetic or semi-synthetic in nature (i.e. rayon fabric, viscose, and even bamboo), need a massive quantity of hazardous chemicals to manufacture.
Then there is the issue of material source to consider. Some are produced in an immoral and abusive manner, while others are cultivated with an enormous quantity of inputs (water, pesticides, fertilizer). Which is why you should always use natural fibers cultivated naturally.
We recognize that this is a lot to process. By and large, natural textiles are preferable to synthetics, if only because they may be composted at the end of their useful lives (another move that can help you drastically reduce textile waste).
Additionally, assess the appearance and feel of a garment to gauge its durability—the more durable the fabric, the better.
For further information and perspective, check out our guide to the most sustainable textiles.
5. INSPECT CERTIFICATIONS
It’s similar to discovering the ideal pair of pants when we discover a business that promotes sustainable materials and ethical supply chains… However, the metaphorical zipper will eventually come undone, and we will have to cope with greenwashing.
Sustainability is a hot topic, which means you’ll need to do some more research to guarantee that what you see on the label is truly what you get.
Third-party certificates come into play in this instance.
Third-party certifications are analogous to having someone else review and revise your work before you give it in. It indicates that an unbiased institution has inspected some area of the brand’s supply chain to guarantee compliance with a certain set of ethical or sustainable principles, some of which are more severe than others.
While this list is not exhaustive, we recommend looking for the following certifications: B-Corp, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), ECOCERT, Oeko-Tex 100, USDA-Certified Organic, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), bluesign, Better Cotton Initiative, Global Recycling Standard (GRS), Leather Working Group, Responsible Down Standard (RDS), Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), and Fair Trade.
For more information on which of these relates to you directly, we’ve expanded on these and other points in our cornerstone post on sustainable and ethical fashion.
Being a member of 1% for the Planet demonstrates a brand’s integrity; it demonstrates their commitment to donating 1% of their income to causes other than their bottom line. Unlike fast fashion, which is all about profit, this one will teach you how to avoid rapid fashion apparel.
6. SEARCH FOR OTHER (NOT) SHOPPING OPTIONS
The buy-wear-throw-away fashion paradigm that many of us are accustomed to is in desperate need of an update. Fortunately, there are several methods to look and feel wonderful in our clothes—all without doing havoc on the environment.
Here are some tried-and-true options for updating your outfit while still keeping our planet cool:
Consider shopping locally.
We’ve all been guilty of shopping at quick fashion retailers such as H&M, ASOS, and Forever 21. While their pricing may be appealing, we know that their full expenses are not disclosed on the price tag.
Rather than that, save your money for an independent, high-quality artwork that is manufactured locally and is environmentally conscious. You’ll benefit the local economy and end up with more durable items that weren’t mass-produced.
Organize a garment swap.
Invite a few buddies, stock up on wine (and numerous facemasks), and transform one (wo)man’s garbage into another (wo)man’s treasure! This is an excellent method to get some new clothes, reconnect with friends after months of social isolation, and keep clothing out of landfills.
Make second-hand the first option.
While fast fashion may be inexpensive, secondhand products are often less expensive and significantly better for the environment.
Plan an afternoon to peruse your neighborhood secondhand store or one of the numerous internet thrift stores.
There’s a strong possibility you’ll come across some interesting things and may even come across a barely-worn garment still connected to its original price tag.
The following are our go-to thrift shopping suggestions for maximizing your thrifting efforts.
Secondhand clothing buying is the single most effective approach to avoid quick fashion on a budget and freshen your closet!
And don’t forget that you may also be on the receiving end of this two-way street — selling secondhand clothing online is now simpler than ever, diverting further garbage from the landfill.
Rent a costume.
When you find yourself with “nothing to wear” for an occasion, resist the impulse to purchase new clothing and dresses and instead choose for clothing and dress rental.
This is an excellent option for weddings, interviews, and even a first date. There are an infinite number of designs and sizes available, and this is by far the most cheap method to wear anything high-end from a luxury company.
Acquire new abilities.
One of the most common reasons we click the “add to cart” button is when the clothing we already own are missing a button, have a stopped zipper, or have a hole that continues to expand (looking at you, favorite leggings). Therefore, rather than “checking out,” try your hand at clothing repair.
The internet is replete with how-to YouTube videos and tips that will assist you in mending anything. While the new skirt is only $49.99, the acquired skills are invaluable and will last a lifetime (and help our favorite peplum do the same).
7. COMMUNICATE WITH ETHICAL ONLINE STORES
This year, internet shopping is predicted to reach a record high of more than $4.2 trillion.
Fortunately, not all of that cash must wind up in the coffers of that online shopping juggernaut we all like and despise (cough, cough, Amazon).
The earth may exhale a sigh of relief knowing that there are sustainable internet retailers that are ethical and, dare we say, a fairly good alternative to Amazon.
Whether it’s an online thrift store (ideal for those interested in learning how to avoid fast fashion on a budget) or an ethical marketplace such as Made Trade or Ocelot Market, responsible shopping may be done from the comfort of your own home.
What could be more convenient than buying from the comfort of your sofa in your eco-friendly sweatpants?
Naturally, I’m feeling good about supporting firms who prioritize their morals over their profits!
P.S. Look for stores and platforms that offset their shipping carbon emissions (such as Etsy and Made Trade) or consider offsetting your own emissions to genuinely mitigate the negative impact of online buying.
8. SUPPORT BRANDS THAT ARE RUNNING UP AGAINST THE FASHION INDUSTRY
Fashion firms are thinking twice about transparency now more than ever, picking some of the most sustainable textiles available, and giving back to their local (and global) communities.
Simply said, there are several ethical fashion firms and fast fashion alternatives out there that are aware of the industry’s flaws and actively working to rectify them from the inside. Now it is up to us to provide assistance from the outside.
It’s never looked so fantastic to wear new clothing. Correction. I’ve never felt better.
From ethical jewelry to upcycled and recycled apparel, there are more firms than ever before that care about the future of our world and its people—and are doing all possible to make fashion a solution, not a problem.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOW TO AVOID FAST FASHION
It’s past time for everyone to start putting their hearts on their sleeves. That is, clothing like if we care, not as if we care about 52 seasons.
With a few backstitches of effort, we may sidestep fast fashion’s trappings and pull on, zip up, and wriggle into garments that were chosen and developed with people and the earth in mind.
As conscientious consumers, we can also avoid falling victim to greenwashing. Slow fashion is the way to go.