Fast fashion feels like it’s everywhere, and it’s easy to think that the fashion industry has always been this way but it is actually a relatively new phenomenon:
We are consuming 400% more clothes now than we did just 20 years ago (that’s the late 1990’s!)
And that increase in consumption comes at a cost:
The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry on the planet, second only to fossil fuels
It is responsible for 3% of total global CO2 emissions
150 billion items of clothing are made each year, and in the USA 36kg of clothes per person are thrown away.
The cost of clothes has come down hugely in recent years, and sadly clothes are now sometimes seen as disposable – some people quite literally buy cheap High St clothes with no intention of ever washing them and wearing again – they buy them to wear once and then throw away. But as cheap as our clothes now are, someone somewhere is paying the price. And in the case of fast fashion, it is the garment workers, and the planet, that suffer.
The good news is that because we all need to wear clothes, we have the power to create change by making different choices about the garments we wear and buy and there are actually lots of easy options for side-stepping fast fashion and not contributing to the demand.
SHOP YOUR WARDROBE How many items do you have in your wardrobe that you’ve hardly ever worn? How many items do you wear regularly? You might be surprised to find things that you had forgotten about lurking at the bottom of your drawers, or pushed to the back of your wardrobe.
SHOP SECONDHAND Check out your local charity shops, vintage shops, thrift shops and even jumble sales to see if you can find the things you need or want to fill the gaps in your wardrobe. You can go checkout some of the amazing stuff available at thrift shops in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. If you’re looking for specific brands then eBay is a great option – just remember to tick the ‘used’ box under ‘Condition’ in the sidebar on the left hand side.
SWISH OR SWAP Swishing is basically a fancy pants name for a clothes swapping party. You can have a look on sites like Swishing.com to see if you can find anything local to you, or get a few friends together and run one at home!
RENT Livia Firth recommends that when we’re thinking of buying a new outfit we ask ourselves “Will I wear this 30 times?” And if you won’t, then don’t buy it. I don’t know about you but I really don’t venture out to posh events and weddings very much anymore, so I’m unlikely to get 30 wears out of a posh frock. In which case, renting from a dress agency might well be the answer.
SHOP ETHICAL Fast fashion has a massive impact both on the planet, and on the people who make our clothes. If you want to reduce the impact of fast fashion on the environment then it’s best to shop from ethical brands.
Glamorous looks, trendy accessories, expensive purses… is that what fashion is about? Are we aware of the cost of making our looks? There are environmental, social and economic costs to making clothes, much more that we thought we knew. Check this list of the Top 7 Sustainable Fashion Documentaries and learn more about the cost of Fashion and its alternatives:
The True Cost: This documentary uncovers the details of Rana Plaza Disaster in which a garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing 1134 people in the incident. It uncovers the harsh reality and bizarre situation of human beings working in the fashion industry as they pay the cost of our trendy fashion products.
River Blue: This documentary unveils the severe consequences of the fashion industry on marine life and our precious water reservoirs, Rivers. It unearths the secret that the fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting industries and it puts an emphasis on the dark side of the fashion industry. The more you dig, the more you find.
Slowing down Fast Fashion: the film helps the viewer realize how we direly wish for cheap clothes all the time, and how it puts a huge toll on the environment and laborers working in the fashion industry. The thing with this documentary is that doesn’t provide solutions or answers to the problem.
The Minimalists: This is another story highlighting our habit of buying too much stuff and products beyond our needs and requirements. It emphasizes the idea that we can live on little stuff rather than accumulating too much and expending too much money.
China Blue: This is a story of a Chinese worker Jasmine Li from Sichuan province. This highlights her work at a jeans factory and unveils the harsh environment there.
The Next Black: This movie suggests a platform for designers and innovators across the globe to come closer and work out on how the fashion industry should move on.
The Machinists: This documentary unveils the exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh by depicting the personal stories of three young women working in Dhaka. The movie shows how they fight every day to survive, struggle for their livelihood, face their bosses and how they make the clothes that we wear.
You can do a lot to on your level to reduce the waste the fashion industry produces every year. You can choose ethical and environmental friendly brands to shop from. You can also try to repurpose and upcycle your old clothes and also donate the clothes to charities and thrift stores in Destin, FL.
Whenever I’m asked for advice on experiencing fashion sustainably (I’ve decided I prefer to say experiencing over shopping because consumption isn’t the be-all and end-all of this issue), I tend to always answer with, “Ask questions“, which initially stemmed back to how I came to educate myself on fast fashion’s human and environmental impact.
Fashion Revolution, the organisation that played a big part in my education and understanding of the industry, bases its main campaign around “Who made my clothes?” and asking brands for transparency but to me, this sense of curiosity and urge to ask questions should go further.
With the likes of Extinction Rebellion’s new fashion boycott spurring on more people to analyse their shopping habits and questioning whether we need to be buying any clothes at all (once we already have a decent amount to wear), I believe it’s important to evaluate how we approach shopping – or avoiding it (which I’ve discussed here) – and the language we use. We need to ask ourselves. We need to slow down and understand how we truly feel, and especially when shopping, we need to avoid certain phrases…
“I need this.”
I’ve definitely experienced plenty of those, “That’s so me!”, squeal-worthy moments, so, it might seem nitpickish to call this out as an issue but it’s all part of consciously shifting your mindset and attitude towards shopping.
Now that the majority of my shopping occurs on a second-hand basis, I truly understand the difference between needing and wanting. This doesn’t mean that I’m numb to impulse and spontaneous purchases; charity and thrift shops can still bring out that sense of excitement and temporary fulfilment in you but it just comes with minimised guilt.
For me, this distinction between necessity and longing extends to my blog and my approach to receiving samples and gifted products. If I don’t need it or if I already have a similar item in my possession then I will politely decline.
There’s no issue in wanting, in fact, I’ve previously written all about actively lusting over items and why I believe wish lists can be more useful than I once deemed them to be.
“I probably didn’t need this.”
Similarly, this is a phrase which derives from impulse purchases and is almost the exact opposite attitude of what somebody who labels themselves as a ‘conscious consumer’ might have. In simple terms, if you probably didn’t need it, then why did you buy it? ‘Treat yo’ self’ culture is something that we’ve all become fairly desensitized to and it’s understandable, seeing as retail therapy is scientifically proven to be just that – a form of dopamine-inducing therapy.
Shopping sustainably though (or avoiding shopping altogether), is all about taking your time to mull over your decisions and work out what the best option is. To shop, or not to shop? That is the question!
Limiting the number of times we fall back onto the excuse of treating ourselves, is a way of not only restricting the size of our wardrobes but a way of saving ourselves money in the long-run.
“I’m not sure why I bought this.”
I see this to be different to the previous two phrases because it doesn’t just suggest that what you bought was an impulse purchase; it also suggests the attitude you might have towards the item in the future. Shopping sustainably also means owning responsibly.
Fashion Revolution coined the phrase “Loved clothes last”, meaning that if we care and respect our clothes, no matter how ethically produced they were or what materials they are made of, they will ultimately last longer because we will do our best to look after them.
(However, this is not a reason to fall back into the habit of supporting unsustainable and unethical brandsjust because we know we can make their products last. That’s like continuing to use single-use plastic bottles just because you can refill them over and over; there are other ways of doing things that won’t be harmful to start off with.)
None of these phrases strictly imply that you’re living and consuming unsustainably but I believe that what we say and think about our clothes and what we bring into our lives can have a huge effect on our mindset towards consumption. So, if we can change our attitude towards genuinely knowing why we buy what we buy, it could help us all be far more considerate.
“It’s really in trend right now.”
Aside from the sustainability aspect, the lack of guilt and the fact that it’s a habit I’ve had since I was a child, one reason I love shopping second-hand is that it allows so much more room for individuality.
Clothes are not separated into styles and seasons (at most, you might find clothes organised by colour) and there are no look books and stylised campaigns to influence your decision making. There are no trends, which makes avoiding this phrase relatively easy.
Trends and the vast amount which are generated by the fashion industry’s constant cycle of seasons, maintain the rate of production of new garments and feed into this idea that what we are wearing and searching for, is never enough. There will always be another season with another set idea of what we should be wearing, therefore, another reason to buy.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying trends but I recommend taking the time to sit with those feelings and analyse them once the peak of the trend has passed. I use apps like Depop and the Saved function of Instagram to store trend-led items for sale so I can source them sustainably in the future if the style is still something I appreciate.
“I really need to stop buying more [insert item of clothing]…”
This is the phrase which I believe is easiest to scrap entirely. Don’t get me wrong, it’s understandable (and even appreciated) when somebody owns something in their wardrobe in a selection of different colourways because it’s a dress/shirt/pair of trousers that fits and suits them better than anything else – for some people, that’s essential, especially when it comes to finding the right sizing (even more so from an ethical or sustainably focused brand which might not always have the most inclusive size-ranges).
When it comes to your wardrobe as a whole though, it’s time to recognise when enough is enough. For me? I don’t need any more blouses and tops. I have too many to balance out the number of bottoms (trousers, shorts and skirts) that I own.
That doesn’t mean that I’m going to suddenly decrease the size of my wardrobe (a smaller wardrobe doesn’t necessarily make a more sustainable one) but it does mean I need to be making the conscious effort to stop adding more in the future, even if it is from a guilt-free source like a local charity shop.
Analyse your wardrobe and figure out what your limit is. From my experience, physically limiting myself (with a lack of storage space or from living out of a suitcase) has meant I’ve been able to calculate this more easily. You can also opt to buy pre-owned clothes. You can visit one of the thrift stores in Lebanon, TN if you want to buy secondhand clothes.