My favourite store used to be Forever 21. I used to love going to the mall and buying new clothes with every new season and I never concerned myself where my clothes were coming from.
Over the past few years however my opinion on clothes have changed a lot. Learning about the fast fashion industry and the people that are exploited and treated horribly to put cheap clothes on the racks of North American stores for us to buy has affected my view on what I buy.
Have you noticed that clothes (and other things such as electronics and appliances) don’t last as long as they used to? It isn’t just you, things are actually made and designed to fall apart quicker, and thus get you to buy more to replace things. This is especially bad for clothes because it is something we all need, and something that we see in the fronts of stores all the time.
Now what is fast fashion? It is traditionally known that there are four seasons of the year; winter, spring, summer, and fall, but in the fashion industry there are practically 52 seasons of the year. Every week (or sometimes every day) there are new products arriving, filling up the store fronts and making it seem like you need to have the latest and greatest and what you bought last week isn’t as exciting any more. Though these items may be super cheap (looking at you Forever 21) cheap also defines their durability and how long they last.
I have read a quote that states, “‘Fast isn’t free – someone somewhere is paying’ It’s also clear that the environment is suffering too…” There is nothing great about fast fashion and as soon as I read up on it, I knew something had to change for me.
Now ethical clothes are hard to find and when you do find them they may be more expensive than you are used to paying (and I know I am), but there are a lot of benefits. While you are paying more up front you are paying for a product that lasts. You are also paying for ethical conditions and wages for the people making your clothes. I don’t want to contribute to the cycle of oppression in the fashion industry and sometimes that means that I have to think more about what I am buying.
Another way to buy clothing without contributing to the fast fashion industry is to shop at thrift stores. I love thrift shopping and I can always find pieces that I love at both a fraction of store prices as well as knowing that I am giving a piece of clothing a new life. It is amazing the brands and styles that you can find at the thrift store, I rarely feel like I am missing out on anything.
I went to the mall last week and guess what, I was bored. I looked into stores and knew that though the clothes may look cool and fashionable, they were not made to last or made with an ethical worldview in mind. I would much rather support the world and the makers of my clothing when I chose to add to my wardrobe.
I love clothes and have no desire to ever stop buying them, but my methods have changed. I am now more knowledgeable and thoughtful about where my money goes and I don’t have the desire to switch out my clothes every few weeks. Fast Fashion exists because we the consumer continue to buy cheap, unethical clothing and it will continue to thrive until we stop.
Tips for being more mindful about clothes shopping:
- Host a clothing swap: Get all your friends together and bring what you no-longer wear. This is a free (and fun) way to discover new clothes and give what you don’t need a new home.
- Unsubscribe to store emails: I have found myself less likely to buy new clothes when I am not being bombarded with sales and new items that I really don’t need. Remove the temptation from your life and you will find that you want and desire less. When there is something you really feel like you are missing from your wardrobe you can go look for a good option for it, but there is so much you really don’t need.
- Do your research: It took until I read articles and saw some documentaries (some examples at the bottom of the post) to realize how horrible fast fashion was, but also how easy it was for me to avoid it. It is amazing what you can learn and how your opinions can change.
- Be conscious: You vote with your dollar and by choosing to buy ethical and “slow” fashion you are helping the world and those around it and not just getting something cheap and fast.
Where to find out more:
- Ethical Fashion Forum
- The Origins of Fast Fashion
- The True Cost – Netflix Documentary
- Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion – Book