IGNORANCE IS BLISS, BUT KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
What is fast fashion?
In brief, fast fashion retailers are the stores who produce clothing which is on the shelves for as little as two weeks before it’s replaced by newer trends.
Clothes from these retailers are not supposed to last, they are literally disposable, which is how brands continue to sell. Elephant Journal comments that the average fast fashion garment goes from store to landfill within one year
Practically as soon as photos from fashion week go up online, there’s an immediate chain reaction of fast fashion stores rushing to duplicate the trend. How do they do it? By subcontracting manufacturing overseas to the lowest bidder — generally in countries that already have some of the leanest production costs on earth.
Fast fashion heavily impacts the environment, obviously, but also workers, especially in third world countries. This is down to the poor regulations of the working conditions of factories, the treatment of employees and their salaries. I don’t want to scare anyone off before they’ve finished reading as I know some people don’t want to hear it and I want people to carry on reading, but if you are interested, please research Rana Plaza, and you’ll discover (if you haven’t already heard) the tragedy of the factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, killing over 1.1k workers who produced clothing for the likes of Primark and Mango.
In my opinion, it’s incredibly ignorant and shallow of all of us to continue giving our cash to these corporate giants whose morals and ethics are in all the wrong places. We are tricked into buying garments that will need to be replaced or will go out of style, and essentially leading us back to the store to shop again, which results in a endless cycle.
Who are the fast fashion retailers?
Zara, Topshop, H&M, Mango, Uniqlo, New Look, Forever 21, Pull & Bear, Primark, to name a few.
Why should I stop supporting fast fashion? Whats in it for me?
Personally, one of the most attractive things about shutting fast fashion out of my life is that I’ll typically own better quality, timeless pieces that no-one else will have. It’s also much more fun, hunting for clothes and finding the most amazing pieces. I’m not into trends anyway, but if you are, you’ll find a lot of trends are repeats from the past and you can almost definitely thrift them. Another thing in it for you – if you feel passionately enough about it, is the guilt of shopping and spending your money at these retailers will be banished and you will be helping the environment by reusing clothes and decreasing waste. Cutting out fast fashion has to be something that you really want to do, and once you start, it just gets easier as I’m finding.
Where else can I shop?
Thrift/charity shops are great and so is Depop/eBay. These sites even allow you to buy fast fashion goods second hand, which is good for the planet and you won’t be investing your money into these retailers, but you can still get your hands on the newest trends. American Apparel is a brand I’ve always loved and supported which is completely ethical, you can read more about that here. Please be aware; some fast fashion retailers offer ‘sub brands’ which effectively look more ethical, for example Urban Renewal by Urban Outfitters, which renews vintage clothing. However, these are no better, and the money you invest will go straight back to Urban Outfitters, or whatever the store is,so it’s pretty much just as bad. For those who are more financially secure, a high number of boutiques are very ethical (I would list them but for this, you will have to do your own research as everyone’s tastes are different). Invest in high quality basics that’ll last you seasons to come.
What if I don’t have a lot of money?
Generally, this doesn’t matter as buying second hand is often way cheaper than a lot of fast fashion retailers. If money isn’t an object, yes it may be easier as certain ethical boutiques may have smaller and more refined collections to shop from, making it less time consuming, however thrifting can be more fun and rewarding in the long run when you find hidden gems that no-one else will have.
What about socks/lingerie?
There are ethical brands that stock socks/lingerie but they can be very expensive. I’m yet to find a store that offers a good price to pay for them, so I personally tend to buy mine from high street retailers who are usually fast fashion. This is down to the fact that I like to change my underwear regularly and as a budgeting student who hasn’t found an alternative, this is the best thing for me as of yet; however I do hope to adjust this in the future.
What if I work for a fast fashion retailer?
This is tricky, as working for a fast fashion retailer usually means you’re right under their wing and therefore supporting them as a store. But, everyone has bills that need to be paid, so as long as it’s not long term and you’re still not shopping from them, it’s not too bad. For those employees who are directed by managers to wear the stores own clothes, I recommend again looking on Depop and perhaps curating a small, capsule wardrobe for work, with as few pieces from the store as possible. Choose stuff that goes with a lot of things you already have, so you can switch it up but you’re also sticking to their rules.
Do I shop in fast fashion retailers?
Over the past few months as I’ve been learning more about the impact of fast fashion, I’ve been cutting down as much as I can and I plan to eliminate it completely. Looking at my wardrobe, the majority of it is thrifted through vintage stores or through Depop, however occasionally, if I quickly need something for a night out, then I will shop there. Some of the things I wear from fast fashion retailers that I’ve had for a while, I love and wear all the time, and would not get rid of them anyway as it would be just as wasteful, however I know in the future that I could buy the same if not better, second hand.