With trendy fashion brands popping up everywhere and promising to deliver affordable clothes to your door (for free) within five business days, it can be hard not to get sucked into the oversaturated world of fast fashion.
What does 'fast fashion' mean?
Fast fashion is cheap, trendy clothing that is mass-produced, usually by underpaid garment workers. Fast fashion garments tend to be low quality, often made with synthetic fabrics like polyester, and may mimic styles you see on the runway.
Ever watched a designer fashion show and eyed a cute pair of shoes before realising that they cost $2000? Fear not, in about two weeks, Zara will be selling a $60 replica. Fast fashion really is fast.
So, what’s the problem?
The fashion industry is one of the most unsustainable, resource-intensive and exploitative industries out there. Fast fashion brands select countries with lax labour laws to cheaply manufacture their clothing. In these countries, garment workers receive low pay and often work in unsafe conditions.
Still not convinced? A number of fashion brands, including Topshop, Urban Outfitters and Levi Strauss & Co., have cancelled already-completed factory orders due to COVID-19 and are refusing to pay. This means that there are hundreds of thousands of garment workers going without pay (or a heavily reduced pay) during a global pandemic. Not to mention that many of these garments from cancelled orders will just go to landfill.
Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to distance yourself from fast fashion and join the “slow fashion” movement. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Buy less and consider cost per wear
Overconsumption of fashion is a huge issue in 2020, so the best thing you can do is to aim to buy less clothing. When you’re looking to buy an item of clothing, ask yourself how many times you are likely to wear it before getting rid of it.
People often say that ethical and sustainable fashion is expensive. And, if you’re used to fast fashion prices, it probably is. Consumerism and the oversaturation of the fashion industry has conditioned us into thinking that clothes can and should be cheap. Clothing that is ethically made shouldn’t be cheap.
Try to buy higher quality garments that’ll last. If you factor in the cost per wear of a well-made garment, it may be better value in the long run.
2. Ethical clothing doesn’t have to be expensive
The second-hand and vintage clothing market has been thriving in recent years. You are no longer exclusively confined to the overwhelming racks of low-rise, rhinestone-encrusted jeans at Vinnies.
Check out apps like Depop, where you can easily buy and sell pre-loved clothing. If you have a designer taste, you might like Vestiaire Collective or The Real Real.
Second-hand shopping is a great way to remove demand for fast fashion and prevent clothing from ending up in landfill.
You could also swap clothes with friends or see if there are any clothing swap events going on in your area. It’s a great way to get a wardrobe refresh for free!
3. Don’t stress over perfection
It can take some time to wean yourself off the cycle of constantly buying clothes.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to avoid buying fast fashion. Maybe there aren’t great second-hand or ethical fashion options in your area or your budget. Plus-sized people and those with less “regular” proportions may struggle to ethically source the clothing that they need.
And sometimes, there is a very specific garment that you need that just isn’t available outside of the fast fashion realm. Don’t stress over it; it’s better to buy clothes that you know you like and will get a lot of wear out of.
4. Get educated and inspired
There are a ton of fast fashion documentaries out there to learn from, including The True Cost on Netflix. If you want to know whether your favourite fashion brand is ethical, download the Good On You App and search their brand ratings.
Here are some great accounts to follow on Instagram:
- Venetia La Manna @venetialamanna
- Aja Barber @ajabarber
- Fashion Revolution @fash_rev
- Mikaela Loach @mikaelaloach
- Labour Behind the Label @labourbehindthelabel
- Signe Hansen @useless_dk
- Levi Hildebrand @levi_hildebrand
- Chloe Miles @chloehelenmiles
Find out more about the problems with fast fashion here: