Avoiding Fast Fashion for Sustainability Newbies

By: Sydney Ho

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Fast fashion is an elusive concept; how exactly can we avoid it? As someone who’s been shopping sustainably for around sixth months, I can attest to the fact that it’s totally different than anything I’ve ever done before. Eating vegan for a couple weeks? Sure. Switching to only using a reusable water bottle? Piece of cake. So, as I’ve retired from supporting fast fashion, hopefully I can make the transition easier for you.

#1, The Easiest Thing To Do: Shop Less

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Atrocious thought, I know. I’d like you to consider, though, how many pieces of clothing in your closet that you actually wear. Like, on a weekly basis. You know that one shirt that just sits in your closet and every time you see it you look at it for a bit, then cover it up again and pretend it never even existed. Not only are you taking up closet space, you’re spending money on things you truly don’t need. It was quite a rude awakening for me to face, but it’s true. When you’re shopping, if something doesn’t look like you’re going to be wearing it very often, reconsider whether you actually need it. Additionally, you can simply try not buying clothes every single time you want something new; take a quick assessment of your wardrobe first. It’s important to realize that every piece of clothing you own has value. If you’re not making sure every shirt, pair of pants, or jacket you own is being used well, it’s not worth your money.

#2, Go Thrifting! (It’s a lot of fun, I promise)

Thrifting is such a trendy activity now. Vintage is in, and the prices are pretty hard to beat. Not only are you avoiding supporting sweatshop labor, you’re getting something completely unique. Second-hand shopping really allows you to find something you truly love. It’s all about the hunt; once you find something you really like and believe you will enjoy wearing for a long time, it only makes it more worth it when you buy it. “But thrift shops are always a toss-up,” you say. ”You never know if you’re going to find anything you like.” Exactly! Like I mentioned in Tip 1, you don’t always need to buy something. A more unpredictable availability can help prevent you from “over-shopping.”

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What if you like more trendy pieces? Check consignment shops! Usually, these stores will have more current styles and often offer a more streamlined selection, featuring popular, familiar brands you know and love. While you will be paying a slightly higher price, it’s still lower than what you’d find in your local mall. Looking for something specific? Try online thrifting apps like Depop or Poshmark. A simple search can lead you to an Instagram-style feed of exactly the type of item you are looking for. With one on one connection with the seller, you can negotiate prices and discuss the details of the item you’re interested in purchasing. For a generation raised on online shopping and Amazon Prime, it’s a much more current and convenient option.

#3, Support Slow Fashion or Sustainable Clothing Brands

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This is definitely the most extreme you can go to support ethical fashion practices. Brands like Reformation, Everlane, and People Tree have all been created specifically with ethical labor conditions, working wage, transparency, and environmental impact in mind. Flaunting a common timeless style, sustainable fashion brands often create clothing items that don’t adhere to the latest trend; instead, their focus is on creating clothing that will be wearable for years to come. They do have a significantly higher price tag, but keep in mind that you will be paying for very high quality pieces that will serve you well. Even some popular brands like Adidas, Reebok, and Patagonia are considered sustainable! The most important factor here is doing diligent research: while many brands claim to have solid codes of conduct and ethical practices, outsourced manufacturing and other methods of production may tell a different story.

PC: Reformation Store

PC: Reformation Store

My last bits of advice…

Transitioning to a more eco-friendly, sustainability-focused lifestyle is different for everyone. Personally, I found it pretty difficult; as someone who loves fashion and it’s ability to be expressed in so many different ways, cutting off trendy, cheap brands like Forever 21 and H&M was a large shock. However, now that I’ve found the light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve only learned to grow a bigger appreciation for the clothes I own and my own personal style. Even for those who aren’t the most avid shoppers, I bet we can all agree that being mindful whilst looking at clothing is a daunting task; it definitely is easier to look at something, decide you like it, and purchase it on a whim. With this knowledge, though, I hope to instill a new inspiration in you to begin realizing that where your money goes makes an impact. Finding something you love and will truly cherish is far more gratifying than an impulse purchase, and shopping sustainably will definitely help you to eventually curating a closet full of clothing you will always want to wear. Go forth and explore the world of sustainable fashion!

Sydney Ho