By Zoe Schulz
At this point, it’s hard to hide from the fact that fast fashion truly is the worst. Not only is it awful quality that doesn’t last, but it’s also terrible for the planet and directly responsible for the exploitation of millions of workers around the world. Ew David.
Choosing ethical fashion isn’t just a style choice but one that reduces the negative impact you have on the world around you. But like many habits, the cycle of buying fast fashion can be hard to break.
Throwing out fast fashion and taking a more sustainable approach to your wardrobe is good for everyone. But this doesn’t have to happen overnight. This is a long-term change and it’s okay to take it step by step.
We’re all here to grow and learn together, so wherever you may be on this journey, here’s a few tips to saying goodbye to fast fashion forever.
Learn to love repeating outfits
There was quite possibly nothing worse as a teenager than being spotted in the same outfit twice. Social media then exasperated this even further creating a relentless urge to post new outfits (#OOTD anyone?).
Stigmatising outfit repeating is fuelling consumerism and often subconsciously leading us to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t care about.
But guess what? This is outdated nonsense, and people are starting to realise this.
There’s nothing wrong with repeating an outfit, and many influencers are now actively encouraging it. Plus, it pushes you to use more creativity in putting together your look. There are so many ways to style items, start playing around with this and challenging the idea that there is anything wrong with wearing the same thing twice.
Buy second hand
80 billion new pieces of clothing are currently be created every year around the world. That’s a hell of a lot.
And it means there are already billions of items out there, so buying second hand can save you serious cash and reduce your contribution to the exploitation within fast fashion.
The ability to buy second hand is a privilege in itself with barriers such as accessibility and sizing meaning not everyone can do this all the time.
If it looks too cheap to be true, it probably is
You know the old saying “if it looks too good to be true it probably is”, well...
If you see something for a ridiculously low price, you can guarantee it’s because the workers aren’t being paid properly. The only way to make a t-shirt for under £5 is to cut a lot of corners, and that’s usually almost always corners that harm both people and the planet.
Put it back on the shelf and walk away.
Shop small and local
We are in the middle of a global pandemic and it’s been damn hard for small businesses. Not only does shopping small help support the local businesses, but it’s actually better for the planet.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a huge rise in small sustainable businesses, so if you’re planning on buying something from a big retailer make a point of not doing so until you’ve checked if there is an equivalent from an independent or smaller business.
Small businesses also tend to be a lot more transparent about where their items are made, are easier to get in contact with if you want more details on manufacturing and are more likely to be held accountable for their actions than the big conglomerates that pack our high streets.
Ask yourself if you really need it
This one may seem arbitrary, but it’s something we should all learn to do before any purchases as buying on impulse is a sure-fire way to end up with items you won’t actually use.
Scarily, retailers are known to use tactics that purposefully encourage impulse buying and it’s often listed as a method to drive up sales. But this is a trick to get us to waste our money and is the current state of our planet means we need to be avoiding any unnecessary purchases when we can.
Give yourself time to think before you buy any new fashion pieces. Get into the habit of really considering how much use you will get out of the item and check you don’t already have something equivalent in your wardrobe.
Organise your wardrobe
Attention: This one is important
We’ve all been guilty of letting our wardrobe get out of hand. And it happens so easily, can we be blamed?
But if you can’t easily tell what’s you already own it’s hard to know whether you need to buy more or not.
Often when we’re feeling frustrated that we don’t have something nice to wear to the big event this weekend, it’s because we have forgotten half of what we own.
Organising your wardrobe is a great way to take stock of what you already own and makes it one thousand times easier to get dressed in the morning.
You can’t stop yourself from buying something you won’t wear, without knowing what you already own. Keep it clutter-free and make the most out of the items you have.
Research who you’re buying from
The more you learn about fast fashion, the more you realise that gone are the days when you could pop into any old shop.
But brands that care about the earth will tell you. If you can’t spot an ethical promise or sustainability information, chances are it’s not because they’ve forgotten.
You can also check what material the items are made from and look for information on the supply chain. A brand being purposefully ambiguous about who makes their clothes is a red flag! Plus, don’t forget to search them on Good On You, an app that rates major retailers on just how ethical they really are.
If you find a brand that doesn’t quite cut it, you can also email them and tell them. Explain to them that sustainability and treating garment workers properly matters to you, and because of that you’ll be taking your money elsewhere.
They may not change their business model based on one email. But if they receive a lot of similar objections, they may feel they have no choice. To make this as easy as pie keep a draft email in your notes for any time this could be of use.
Don't get sucked in by greenwashing
You know how we said, ‘brands that care about the earth will tell you’, well sometimes brands that don’t care about the earth will too.
Greenwashing is when a brand purposefully markets itself as eco-friendly when they are far from it. And so many fast fashions giants are guilty of it.
From H&M’s “conscious" line to Zara’s new “eco-friendly” collection. These major polluters are doing everything they can to be perceived as sustainable. Well, apart from actually becoming sustainable.
When a brands business model relies on pushing overconsumption, exploiting garment workers and trashing our planet, don’t believe them when they try to hoodwink you.
If you’re not sure how to tell authenticity from greenwashing, go back to number 6. Look out for ambiguous language and claims of “sustainability” that don’t actually tell you anything substantial.
The 30-wear promise
On average, we are only wearing the clothes we buy a total of seven times. And on top of this, £2.7 billion is spent annually on items that are only worn once.
The 30-wear promise is – well it’s in the name – a promise to wear anything you buy at least 30 times. This is a good way to look at new purchases and helps to you to consider the use you will get out of them before taking them home.
Learn about the fashion industry
The reality of fast fashion can feel quite doom and gloom. But approaching it with a newfound curiosity can make it a lot more enticing. By deciding to learn about the industry as a whole you equip yourself with knowledge and won’t just be doing it because you think you heard someone say it’s the right thing to do.
This way you can also use your freshly gained knowledge for educating others. Pass the message on, but this doesn’t have to be preachy, after all you didn't always know everything either.
At the end of the day, there’s only so much preparation you can do. Eventually, you just have to dive in. So, in you go – give it a shot. And remember, you don’t have to be perfect, it might take time. Be okay with that and just try.