A while back I wrote about how I couldn’t be a fashion blogger and a big part of the reason why is connected to fast fashion.
I assumed everyone that follows this blog just automatically knew what “fast fashion” means, but realized that I should take a moment to explain what that means and why I’m personally beginning to implement awareness and behavior changes when it comes to my fashion choices, as well as the clothing choices for my expanding family. With a little one on the way, I realize that pregnancy and motherhood are a prime time when you are pushed to over-consume and buy buy buy all the things other people tell you that you “need” in order to take care of a new tiny life.
Fast fashion is defined by Wikipedia as, “Fast fashion is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends. A second, critical definition adds that fast fashion is not only about quickly moving from runway to store to consumer, but also to the garbage. Fast fashion clothing collections are based on the most recent fashion trends presented at Fashion Week in both the spring and the autumn of every year. Emphasis is on optimizing certain aspects of the supply chain for these trends to be designed and manufactured quickly and inexpensively to allow the mainstream consumer to buy current clothing styles at a lower price. This philosophy of quick manufacturing at an affordable price is used in large retailers such as H&M, Zara, C&A, Peacocks, Primark, Xcel Brands, and Topshop.”
If you’re a critical reader, like me, you can read between the lines that this concept and “economy booster” of fast fashion is inevitably creating more waste and over consumption as the styles change at a regular and ever-increasing pace. We as a consumer base are creating a perfect money making machine by playing into the wants of these fashion companies by continuing to spend our hard earned money on cheap clothes that last for a very short amount of time and require, maybe even demand, that we buy replacement garments at, again, a consistent and ever-increasing pace.
Logically, this increase of wasted product is not beneficial for the planet in it’s already vulnerable state due to over consumption of plastics and other consumer based products.
Additionally, this push for cheaper product and faster turn around times inevitably hurts the people and places who manufacture our clothing. If companies are charging $5 for an item, how are they able to pay for the materials, the production cost, and the labor needed to create these pieces? Plain and simple, they aren’t. Fast fashion is not a sustainable business model and, I would venture to say, in the same vein as many Multilevel Marketing businesses that rely on recruiting others as a way to make money. It’s not sustainable and eventually you will run out of customers.
Unfortunately, fast fashion doesn’t seem to be running out of customers any time soon. Thanks to our consumption habits being so heavily ingrained not only into our society but into our very psyche’s of needing more new things to convince ourselves we are happy and content with our lives, more consumers of fast fashion seem to be popping up every day.
What can you do if you no longer want to participate?
For me, this has been a long and very revealing process.
Just like many people in America, I was raised with a mentality that more is better and having more things, especially nice clothes that were fashionable, was a necessity.
Changing my consumerism habits came to the forefront when I began to notice that my spending habits were not sustainable. Shortly after getting married and buying our first house, I started to realize that I couldn’t justify spending the amount of money I was spending on unnecessary things like new clothes for every single season and event that would come up in life. That was the turning point for me to begin reflection, awareness, and implementing changes.
What follows is what has worked so far for me. In the vein of truth and transparency, I will admit that there are still some fast fashion purchases I am making and have not completely healed myself of this disease. Yet, anyway. Progress > perfection.
I use these steps either on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on how busy my schedule is. If I have less “events” (things like friend’s/family weddings, birthday parties, vacations, family events etc.) then I analyze according to the month. When I have more events/opportunities where I am spending money, I use them on a weekly basis. Having a more regular interval may work better for you depending on how often you purchase things.
Step One: Reflection
First, I started with reflection of my current habits and existing wardrobe. This is a step I come back to as often as possible, roughly 1-2 times a month if I can. In the reflection stage I try to process my needs and wants and compare them to what I am contemplating purchasing or have already purchased that month. For example, I recently took a vacation to Hawaii and needed swimsuits that would fit my expanding pregnant body. For me, that was a need over a want. After trying on the bathing suits that I currently owned, none of which fit me correctly with my new midsection, I required new bathing suits. This stage is one that requires critical analysis of the things you actually need versus the things you want. More often than not, in this stage I find that I don’t actually need a new sweater or t-shirt, I mostly just want one. However, this is also a great time to take inventory of the things you truly do need and make a plan to purchase something new or secondhand without falling into an impulse buy situation in the aisles of Target. The reflection stage has helped me to take a critical look at what I currently have, how much I use it, and what I actually need versus what I just want to “keep up” with the people around me. Last, the reflection stage is a great time to get rid of all the old clothes you are holding on to that no longer serve you. Or as Marie Kondo would put it, the things that no longer bring you joy. This does not necessarily include getting rid of or throwing away items, but can also include setting aside items that are broken or need repairing rather than replacement. Think something like a sweater that you love with a small hole in the bottom. This does not need to be replaced, probably only mended.
*I know I wrote above about how waste is a contributing factor to the state of the planet and while that is true, waste is unfortunately inevitable. What I hope to support people in doing is using the release of clothing to open up a space where you recognize that by participating in a cycle of donating clothes and buying second hand clothing, you are actually ending the cycle of new production>consumption>minimal use>landfill. You may not be reusing your own items, but by donating and buying things secondhand you are reusing someone’s things and preventing them from making their way to the landfill. Additionally, someone else now has the opportunity to buy, wear, and love something that you no longer need. A wonderful new cycle to engage in.*
Step Two: Awareness
Next, I come into awareness about my habits, current spending, and how to re-purpose what I currently own. The awareness stage is kind of the best and worst stage, in my opinion. It sheds a light that, depending on my consumption for that time period, can make me frustrated with myself and the choices I make. However, the awareness stage is also wonderful in that it provides me a clear opportunity to feel the guilt/shame that comes along with buying more than I need and to fully know that making myself feel that way is no longer needed. I no longer need to purchase things that make me feel sad a few short weeks or months after purchasing. I want to purchase things that leave me feeling happy and content with my purchases. This is also a great stage to look through your wardrobe and figure out new outfits or ways to style items you already own. Bringing awareness to the multitude of ways in which you can reuse and re-wear your items is an important step in truly ending the cycle of fast fashion.
Third Step: Implement Changes
Last, I work on implementing changes. This stage is one that has been included in the two stages before it, but the final step includes taking real world action that inevitably circles back into the first step to keep a healthier cycle in motion.
To explain, in the first step you took inventory of the items you needed vs. already possessed. The first change was implemented when you told yourself it was time to actually start this process and begin eliminating habits that you can otherwise live without. Now that you have allowed yourself that space, you can begin to implement real world changes that move beyond your current wardrobe and include the further procurement of more pieces to that wardrobe. Unfortunately, this is not a change that can come overnight. No, just like any life altering change it is something that takes practice and dedication. Sometimes you might slip up and buy a new shirt with the perfect saying on it because duh, it’s cute and affordable. I’ve done it in the past few months, without a doubt. But that final step leads us back into the first step that, hey it’s time to check that wardrobe again and see if there’s anything that needs improvement. Real changes come from being able to participate in that cycle in a healthy way.
Changing your awareness in the second step initially happens when you are able to create space for the fact that it’s now time to become aware of what you are purchasing. You are ending the cycle of unconsciously purchasing something and moving toward a more conscious consumption habit. The real world change comes in when you are able to consciously consume something. For example, when you are able to go to your wardrobe and think “Oh it’s raining today” or “the cold weather is returning soon, I will wear/have something that accounts for that.” you either have it on hand because you have previously purchased something of quality, or you are able to move forward purchasing something secondhand or from a sustainable, ethical company.
Overall, fast fashion is a detriment to not only the planet, but also the pocketbooks of those involved in any facet of the industry. Moving away from fast fashion is not meant to completely eliminate all needs to purchase more things when the time arrives. Unfortunately, every new season requires a new outfit, whether that be a personal season or a season of the year. The hope is that when the time comes for those new seasons, we are able to spend in an appropriate, sustainable, and measured way so we know we are making the right choices in connection to what we choose to purchase as well as what we choose to hold onto. While tempting and sometimes inevitable, fast fashion can be reduced and even eliminated in your world when you allow yourself the space and time to truly think through your habits and make purchases that better reflect who you are. My hope is that the 3 steps I listed above will provide another person the opportunity to have some realistic steps toward ending the cycle and creating a new one that benefits not only your pockets and wardrobe, but truly the entire planet.