Once people get familiar with what fast fashion is, they usually want to avoid it at all costs. After all, that forever21 sweater didn’t just come at an amazingly affordable price, it came with the exploitation of factory workers and our planet.
But there’s a sad realization when looking at ethical fashion that you may not be able to afford it. I get it. All of our lives we’ve been programmed to think that a pair of jeans should cost $20 and a t-shirt should cost $5.
When transitioning to a more ethical way of shopping we have to transition our mindset as well. We need to understand that the reason those jeans cost $80 is that everyone along the production line was paid and treated fairly. This is what clothing should cost.
But that being said, I understand that it’s not within everyone’s price range to shop ethically 100% of the time.
So is it possible to shop fast fashion sustainably?
In short, I think the answer is yes. While the problem with fast fashion still remains that they are produced un-ethically and un-sustainably with a great hazard to our planet, I would argue that the biggest problem with fast fashion is our over-consumption of it.
When a t-shirt is $5 we have no problem picking up 2 or 3 of them. The low price of fast fashion enables us to buy a lot more. And because we didn’t spend a lot of money on these items we’re less attached to them and will eagerly replace them when they inevitably fall apart in a few months.
Because that’s just it. We don’t cherish our clothing and treat them as if they’re meant to last a decade. With trends popping up every week, we so easily discard last week’s item and can afford to get this week’s style.
Thus trapping us in an endless consumer-driven circle. Once we break our trend-driven shopping habits, I believe we can start shopping more sustainably across all boards.
While shopping fast fashion isn’t the best option because of the hefty humane price tag, it can often be the only option. So how do we make it sustainable?
Yes, it’s that simple. When we stop over consuming and start buying only what we need, we’re already reducing our carbon footprint.
Because fast fashion wouldn’t exist without consumer demand. The rate at which we buy clothing is what causes brands to produce poorly made clothing at such rapid speeds. They’re merely keeping up with consumer demand.
The world consumes 80 BILLION new pieces of clothing a year which is 400% more than we did two decades ago. (Source) With 11 million tons of that clothing ending up in landfills every year in just the US alone.
We consumer more = we waste more. And we’re right back on the hamster wheel.
While I would always recommend thrifting as the number one way to shop sustainably on a budget, thrift stores aren’t perfect either and not readily available to everyone.
So in order to shop fast fashion sustainably, we need to slow down our consumption of said fast fashion. Look for the best quality you can find, (forever21 probably isn’t your best bet js) only shop periodically or when you need something, and most of all: take care of what you have so it lasts for many years.
Yes, most fast fashion is of poorer quality, but it can still last a long time if treated properly. I still have clothing from American Eagle (from before I started caring about the planet) that is at least 8 years old. It can be done and it’s probably the number one way to shop sustainably these days.
The thing I want you to take away is this: it’s impossible to be perfect at any one thing. Don’t let that discourage you. If you can afford to shop 100% ethical fashion, don’t let that stop you from making changes. Try thrifting if it’s available to you. Save up to invest in ethically made pieces, and slow down your consumption of fast fashion. It makes a difference, I promise you.
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