Hacking Fast Fashion: Quality Purchases in an Age of Cheap Clothing

Hey friends,

If you think the title of this post sounds a little extra, well, it is. This was the title of a presentation I gave recently for a student symposium within my college. There are six different majors in my college, the College of Human Environmental Sciences, and a student from each major was selected to give a talk the the college about a theme they have been studying. When I found out that I had been selected, I immediately knew the direction that I wanted to take for this. 

I really wanted to share on the topic of fast fashion to my peers. This is something that many people are slightly aware of, yet don’t really know exactly how to execute either on their budget or with their style. I am so happy about how the presentation went that I decided to share some of these things with you, because since I got good feedback, I thought you all might like to know about this as well. A little over a month ago, if you’ll remember, I posted something called “The Beauty of Transparency” where I discussed some companies that I feel do an amazing job of being clear about how their garments and items are made. 

What Even Is Fast Fashion? 

Fast fashion is considered to be —“an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers”.  And in the words of NYT columnist Lucy Siegle, “Fast fashion isn’t free. Somewhere, someone is paying.” I want to pose a question to you for you to think about for your clothing picks within your closet. —Are your clothes long lasting and high quality, or falling apart after their first night out?

To me, this is not only a sustainability issue in terms of the earth, but it’s also a human rights issue, since workers all around the world are being mistreated in the name of fast fashion. Companies like ZARA can come up with a design, produce it, and have it in store all within 10 days of the initial design. Thinking along those lines, do you think that these companies are really taking into consideration how ethically or sustainably these items are being made? Most likely not. 

That all being said, I want to share 5 ways that the everyday consumer can help tackle this issue. All of these can absolutely be done on a college student’s budget. 

1. Shop Second Hand. 

This is such an easy thing to do, and by doing this, you aren’t contributing to the tons of clothing that are being dumped into the landfills each day. There are plenty of stores in my college town of Columbia, MO where I can shop second hand, and I’m pretty sure that in almost every city there are places to find second hand garments. From Plato’s Closet to even Goodwill, the opportunities are usually endless. Not only will you get clothing at a cheaper price, but most likely, with enough searching, you can find some of your favorite name brands, too! I’ve found plenty of Madewell, J.Crew, and Free People at my Goodwill for a fraction of the original price! 

2. Create a Capsule Wardrobe.

I’ve done this for all of the times I’ve lived abroad, but I’m actually in the process of turning my current closet into a capsule wardrobe. The basics of this are simple. —Invest in a few long lasting, high quality pieces rather than many cheaply made items. Be more with less! Most capsule wardrobes suggest curating a 37 piece wardrobe including —shoes, undergarments, tops, pants, dresses, outerwear, etc. but you can adapt this to however you see fit. If you want further information on this, check out one of my favorite blogs called Unfancy to see how to create a more in-depth capsule wardrobe. 

3. Research Brands That Do Good.

—There are many out there that actually don’t cost a fortune, but it simply takes a bit of research! Some of my absolute favorites include Hiptipico, Patagonia, Sseko, Reformation, Everlane, People Tree, Eileen Fisher, Nisolo, Tribe Alive, Ethica, Symbology, Mata Traders, Naja, Elegantees, etc. —These specifically are ethically and sustainably made, however, even just investing in high quality brands is a great start in order to not be constantly realizing your clothes are getting worn out after one or two uses.

4. Use Your Resources. 

—There are multitudes of resources available to help you on the journey to shopping smarter. It simply takes purchasing a book or downloading an app that can make the journey towards a more sustainable life so much easier. I’m so thankful that we live in an age of the technology that we have in order to use these things to our advantage and learn so much more.

  • The Good Guide – Barcode scanning app that tells you how sustainably your clothing and home goods were made.
  • —Social Impact – An app that shows local boutiques, restaurants, stores, etc. that practice sustainability and ethical choices.
  • —The True Cost – A moving documentary showing the process of how fast fashion is changing our world for in terms of sustainability and for factory workers.
  • —Overdressed – A nonfiction book by Elizabeth Cline documenting the excessive buying habits of our generation and country in general.

5. Call Out Your Favorite Brands. 

Guess what? Brands will listen to their customers. I would be lying if I said all of my favorite brands are sustainable, because the truth of the matter is that there are just some really amazing companies with beautiful clothing…it’s just not ethically made. That being said, when we reach out to our favorite companies, they are willing to listen to us! —On every website you’ll usually find the company’s PR website or customer service email. Send an email or a tweet, asking for that brand to be transparent with how their garments are made, or even to work towards a more sustainable program. This does work, and in the cases of H&M and even Urban Outfitters, they have branched out to create more sustainable lines. Of course the entire company won’t change overnight but this is a great first step to bring about change in the companies that we love. 

Do you like to shop ethically? Or is this one of the first times you’ve heard about it? If you do currently shop ethically, what are some of your favorite brands? Leave me a comment below letting me know, so I can shop that brand too! 

Much love,