Dressing Ethically: 7 Tips to Help Reduce Your Fast Fashion Footprint
According to 7 Billion for 7 Seas, fast fashion is generally defined as “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers”. The principles of fast fashion mean that garment manufacturers can sell clothing to the consumer at an extremely affordable price, advertise like crazy, and still make a profit. Fast fashion clothes are in every big box store around the world, and the industry is booming.
Fast fashion sounds like a perfect storm, so who gets the low end of the stick? Quite frankly, we all do.
Did you know that the fast fashion industry is the second highest polluter in the world? Only topped by the oil industry, 1.2 billion tons of CO2 are emitted into the air from the manufacturing of textiles every single year. At the same time, the average person throws out 80 pounds of clothing annually — clothing that, for the most part, ends up in landfills.
Not to mention, it’s estimated that 1 in 8 global workers work in the garment and textile industry today — the vast majority working for completely unlivable wages in unsafe conditions. The human rights concerns of the garment industry have been well documented, and yet it’s precisely these unsafe conditions and low wages that allow people all over the world to purchase these clothes for an extremely low price.
So, with all this information, it would seem a no-brainer that there be a huge movement for the complete revamp of this industry, but unfortunately, that’s not entirely the case. Even with all of these statistics, the industry is only growing year after year. Yes, due to increased demand, some major fast fashion retailers have begun “eco-friendly” campaigns, but the truth of the matter is that for this industry to really change, it has to come from people and their wallets.
It’s only by changing our habits as consumers that we can really start to make a dent in the environmental and human rights issues of this industry. And of course, the beginning of any habit change is education.
So what are some things we can do to reduce our fast fashion footprints? Read on to find out!
1- Mend Older Clothes
Mending torn or worn clothes is something that is so easy to do, yet seems like very few people do in this day and age.
My dad always tells stories about how growing up, his mom would put patch upon patch on his jeans — so much so that over time the jeans became much less denim, and much more patch.
It was definitely a function choice over fashion, mind you.
Yet, somewhere along the way, it became much more in style to just toss out old clothes instead of putting in the work to make them functional again. The thing is, it doesn’t actually take that much effort to mend old clothes, and there are plenty of sewing techniques that will make most patches completely unnoticeable.
These are some simple clothing repairs you can do without a sewing machine: https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/3-simple-clothing-repairs-you-can-do-right-now
2- Upcycle Your Clothing
On that note, I can also empathize with having clothes in your closet that you just don’t wear, or ones you’ve simply outgrown. That’s where upcycling comes in!
Upcycling is essentially the practice of taking old clothes and forming them into something new — something that you’ll wear more often and love more than you did the original item.
For example, if there’s a dress that you don’t love in your closet, you could get a little creative and change it into a blouse, pinafore, or even a skirt. The sky is the limit for what you can create!
Upcycling is also a great way to save some money, along with these budgeting tips: Practical Budgeting Tips to Help Lead You Towards Financial Security
3- Create Your Own Clothes
Speaking of being creative with your clothing, why not try and make some new clothes for yourself?
When Covid-19 first struck, so many of us dove into new hobbies that we just didn’t seem to have time to do before. I found this especially true, as the pandemic gave me a reason to dive into sewing head-first. I never anticipated the incredible learning curve that sewing would bring along with it, but now that I’ve got the gist, I’ve been loving creating my own dresses, shorts, skirts, and blouses exactly the way I want them.
I purchase fabrics from sustainable sources (I use a lot of recycled materials and deadstock fabrics), and I know that each piece is of great quality as I made them with my own two hands.
All that said, I will caution that making your own clothes is, more times than not, not cheaper than buying from the rack; especially when stacked up against fast fashion. However, each piece I make lasts significantly longer than those picked up in a store, and each piece is tailored to my body for the perfect fit.
4- Shop For Quality
These days, while I rarely find myself shopping for brand new clothes, there are a couple of exceptions. I have yet to attempt to make my own underwear, and as I’m not comfortable making them yet, I’ll put money into some good denim.
That said, when I purchase these items, I’m very cognizant of quality and the manufacturing brand I’m supporting. Not only do the jeans I purchase have to fit my body perfectly, but I also make sure that the brand has sustainable practices and uses quality fabrics. All it takes is a little google searching to find brands that have ethically manufactured products.
I can’t tell you brands that I think you should buy from, but if you’re looking for a good starting point for what to look for in quality items (this goes for thrift shopping as well), then check out this article: https://qz.com/823607/pro-tips-for-buying-clothes-that-will-last-years-not-weeks/
5- Go Thrift Shopping
If you’re hankering to go shopping for some new duds, then skip the mall and hit up the thrift store!
Thrift stores, whether you’re going to a big box place or a small boutique, often have a plethora of gently used, quality clothing. By thrifting, not only will you know that you’ll get each item at a better price than the original retailer, but you can also find some high-quality, designer pieces if you know what to look for.
Not only do I love thrift shopping as a way to fill in my closet, but I also love thrift stores as a way to furnish my home. There’s always so much great stuff that, with just a little TLC, I can turn into a one-of-a-kind piece of decor!
6- Build a Capsule Wardrobe
Whether you go thrift shopping, create your own clothes, or upcycle new pieces, a capsule wardrobe is a great way to keep you on track with your clothing purchases.
Capsule wardrobes are essentially a few select pieces of clothing that are durable, and pair well with the other items in the lot. Capsule wardrobes often have specific color palettes, and each item is curated so that you can get optimal wear out of each and every piece.
Here are a few tips on how to start your own capsule wardrobe: https://pinchofyum.com/how-to-start-a-capsule-wardrobe
7- Wear Your Clothes Longer
A core tenet of fast fashion rests on the assumption that fashion trends come and go, and people want the latest trends as they’re happening. This means that, on average, an article of clothing is only worn seven times.
How do we beat this? By simply wearing our clothes more. It seems like such a simple fix, but wearing each item of clothing we have more often, combined with not purchasing new items, will drastically reduce your fast fashion footprint.
It makes another case for the capsule wardrobe!
That’s it for my 7 tips to reduce your fast fashion footprint! This article really only scratches the surface of the repercussions of the fast fashion industry, but it’s my hope that it helps us all take a deeper look at our fashion purchasing habits. Let us hear any thoughts you have in the comments below!