Stores like Forever 21 and H&M have been popular, especially among young adults, for many years. It’s easy to see why, too. It can be exciting to walk into a store and buy multiple outfits without having to break the bank. Stores like these are known for “fast fashion,” and though the clothes may not be the highest quality, it hasn’t stopped customers from trying to get a good deal.
Unfortunately, fast fashion can come with a much greater cost.
In a world where climate change and the state of the environment are on everyone’s mind, it’s important to make more sustainable choices in everything we do – including the clothes we wear. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between fast fashion and sustainable fashion.
Fast fashion refers to making cheaper clothing at a fast rate. It tends to follow current style trends and pushes clothing out into stores quickly, and in mass quantities. But there are many drawbacks, including the exploitation of workers in poorer countries who often are forced to work in “sweatshops.” Fast fashion is also disastrous for the environment, encouraging people to throw out old clothes and to contribute to the 26 billion pounds of clothing items that end up in landfills each year.
Sustainable fashion, on the other hand, refers to clothing that is made using sustainable practices. It’s often made by companies that use fair-trade and ethical practices as well as “green” initiatives to help the environment. Sustainable fashion can also refer to secondhand or vintage clothing sold at thrift stores.
As you can see, one of these options is clearly better for the planet and the future. So what can you do to fight fast fashion?
1. Quality Clothing from Quality Companies
If you want to have a more sustainable closet, start by purchasing clothes that are made from quality materials, and from companies who care about ethical production practices. Companies like Levi’s, Patagonia, and Columbia are all considered sustainable because of the materials they use to make their clothes and how they monitor their manufacturing processes.
Patagonia even offers repair services on clothes, so if something happens to one of your items you can get it fixed instead of buying a replacement.
While the clothing made by companies like these is often more expensive, it is an investment that will last longer. When you buy several cheaper items, they might not even hold up for a year. So in the long run, you could be spending more money at fast fashion stores for clothing that simply isn’t made to last. In fact, it’s made to be replaced.
Quality products feel better to wear and tend to be more comfortable because of the materials used. You don’t have to ruin your budget with sustainable fashion. Buy a few quality pieces for your wardrobe at a time, and you can eventually ween yourself away from mass-market practices in the clothing industry.
2. Making and Mending
If an item of clothing has a hole or tear in it, it can be tempting to throw it out. But most tears can be easily mended if you have a bit of sewing knowledge. A survey done in the UK found that nearly 60% of people don’t know how to sew, and it certainly is a bit of a lost art. However, that same survey found that most people have a desire to learn.
With a few simple sewing lessons, you can continue to mend clothing as it tears instead of throwing it out. It also gives you the opportunity to reuse or “upcycle” pieces of clothing. For example, you can change an old shirt into a skirt by combining certain fabrics and sewing them together.
Once you learn the basics of sewing and mending, you can actually have a lot of fun and get creative with the pieces you put together.
3. Donate, Don’t Toss
Thanks to influencers like Marie Kondo, the practice of minimalism has become increasingly popular. There are benefits to living a minimalist lifestyle, and it can even be environmentally friendly when you choose to limit the number of new items you purchase.
But getting rid of everything that doesn’t “spark joy” isn’t always a good idea, especially if it means you’re just going to throw it out.
If you truly do want to declutter your life and get rid of some clothes that have been sitting in your closet for too long, why not donate them instead of tossing them away? Thrift stores offer new life to almost 2 million pounds of clothing each day. If everyone donated their unwanted clothing instead of throwing it out, imagine how much more of an impact secondhand stores could have. When you donate, you’re giving someone the opportunity to buy a “new” piece of clothing without contributing to the machine. You can also start looking at thrift stores for your own wardrobe since many of them offer current styles as well as a lot of classic vintage trends.
Want to make an even bigger difference? Reach out to a social worker. Many of them work with community nonprofit agencies to get clothing donations to people who live on or below the poverty line.
Last year, Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy. The store has seen its sales drop significantly in recent years, especially with teenagers. If that’s an indicator that the next generation is choosing to focus on more sustainable, quality clothing options, we could see some positive changes to the environment that start with the fashion industry.