As August draws to a close and September approaches, I would like to issue a challenge to everyone buying clothes for Fall or back-to-school:
I challenge YOU to NOT buy fast fashion this Fall.
What is “fast fashion?” In case you are unaware, the global garment industry is horrifying. In order to bring us new designs every single day, people are working as slaves and literally dying. Children younger than mine are working for pennies, are separated from their families and are literally dying. If the human cost isn’t bad enough, the environmental cost is tragic. The garment industry is the second largest global polluter next to the oil industry. In order to keep costs low, something has to give and in countries like Bangladesh, safe and ethical manufacturing is what gives. I cannot pretend to be an expert on fast fashion, but I also can’t pretend it isn’t happening. When I see a garment for less than $10, I can’t pretend that the price is just that low. It’s that low because someone or something is paying the cost that I’m not.
I don’t want you to feel guilty or judged. I just want you to stop being inert. Most of us know fast fashion isn’t good but we don’t quite know what to do about it, and we doubt that just one person can make a difference. To that I say, if you’re doing something about it, you’re making a difference and that is good enough. And what can we do about fast fashion? Here are a few ideas:
1. This Fall, do not buy NEW clothing from brands like Zara, H&M, Joe Fresh, Wal-Mart, Children’s Place, Forever 21, Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic or anywhere else you find garments at super low prices. I know, I know; fast fashion is alluring. It is trendy, stylish, cool and cheap – it’s hard to resist. If you have a kid or three or more, you will have an even harder time resisting the low prices of fast fashion to outfit your family. If you are having a hard time resisting, check out some of these links about fast fashion to bolster your resolve.
- Jon Oliver discussing fast fashion is funny but convicting.
- The True Cost – documentary available on Netflix will break your heart and make you ready to take my challenge. This movie discusses how we treat clothing like something to be used up rather than used. We treat clothing like it’s consumable, but it was never meant to be.
- 5 Truths the Fast Fashion Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know on the Huffington Post
- Edmonton’s The Savvy Do Gooder talks about sustainable clothing here, a sustainable spring fashion here. Nadine is well-versed on all things doing-good and she assures me that buying fast fashion labels secondhand does not contribute to the fast fashion problem. So if you really love those brands, hunt for them secondhand.
- Treehugger blog post talking about why fast fashion will never be sustainable, despite the “eco-friendly” steps some companies are taking.
- Greening your wardrobe for spring with sustainable fashion by The Local Good
- Why I Quit Shopping at Zara by The Zoe Report
- In Defense of Slow Fashion by The Man Repeller
- Tortoise & Lady Grey – a blog all about slow fashion and sustainable style including a 20 Day Sustainable Fashion Challenge and 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe
2. Buy garments made in Canada, made in the US or made ethically like my favourite belts, Flatter Me Belts.
3. Buy garments made locally and other sustainable labels.
- 30 Fair Trade Clothing Brands that are Betting Against Fast Fashion by The Good Trade
- Lucid Lifestyle in Edmonton
- New Classics Studios in Edmonton and online
- local stores like Bamboo Ballroom in Edmonton carry local designers like Suka Clothing
- other local designers like Luxx here in Edmonton
- up and coming designers with a sustainable focus like WinterBerry in Edmonton
4. Homemade garments are NOT fast fashion! So if you are lucky enough to know how to sew or knit, make yourself some awesome, unique pieces!
5. Shop secondhand. Many of us cannot afford to shop sustainable brands but that is no excuse to revert to fast fashion. Shop secondhand via thrift, consignment, buy-and-sell pages, Kijiji, etc. If you’re not buying new, you’re throwing a cog into the machine of fast fashion.
6. Do a clothing swap. This is a good one if you like the novelty of new clothes but don’t really need anything, or if you have kids of compatible ages with another family… Be creative, get involved in your community and swap rather than buy new.
7. Consume less. I grew up getting new clothes for school every year however that’s the only time we got new clothes. Fast fashion didn’t exist then. Now, people buy inexpensive low quality garments any time throughout the year… Instead of automatically getting new clothes for Fall, consider if you *need* to consume more. Wear your clothes longer – buy quality long-lasting pieces that spark joy! Use accessories to change the look of your pieces and call yourself Parisian chic! After going through my kids’ closets, I realized they need almost nothing for back-to-school clothing. I thrifted my oldest son some jeans in a bigger size, passed his old ones onto his brother, and got my daughter a couple of cute outfits. I spent less than $25 on a sale day and got what we needed.
They also wanted to get some new cheap t-shirts…
But I said no. I explained a bit about fast fashion and said we would have more fun thrifting for some unique t-shirts and they were totally fine with that.
Did you catch that? All you need to do is say no. I hope that this Fall Fast Fashion Challenge will “change the way you think about what you wear.” (The True Cost movie) Consuming fast fashion will not buy you happiness. Every consumer has the power to become an “activist” simply by making different choices when it comes to clothing. The next time you go to “like” a fashion photo featuring a fast fashion brand, think twice. The next time you think you might as well pick up a top while you’re getting groceries, realize how ridiculous that is, then say no. One choice at a time, let’s make an impact on the fast fashion industry. Who’s with me?!!