Fast fashion, the problem
So, what is wrong with fast fashion? This has been a topic that has come to float during the last couple of years and that has put a lot of brands like Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Shein, Fashion Nova and such on the spotlight for detrimental environmental and social practices. The thing is that the clothing and textile industry in general consumes a significant amount of non-renewable resources, and the second most polluting industry in the world. For example, for polyester to be made around 70 MILLION barrels of petroleum per year are needed. Also, did you know 90% of clothes end up in the landfill or burned? When we throw clothes away we are also wasting all the materials that were needed in order to make that piece of clothing. And on top of that, people in developing countries that work in these companies’ factories have horrible working conditions.
We have gotten caught in a very unhealthy clothing consumption pattern of preferring quantity over quality. Personally, as I was growing I thought it was way better to buy 5 t-shirts for $5 dollars (even though they were very poor quality) than paying a little more and buying one good quality t-shirt from an ethical brand that would last years. Luckily, we now know all the effects that fast fashion has on the environment and society, and we are able to make better decisions about our purchasing actions.
There are ways in which we can eliminate the need of buying so many clothes, here are some great alternatives that have really worked for me (and that have made me not want to go back!):
Transform your clothes
During the pandemic I have discovered so many new ways to upcycle my clothes on Youtube, Pinterest, and TikTok. The best part, is that many of these DIY’s don’t require you to be a master seamstress or to have a sewing machine at all. Some simple DIY projects I have done this summer are:
- Tie Dye - You can bleach colored clothing or dye light clothing. (It is seriously so easy and relaxing!) Here is a video by Melanie Locke, where she tie dyes her clothes from TikTok trends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZRIAmR8CIo. I totally recommend doing this, it’s so pleasing to transform your clothes and the result honestly looks so cool!
- Cropping - As simple as this may sound, it can completely transform an outfit. I cropped pants into shorts, T-shirts into crop tops, mid size skirts into mini skirts, and long sleeves into short sleeves. I would say this is one of the easiest transformations, you just need a good pair of scissors.
Doing these transformations helped me focus on the present moment and relieve tension. It's fun to be creative and you’ll feel so proud when you get to wear the final product, made by you!
Something my friends and I started doing a couple of years ago is closet swaps. Whenever one of us cleans our closet, we call each other, so that we can see if there's anything the other likes. This gives our clothes a longer lifecycle and it's always fun to have something new in our closets, even if it's not brand new!
Shop second hand
Thrifting is a whole experience! For me, it was an excellent excuse to walk around Chicago and get to know neighborhoods, try small restaurants, and an activity to do with friends. Full disclosure, thrifting does require a bit of patience and searching to find your perfect treasure, but it is totally worth it! You can even find designer clothing at prices you cannot imagine. If digging through clothing racks is not for you, there are plenty of online thrift stores as well. One that I love is Thred UP, which is one of the largest consignment and second hand stores.
Shop from ethical and sustainable fashion brands
Many new clothing companies have been moving towards slow fashion rather than fast fashion. One of the best examples of a sustainable/zero waste clothing brand is For Days; they sell cotton basics, but the amazing thing is that you can send them your old clothes in their For Days reusable bag and they will recycle them into new material. You can also send them clothes you’ve bought from their store that you have worn out or don’t use anymore, and they will not only repurpose them, but you can receive a discount of more than 50% off a new item.
Here are other examples of some ethical and sustainable fashion brands I love: