The Fundamentals of Fast Fashion: How to Avoid It

Feb 15, 2019

Now that I’ve answer the question “what is fast fashion?”,  it’s time to look at how we can avoid supporting it. Here are some simple steps to becoming a more sustainable shopper.

A few weeks ago, I put up the first in a two-part series about the fundamentals of fast fashion. In it, I basically discussed exactly why fast fashion is so fucked up, from its impact on the planet, to how it treats people and everything in-between that have led to it being dubbed the “second dirtiest” industry in the world.

I hoped that the blog post would take everything back to basics and explain exactly why so many people are suddenly now choosing to avoid the highstreet. I wanted to put all of the fast fashion facts out there, in one place, for people who didn’t even know what the F the term meant.

However, whilst knowledge may well be power, having power doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll use it, right?

Knowing about the damaging impact of the industry, is very, very different to going out there and avoiding it. That truly is a whole different ball game: A ball game that requires some serious habit shifts and certainly ain’t easy.

My journey to existing without fast fashion is still in progress. I know that a lot of ethical bloggers don’t want to admit this online but I suspect that a large proportion of us still support fast fashion in some way. Whether it’s when buying pants (come on, nobody wants to buy used undies and not everyone has £20 to drop on one pair of knickers!) or just momentary lapses in willpower (hello, pair of Primark slides that I bought two summer’s ago), I’m sure that most of us still buy from conventional shops.

I’m definitely not perfect. However, I would say that fast fashion retailers are, like, 95% out of my life. And I consider that a pretty huge success.

So, since I’ve already given you the reasons that you might want to avoid buying from fast fashion brands, it seemed only right to share how to do that, too. The fundamentals of how to buy clothes more ethically, if you will.

A woman wearing slow fashion clothing to represent sustainable shopping

Buying clothes without supporting fast fashion

Just. Buy. Less.

First and foremost, the biggest change that you can make towards more sustainable style – and one that will stand you in good stead throughout your whole ethical living journey – is to just buy less. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.

Less buying means less waste and less demand for these damaging clothing stores.

It’s simple to understand, but difficult to do, I know. It’s hard to avoid ads for clothes online and the constant pressure to keep up with what’s “in” mean that the desire to buy has never been so strong.

So, one of the things that I found most helpful in terms of buying less was setting myself some rules or boundaries. At the beginning my rule was “I can’t buy anything the first time that I see it”. This usually meant that the impulse to buy something for no real reason wore off before I had the chance to get online and put it in my basket.

Soon this changed to “I can’t buy anything unless I donate something else”. And now my rule is, “I can only buy something if I really need it and I must try to find it from a sustainable source first”. It’s worth noting that that doesn’t mean I completely avoid fast fashion, but that I am trying to do better.

By slowly building up to it, the whole thing has felt less overwhelming.

Know your brands.

With so many shops to choose from and more and more of them throwing words like “organic” and “sustainable” around, it can be difficult to know how to call bullshit and know when a shop is a fast fashion brand through and through.

One of the simplest ways to tell if a brand is unsustainable is to look at prices: Are they so cheap that you can’t imagine how they would pay the person who made them fairly? Ditch them! Secondly, take look at how often they have new designs: Is there “new in” section constantly updating? Get that shit out of your search bar!

Another great tool for knowing how ethical a brand is is the fashion transparent index, which ranks how open brands are about their supply chains working on the assumption that if they’re shady, they probably have a reason to be.

Buy to last. 

When you do need or want to buy something, buying for quality wherever possible is great in terms of sustainability. Even if it means shopping from a fast fashion retailer, knowing that that piece of clothing will last many years again means less waste. If everyone bought things less frequently, the demand for such a quick turnaround within fashion would also be massively decreased.

Of course, this isn’t always accessible, since well-made clothes are usually a lot more expensive (if bought new). So don’t beat yourself up if this is a step that you can’t do just yet.

Buy slow fashion.

Supporting brands that are actively fighting the fast fashion system is, of course, one of the best ways to shop more sustainably.

These companies use fair and ethical labour practices, pay a living wage to all of their workers and often use organic cotton, making their farming methods far less damaging to the planet. Naturally, that means that the cost of the garments is higher than those in highstreet stores.

That’s one of the reasons that shopping more sustainably requires a huge mindset shift: It means understanding that the work that goes into making a t-shirt is worth far more than £3.

So, again, if it’s something that you can afford to do, support companies like Birdsong London, Grl Clb and People Tree.

Buy second-hand.

Now this is where I come into my element!

Whilst it’s not often that I can shop from slow fashion brands or splash out on really high quality items, buying secondhand often means that I get things for the same price as on the highstreet. Maybe less, which makes me feel even more smug!

There are two main ways that you can shop secondhand: In charity (or “thrift”) shops, or on websites like eBay and Depop. The first of those two is great, not only because it means you’re not supporting fast fashion companies directly, but because it also means that you’re supporting a charity at the same time. But, of course, if you’re looking for trend pieces, online sites are much more likely to be the place for you.

Either way, you’re not lining the pockets of fast fashion CEOs.

Staying sustainable after shopping

Look after your clothes.

Another simple shift that requires no money: Just look after your bloody clothes!

Wash them how they’re meant to be washed, at the right temperature and by hand if needed. Hang them up properly so that they don’t lose their shape. Don’t use tumble driers wherever possible – they’re God awful for the planet anyway!

By doing small things like that, you’ll prolong the life of your clothes, again meaning that you won’t need to shop as often. Win for being sustainable and a win for your wallet!

Repair where possible.

I’m awful at this one and have to drag my Nan in to help me, but learning how to make basic alternations and repairs in a great move for prolonging the life of your clothes.

Even getting good at things as simple as re-sewing a button or hem could mean the difference between you keeping that item or it sitting in your wardrobe before eventually going to landfill.

It’s all in the mentality.

Overall, the biggest shift towards more sustainable shopping is to change your mentality. Yep, soz, I know that’s literally the hardest thing to change, but it’s the truth.

Try to be more mindful of what you’re buying, where you’re buying from and how you can make those items last.

Oh, and don’t be too hard on yourself if – dare I say “when”? – you mess up. We all exist within the fast fashion system, so becoming more sustainable is a huge learning curve. But on that is certainly worth it.



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