Fast Fashion Addiction

Written by Dayna Lawrence, Edited by Aurora Hinz and Willa Tsokanis

For the most part, the masses aren't brought up in a way that conditions them to look for sustainably sourced clothes or thrifted pieces. As an individual, all you know is that you are young and you have never had less money than you have right now, so finding pair of jeans for $9.00 at Forever 21 is the equivalent of claiming your golden ticket to the Wonka Factory.

Here you are, an aspiring fashionista (or fashionisto? Yeah, let's go with that.), stuck at the crossroads between the trend-based wardrobe you desire and your ethics. After all, what could be better than finding a good deal on some trendy pieces for your ever-growing collection of cheaply-made clothing?

Even though bargain hunting can be addictive I’ve learned that ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is still ignorance no matter how you spin it, you can’t shake the negative impact of not knowing, or choosing not to be a part of the solution makes you complacent. So here’s your homework assignment (don’t worry, it’ll be fun) research your favorite retailers business ethics and sustainability stats, and if by the end of your search you can still call it your favorite retailer, then go on shopping there. If not, know that there are alternatives.

Purchasing used clothing is the only transaction that does not affect the environment because it has already been produced. It’s carbon footprint exists and cannot be made bigger if someone were to use it again. Even the most environmentally friendly brands produce waste when making clothing- it is impossible to create without leaving a trace, which is why thrifting is the obvious choice when it comes to responsible shopping.

I’m a big believer in the look good, feel good, do good phenomenon. If you wouldn’t feel good about investing in a company, why hand over your money in the form of a clothing purchase?

Fast fashion is meant to be replaced often, whereas decades ago women would have nine high-quality outfits that were built to last. Today the average woman has sixty pieces or more in her wardrobe. What changed? Not the amount of money Americans are willing to spend on clothing, but the volume of clothing they can purchase on the same income. More clothing being produced at the same cost means lower wages for garment workers, ever increasing CO2 emissions, and water usage that is set to double by the year 2030.

The only thing that stands to stop fast fashion powerhouses from abusing their workers and our planet is to make sure they don’t have the money to do so. Every time someone buys a clothing item from a fast fashion retailer they are buying into the idea that their outsourced factory workers do not deserve a livable wage. The idea that it is okay to use more than their fair share of water to produce clothing when third world countries are facing droughts and cotton production is at an all time low. The idea that everything on this planet is disposable and should be treated as such.

This is not the case.

Once you step outside of your comfort zone and away from the mass produced, ill fitting pieces churned out in factories overseas for stores such as Forever 21 and H&M, it is impossible to go back to the cookie cutter look that all of your peers are wearing. Like any other addiction, you have to make a constant, conscious effort to step away from brands that contribute to the growing textile landfills.

Stepping away from hazardous shopping habits isn’t easy. In fact, many shoppers would agree that how they were socialized plays a huge role in the way they build their wardrobes. When asked “Do you think you are addicted to fast fashion?” most people who responded yes blamed the addiction on the fact that they were not exposed to thrift shops or clothing stores with a concentration on ethically produced clothing. They bought what they saw in their local malls- most of which included Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, and H&M.

The second most popular answer to this question was that financial situations played a huge role in fast fashion addiction. While it is true that outside of consignment stores, the clothes you can purchase with a clean conscious come with a high price tag, know that these purchases are investment pieces that are built to last (unlike those H&M leggings you bought last week and have already developed a hole.)

The questions that remain are: where do you go to find clothing that isn’t mass produced? And how do you change your mindset to focus on quality over quantity when shopping?