About a year ago, I walked away from fast fashion and unethical shopping. I used to brag about how cheaply I was able to buy a top or a dress. I remember shopping online and not sparing a single thought for the working conditions of the people who made these low quality, ultra-cheap items.

Before making the choice to leave fast fashion behind, I remember going into a Zara and seeing some clothes I liked but leaving without buying anything. When I came back to the store a week later, there was a whole floor of new items.

I thought there was no way those clothes could have been ethically produced. I always cared deeply about ending human trafficking, but I didn’t want to acknowledge the part modern slavery plays within the fashion industry. Until I was finally able to decide that the people who work in fast fashion’s sweatshops matter more to me than a “good deal,” I kept buying into fast fashion. 

The people who work in fast fashion’s sweatshops matter more to me than a “good deal.”

Garment workers in Bangladesh are paid 8,000 taka ($95.50) a month, which is only half of a living wage. The more I allowed myself to reflect on the realities of the working conditions, as well as the industry’s part in human trafficking, the more I became aware of my own role in fast fashion. Finally, I took specific steps to break up with fast fashion for good, and you can too.

1. Educate yourself.

Find out who made your clothes. Start paying attention to where your clothes come from. Are they made in China or Bangladesh? It’s likely the workers making those clothes have not been fairly treated or paid.

By finding out where your clothes are coming from, you can stop supporting companies that are mistreating their workers. Dressember is a great resource for better understanding the consequences of fast fashion.

Remember, ethical companies are transparent with their wages and factory conditions. Be wary of companies that are secretive about it.

2. Change your approach.

Instead of trying to keep up with the trends in fashion, find your own fashion. Figure out what style you like, not what’s in for the moment. What style fits you personally? When we stop feeling like we always need a new look, we stop buying into the fast fashion cycle. 

3. Take care of the clothes you have.

Because the cycle of fast fashion moves so fast, it can feel like the clothes you have are “behind on the times.” This is a lie perpetuated by big companies that want you to keep buying more new things. Instead, hold onto your clothes. Pair them together in new and different ways. Break out a sewing machine and alter them.

You can wear a shirt you’ve had for five years in a new way and fall in love with it all over again. Don’t buy into the lie that new is always better. 

Don’t buy into the lie that new is always better. 

4. Learn to be thrifty.

Instead of hitting up H&M or Urban Outfitters when you need to find a new item, try thrifting. From the Salvation Army to Buffalo Exchange, to local resale boutiques and even apps like Poshmark, there are so many ways to reuse fantastic clothes that are in good condition instead of buying from unethical brands. 

5. Invest in lasting pieces.

If you’re having trouble finding what you’re looking for from an ethical brand or a resale shop, then be sure you buy it to last. One of the traps of fast fashion brands is that their clothes are low quality. They’ll wear out and before long, you’ll have to buy a new one, thus giving them more money. Instead, do some research to find what you need from a good quality company so it will last you for ages. 

You may be thinking that you’re just one person. How big of a difference can it make? But it does make a difference. Take a stand against injustice and help others to see that injustice has a ripple effect. You have no idea how powerful your voice is until you start using it.

What steps can you take to be shop ethical brands? What resources have helped you learn about the impact of unethical fashion?

Images via Jose Leon, Darling Issue No. 11

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *