Today, everyday people are able to wear the latest trends of the fashion world for only a fraction of the price. Of course, all of this comes at enormous costs - especially for the environment and the people involved in production. Fast fashion is responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions annually, while simultaneously exploiting workers by forcing them to work long hours in dangerous conditions for little pay.
Despite knowing the staggering statistics about its dangers, the vast majority of people still opt for fast fashion. The reason behind this is rather simple: shopping sustainably is expensive. Most people simply cannot afford to pay one hundred dollars for a t-shirt when you can buy a practically identical one for only ten dollars. When you shop sustainably, you're paying for eco-friendly materials and fair wages for workers, which in the end can add up to a pretty significant price tag. Still, this doesn’t make fast fashion any better. We are left with a world where people know about the atrocities fast fashion contributes to society and want to switch to a sustainable alternative but are unable to because of its elitist cost.
Although the current fashion landscape looks grim, there are still a couple of sustainable alternatives out there to consider.
Although it seems obvious, the best way to avoid fast fashion is simply shopping less. Today, Americans buy five times as much clothing as they did in 1980. Forty years ago, most people shopped seasonally, buying items that were built to last, while now most people shop on impulse. We’ve also stopped repairing our clothes; after all, it’s much easier to donate or throw them away and treat yourself to new clothes than it is to stitch tiny holes together. When you take a step back and realize just how much you actually consume, shopping less begins to seem less daunting. Shopping less doesn’t have to mean not buying anything new ever, it simply means only buying stuff that, in the words of Marie Kondo, “sparks joy”. When you only buy what sparks joy, over time your wardrobe may become smaller but all the items in it will be ones that truly excite you. When you shop less you inherently save more. Shopping sustainable doesn’t have to be expensive.
One of the most underlooked ways of shopping sustainably is shopping second-hand. Buying “new clothes” can be as simple as buying clothes that are new to you. Shopping second hand, allows you to still wear your favorite styles, while lessening all the usual impacts of fast fashion. Not only that, when you buy clothes from a local thrift store, you are helping support local businesses that are often pushed into bankruptcy by fast fashion brands. Shopping second-hand also allows you to further express your unique style through thrifting. Second-hand pieces can allow for more creativity and self-expression while taking a stand against the fast fashion industry.
Don’t shop, rent.
The best way to cut yourself out of the loop of fast fashion is renting rather than buying. What started off as renting a dress for prom or an event, has turned into an entire industry of its own. Rented wardrobes are the new craze in the sustainable fashion world. Depending on how deep you want to go, different services allow you to rent an entire wardrobe that is both stylish and affordable. Renting clothes can play as big or small of a role in your clothing collection as you want them to. The possibilities of a rented closet are endless; they can offer you everything from one time things such as party dresses or Halloween costumes to entire closets. Rented clothing is here to help you save both your wallet and the environment.
Shopping sustainably is often made out to be an incredibly one-sided thing. You either shop at sustainable stores or you fall complacent to the world of fast fashion. In reality, there are a lot of other things we can do to break the cycle of fast fashion that don’t involve going bankrupt from buying five hundred dollar sweaters. Not everyone can afford to shop at sustainable brands, but that doesn't mean that they can’t shop sustainably. Together, we can break the cycle of fast fashion, regardless of what your budget is.