Up until a few years ago, I had never heard of the term “fast fashion”. Though I was always conscious of my environmental impact in other aspects of life (I made sure to recycle, cut out meat, reduce my consumption of single use plastics, etc.), I had never considered the fact that my wardrobe was probably the least sustainable thing about me. I was completely unaware of the impact my clothing choices had on the planet.
In high school, I spent my weekends drifting through the mall picking out the latest trends from Forever 21 and H&M until my arms were weighed down by colorful, plastic shopping bags. The only thoughts that passed through my mind were usually along the lines of: “Wow! This skirt is $5? I better buy three,” and “I’m not sure if I love this, but who cares? It’s only $10”. I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that these cheap prices were a product of cheap labor, mass production, and little care put into quality, sustainability, or environmental impact. My closet was overflowing with poorly made items that I would wear a handful of times, watch fall apart, and then discard as soon as the trend disappeared.
It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I first heard my roommate talking about fast fashion and was hit with a major wakeup call. I finally began to think a bit more about the life cycle and origins of my clothing and the more I thought, the more I realized the insane impact this industry holds on the world.
My cheap flannel from Forever 21 didn’t just appear in the store one day. It had to be shipped and transported from the factory in which it was created. And that factory may have hired employees who were overworked and underpaid. And those employees had to use fabrics, materials, and dyes to create these products. And those fabrics had to come from resources either manmade or natural…but even natural fibers are flooded with pesticides and chemicals and toxins…
…And you get the picture.
The effects are felt. And they are felt immensely.
I made the decision then to switch the way I approached fashion. Though flashy sales and cheap clothing can be enticing, we need to think twice about where we shop and why we’re shopping. It’s easy to be swayed by a $5 tee shirt, but we have to remind ourselves that every action has a consequence. By buying clothing from fast fashion retailers, we are voting with our dollars to continue harmful practices that have a drastically negative impact on our environment.
But by choosing to shop at local retailers, secondhand stores, and sustainable businesses, we are voicing our support for a more sustainable fashion industry.
Next time you are out shopping, remind yourself of the why. Think about the way in which fashion affects the planet and the community of people that call this planet home. When it comes to switching and sticking to a sustainable approach to fashion, thoughtfulness is key. And the best time to start is now.