How To Break The Fast Fashion Habit

by: Rosie Dalton | 3 years ago | Features

Image: Celeste Tesoriero photographed her winter 2016 collection inside-out to support Fashion Revolution Week recently, in collaboration with Clean Cut.

Shopping is fun — it’s creativepersonal and, above all, powerful. But it has also changed a great deal over the past couple of decades. I’m not just talking about the online shopping revolution, either, but more so about how we approach the exercise of shopping altogether. For many people today, it is a weekly or even daily occurrence, because fast fashion has taught us that our clothing can and should be disposable. It has ingrained in us the idea that the fashion cycle is much faster than it really should be and, in doing so, it has stripped away a lot of the creative, personal and powerful aspects of fashion as a whole. It is partly for this reason that I believe it’s necessary to push back against fast fashion, but also because of its devastating social and environmental affects. Ultimately, I am of the belief that a t-shirt should never cost $10. So here are some of the steps that can help in quitting the fast fashion habit for good.

1) Embrace the learning processImage: still taken from Confessions of a Shopaholic. Image source.

A really important part of the journey towards a more ethical wardrobe is to learn everything you can, to share your knowledge, but not to judge. After all, this is a learning process — one in which it's unlikely we will ever stop learning, to be honest. So, by all means, spread the word; share the documentaries and articles that uncover the darker side of the fashion industry, but also share those which celebrate companies trying to make a difference. And, above all, try not to judge others (or yourself) too harshly for personal decisions made. It all comes down to individual choices and it’s important that we do what we can along the way. As The Art of Simple points out, we need to 'gut-check' ourselves for inconvenient truths — "if a company I like does something that makes me lose sleep at night, I need to be consistent with my ethics." Of course, these things aren't always totally black and white, but as a general rule, it is by supporting ethically accredited companies, local businesses or those with responsibility built into their framework, that you can make a big difference. Plus you can look and feel great while doing it.

2) Try to avoid walking into fast fashion storesImage: Sydney shopping destination, Pitt Street Mall. Image source.

When you walk into a fast fashion store, one thing is inevitable: you will be tempted to buy stuff. Because that is, quite literally, their jobs and they are very very good at it. So good, in fact, that they can turn around 52 micro-seasons every single year. With these tight-as-anything turn arounds, though, also comes a price. The questionable codes of conduct and ecological disregard employed by companies like this are just part of the ferocious chase for the bottom dollar. And, with their many millions of dollars in marketing power, of course they are able to give us exactly what we think we want. To emulate the runway trends in such lightning speed that we didn’t even realise we wanted that bomber jacket before it was hanging right in front of us. But then you rememberthe true cost of that clothing and it becomes more difficult to rationalise its place in our wardrobes. So the only way to ensure that you really won’t be tempted, then? Not to walk into those stores in the first place.

3) Or pressure those companies to make reformsImage: Celeste Tesoriero x Clean Cut’s ‘inside out’ campaign for Fashion Revolution.Image source.

As consumers, we wield a great deal more power than many of us probably realise. By choosing to buy or not to buy certain products, for example, we can collectively have a major impact on the overall market. But we can also use our voices to make a difference. Are you disappointed at some of your favourite companies for not making more of an effort to be ethical in their approach? Then tweet, email or call them up. Do you believe that we need to see positive change throughout the fashion industry today? Then sign one or all of these petitions. If you believe that the government can and should be stepping in to regulate these issues within the apparel industry, then contact your local representative and say so. All of these actions can initiate radical change — even over and above the radical personal changes you can make through the power of your consumer choices. And failing all of that, there is an awesome campaign run by Fashion Revolution, which calls on consumers to snap a selfie of their garments inside-out and ask the brands: #whomademyclothes.

4) Look a little deeper for your fashion inspirationImage: Brigitte Bardot embodies chic that never goes out of style. Image source.

A lot of fast fashion chains also have relationships with major media outlets, or are otherwise very clever at subverting their advertising so that you're sure to see it somewhere. And, again, they are very clever, so their ads are designed to look incredibly enticing; to inspire you to buy. But just because they might show you an image of Alexa Chung's latest trench coat look and link you through to their own polyester version, doesn't mean you couldn't find something similar elsewhere that's more in line with your personal ethics. It just requires that we look a little harder. And it requires a bit of creativity, too. To look at an image and investigate how you could emulate a similar style in a way that feels meaningful to you. The first step is to look at that image of Alexa in a trench and decide whether it’s definitely one of the pieces you’d like to add to your wardrobe this season. Then, rather than falling for the simple click-through to buy the cheap version, try researching one that is good quality, well made, and still within your budget. The result will be a piece that is a versatile and long lasting, one which you can keep for several years to come. I sometimes find that looking at archival imagery can be helpful here — because there’s a classicism about these images that’s hard to beat. So much of the fashion we see today is temporal and trend-driven (often it is also literally fast fashion, so doesn’t represent quality). Whereas archival images of Audrey Hepburn or Brigitte Bardot look timeless because that was the way clothes were really made back then. And it’s the same reason that I still own and wear pieces now that once belonged to my grandma. On that note, vintage shopping is ethical shopping too, so why not embrace it?

5) Make a listImage: the 5 Piece French Wardrobe in action. Image source.

Make a list. Or really, make two lists. First of all, it's important to list the ethical concerns that are most important to you — whether that's environmental sustainability, gender equality in the workforce, or supply chain transparency, for example. And secondly, list the new items that you would really like to own this season. Once you know the main pieces you need in order to update your wardrobe's seasonality, then you can set about trying to match these pieces up with your personal ethics. For example, by choosing a dress that's made entirely from sustainable fabrics, or investing in a coat that was made by a company with full transparency. Not only will this give you great satisfaction as a shopper — there's really nothing quite like checking things off a list, is there? But it also means you will be likely to keep those clothes much longer, because so much work and love has gone into the process of purchasing them. This is where I find the philosophy of the 5 Piece French Wardrobe can really come in handy. It’s a simple mission to buy less of what you don’t need and more of what you do.

6) Go for quality, not quantityImage: still of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Image source.

Ethical clothing doesn’t have to be expensive. But not only are there more and more affordable brands entering the market in this category all the time, the cost per wear of their offerings also tends to be far lower. And cost per wear is important, because it represents how economically sound garments really are — regardless of what their price tag might suggest. For example, if you consider that a $10 t-shirt might last you for a year or less, then that suddenly represents $10 per year, every year. While a slightly more expensive option (crafted using quality materials and under ethical circumstances) has the potential to last you for several years to come. Suddenly, the latter actually becomes more financially viable in the long-term — and better for the environment too. Sure, the upfront costs may be more, but you are likely to spend a lot less per wear on the more expensive option because, unlike its cheaper counterpart, it has been built to last.

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