How to Look Cute Without Ruining the World

Nowadays, the term “fast fashion” is thrown around with abandon. But does anyone know what it means?

Fast fashion is defined, by Merriam-Webster, as inexpensive clothing that is rapidly produced by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.

Great. You know what it means now. But why is it bad?

When The True Cost, a documentary about the garment industry, came out in 2015, fashion lovers were stunned—no, flabbergasted—to find out that their beloved industry was not all it seemed. For those of us who still haven’t seen the documentary, here’s the breakdown: 

The documentary provides evidence of the dangers of the fashion industry globally. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Yes, even though the petroleum/oil/gas industry exists.

From production to destruction, it’s causing harm. Whether it’s the conditions of the laborers who literally work their lives away to create the oh-so-sought-after garment, the pollution and contamination from garment plants that contribute to our already fragile, crumbling ecosystem, or the minds of frequent shoppers who struggle to break free from consumerism.

TLDR; Fast fashion has a negative impact on the world – on both consumers and the environment.

Aside from the documentary, which was inspired by the 2013 Savar building collapse in Bangladesh, an increasing number of stories are being shared by garment workers. In 2017, Turkish Zara workers resorted to writing SOS messages on the hang-tags of the clothing they made… without pay. 

My Zara shopping habit ended shortly after that.

1. You don’t have to quit cold turkey.

Old habits die hard. Money is tight. There aren’t enough plus-size sustainable options. Whatever the reason, we understand. It’s okay to start slow. There’s a reason fast fashion exists in the first place, and to think of a world where it doesn’t would just be silly. The first step to living a more sustainable lifestyle is to be conscious of what you’re doing. When shopping, think about the speed at which the company produces its items, the quality of them, and the trend they’re capitalizing on. Is this going to be out of style in a month? Does it feel like it’s already coming apart even though it’s still on the rack? Are there thousands of new arrivals every week? 

Additionally, cutting every single fast fashion brand out of your existing wardrobe would be just as wasteful. Instead, when the item inevitably wears out, replace it with an item from a sustainable brand. 

And remember to donate your clothes instead of throwing them away.

2. Do your research.

It’s 2019. There are tons of resources that educate consumers on brand ethics and sustainable alternatives. The website and app Good On You delivers trusted ratings on the ethics of fashion companies in multiple areas. From labor conditions, environmental impact, and company scandals— they educate and ultimately let you decide if they align with your personal standards.

Sites like Remake provide comprehensive lists of truly sustainable brands to shop from. From small jewelry businesses to brands like Reformation and Patagonia, Remake has the 4-1-1.

However, I, a broke college student, know that these sustainable brands are expensive. It’s almost impossible to stick to your budget if you want a cute and comprehensive wardrobe that doesn’t help to destroy the Earth. 

(Tribe of Lambs)

That’s where thrift and vintage shopping comes along. Research your local thrift stores, visit these stores in new cities, or even thrift online. Apps like Depop and Poshmark allow sellers to list items (usually thrifted or old pieces from personal collections) and make profit. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that.

3. Educate your friends.

Change can’t happen if no one knows there’s a problem.

Tell your friends which thrift store you got your cute new skirt from.

They’ll want to tag along next time.

Alexis Simmons

Fashion Contributor

Alexis is an over-caffeinated 20-year-old textbook Virgo living in New York City by way of Dallas, Texas. She’s majoring in advertising and marketing communications (and minoring in every subject known to man) at the fashion institute of technology. When she isn’t acting out online, she can be found binging comedy specials, thrifting, or traveling all over the US for concerts. She’ll probably never get over her one direction phase.

1 Comment
  1. I’ve only ever given this topic any thought in regards to H&M, when someone told me their clothes are produced in sweat shops. Haven’t been there since. I never even did the research to see if this was true, much less what other brands to be wary of. Thank you for highlighting this topic so well and bringing attention to an important issue! I’m starting with step one now and working on two. Just never been much of a thrifter, because I’m lazy. Love the article:)

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