Before you read, keep in mind: I get it, I’m a broke college student too. I don’t have the money or time to shop. When I do, I usually used turn to brands such as these. It’s convenient, cute and cheap (Ahh, love those three C’s in one sentence). However, I challenge you to read this post and really try to consider how damaging all of these horrible things are. I know it might be difficult reverting your eyes from the beautiful clothes in an overwhelmingly lit, white store– But, I challenge you to try it with me.
A documentary called “The True Cost” exploits huge retail brands such as Forever 21 and H&M (other brands include, but not limited to, Top Shop and Zara’s). If you are familiar with these brands, then you know that they carry and feature a large amount of the trendiest clothes, accessories and shoes. And If you have shopped there, then you also know that the prices are incredibly low. The amount of merchandise can cause one’s eyes to dart around the store while simultaneously sifting through a mishmash of stylish clothes.
However, Forever 21 and H&M are known for their incredibly low quality which some people can’t stand, or others don’t really care becasue… Why would they? The clothes are cheap, right?
What most don’t know, or choose to ignore, is the horrifying reality behind closed doors of these stores. They are powered by awful, harmful factories that produce the clothing overseas in developing countries by underpaid workers in horrifying working conditions. Each year, the world consumes 80 billion pieces of clothing each year– a 400 % increase from the previous two decades. With that, trends have since propelled the fashion world into a total frenzy, going from changing seasonly or yearly, to weekly.
“The term “fast fashion” refers to a phenomenon in the fashion industry whereby production processes are expedited in order to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible. As a result of this trend, the tradition of introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis is being challenged. Today, it is not uncommon for fast-fashion retailers to introduce new products multiple times in a single week.” — http://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fast-fashion.asp#ixzz4YWAW82HE
By relying on success of supply chain speed, other brands simply can’t keep up with the “fast fashion” brands ability to take a style off the runway and then produce it at a ridiculous fraction of the cost, introduce it to the store, all in a matter of a few days. In this video, people who work in the retail fashion industry further expalain how exactly fast fashion starts– which is all on the runway of top, high-end designers:
Not only does fast fashion damage the lives of those who work in the factories, but it is incredibly harmful to the environment. According to ecowatch.com, “fast fashion is the second dirtiest industry in the world, next to big oil.” The carbon footprint, according to timeforchange.org is “the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide.” When you’re shopping for a T-shirt, you might think cotton is naturally always the best option. However, it is equally damaging the environment as any other material.
According to ecowatch. com, cotton soaks up a ton of water and chemicals such as insecticides and even after the agircultural process, a T-shirt is dyed using toxic chemicals. We also can’t forget about all of the transportation that one piece of garment has to go through before it reaches a retail store location or our mailbox. “90 percent of garments are transported by container ships each year.”
Zeroing into Cambodia we can start to understand how this can all be done. The garment industry is responsible for 80 percent of exports and employs around 700,000 factory workers. “The international labor organizations Better Factories Cambodia Project suggested that as many as 43.2 percent of garment factory workers surveyed suffer from anemia. Garment workers on average spend $9 on food a week, that is as little as $1.30 a day, for themselves and their families.”
According to this Vice News clip, trafficked sex workers in Cambodia are pulled out of brothels by law enforcement, then giving the option to be held in custody or to begin training for a “new career…”
But, how do we avoid this? Can we even make enough of an impact to put the terrible parts of the fast fashion industry to a halt? Being a college student with limited funds, I have hard time trying to navigate this whole thing. One of my tips is to buy clothes that you can wear in multiple ways and are versatile. Try to buy items that you can wear in class and wear for going out on the weekends (outsits that you can dress up or down). You can check out my article here, where I further explain how to do this.
According to a fashionista.com article by Hayley Phelan, she interviews the author of “Overdressed” by Elizabeth Cline, which outlines the steps to avoiding fast fashion.
“1. Be Strategic.
2. Know that you’re getting what you pay for
3. Retrain yourself to spot ‘value.’
4. Learn to Sew.
5. Hire a Tailor.
6. Buy Indie.
7. Buy second-hand or vintage.
8. And lastly, think of the future.”
The truecostmovie.com also provides a list of ways to be a better shopper: The #1 thing to consider is simply asking yourself, Will I wear this 30 times? I know for me, I find this difficult while I’m shopping in the moment and trying to figure out what else I could wear something with. I purchase simple, clean looking sweaters, pants and shirts for everyday wear (what I’ll be wearing the majority of the time). When I am shopping for clothes to go out in on the weekends, I’ll then opt for the more unique looks that may or may not go out of style faster than my everyday wear.
#2 is to “break the cycle.” Meaning to not get sucked into the “mini seasons” or seasons within the traditional 4 seasons of autumn, summer, winter and fall. I’m not even sure what exactly this means, but like I said previously, try to shop for the basics and then occasionally purchase something considered more trendy (for the weekends). As long as your wardrobe isn’t filled with trendy clothes you will only wear a few times.
#3– “Spread your Fashion $” meaning to spend your money on brands where you know how your clothes are being made and who is making them. Below, I listed some of my favorites where more can be found through a bit of research or on the truecostmovie.com website.
#4– “Detox your wardrobe.” I kind of think of this similar to detoxing your body. It is only going to be beneficial. On greenpeace.org, there are lists that determine which fashion brands have “phased out” using harmful substances. Furthermore, I think of detoxing as simply going through your closet and ditching things that you haven’t worn recently.
There are also apps available to resell your clothing. My favorite is poshmark. Being a college student, this is great becasue you getting money back from your clothes as opposed to throwing them out and further damaging the environment.
Another cool option next to poshmark is to rent clothes through Rent The Runway. My favorite part about this website is that they send you two options in sizes and if the item you picked out is unavailable at the moment, they will send you your second option (which you pick out) which is at often times more expensive (but they will only charge you for the price for the item you initially picked out.) You can learn more about it through watching this video:
#5– Finally to “join the fashion revolution” You can visit fashionrevolution.orgwhere you can actually get involved with changing the fashion industry by eliminating fast fashion!
Here are some of my favorite brands:
Stella McCartney is a luxury fashion designer who is most noted for her handbags that are made from vegan leather. She is big on the concept of sustainability. In all of her designs, she keeps her concern for the environment on the forefront of her mind. McCartney is also considered a “luxury” fashion designer. So, she successfully maintains that glamourous and desirable allure, however she does so without caving into the idea of fast fashion. One of my silly goals in life is to buy myself a Stella McCartney bag… But, they are a little bit on the pricier side.
People Tree is a great brand based in the United Kingdom that clearly lays our their mission and goals on their website. “Sustainable and Fair Trade Passion” is their goal and they execute this through not only creating environment-friendly and no-sweat-shop-made clothes, but their designs are clean and elegant. Their prices are a bit steeper than the average store, however, peace of mind knowing where the clothes are coming from trumps a cheap, torn short anyways.
Zady is a brand that has a beautiful design on their website that walks the reader through their process and where their idea all started: “It began with simply wanting to understand ‘quality.'” One of the best quotes that resonates well is “All that cost for something that falls apart and has replaced style with trends?” Scrolling through their Instagram feed, all of their sweaters look like they need to be in my closet. A long-lasting sweater is a must-have, too.
Raven and Lily, like other sustainable fashion brands, tends to be marked at higher prices. Featured on their website, you have the option to shop in your price range. Simplicity is their style which is great consdiering that the more simple a design is, the less likely it will be to fade out of style.
Continue to stand up to the fashion industry and make changes in your own life by being more conscious about what clothes and accesories you are buying. You can also spread more awareness by promoting hashtags such as “#stopfastfashion,”, “#truecost,”, “#ecofashion” and “#sustainablefashion.”