Photo by Alexi Romano

Buying Fast Fashion Is Bad For You, Your Closet, And The Planet

Did you know that 3 out of 5 fast fashion items end up in landfills? Approximately 100 billion items of clothing are produced each year. Meanwhile, more or less, every second, a truck full of clothes is burned or deposited in a landfill.

A fundamental part of who we are is our style: what we decide to wear to reflect ourselves. Our style is a basic form of self-expression. One of the first things to reevaluate when trying to live consciously is what we buy and wear. We choose what to wear every day, and every day, we can choose to stop contributing to a practice that is no longer sustainable: fast fashion.

What Is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is a term used to indicate instant fashion that quickly passes from the catwalks to the shelves. These fashion lines are produced quickly and inexpensively to allow consumers to purchase them at a low price. Most large retailers use this strategy. At the end of this article, you will find a list of fast fashion brands.

Why Should We Avoid Fast Fashion?

There are several reasons why it would be good to stop contributing to the fast fashion market.

“It costs nothing; I’ll buy it!” was what I kept saying to myself for years. It was toxic to me and the planet, animals, and people. “It costs nothing” has a cost, an important one. Fast fashion companies have the priority to make a profit. We are talking about tens of billions of dollars. There must be some catch to earning so much by offering products at such low prices, right?

Photo by Thom Bradley

The Workers’ Conditions

Often when I explain how I feel about animals, they ask me why I care so much about them when there are people who die and suffer every day. It is a legitimate question, primarily if it refers to work ethics and the conditions under which human beings are subjected to the fast fashion industry.

In my opinion, this sense of injustice and willingness to end the suffering of other living beings due to our selfishness should also extend to other human beings. Although it may seem possible to avoid the suffering of every living being on this planet, it can be very complex.

To minimize my impact on this planet and its living beings, I try to buy fewer things of better quality, produced ethically and animal-free. 

This premise introduced you to the first big problem of fast fashion: the treatment of workers. To sell at a low cost, one must also produce at a low cost. All production processes will be sacrificed, including those involving workers. And I’m not just talking about poor wages, often not even enough to live on, but about outrageous working conditions, which we can hardly imagine. 

The first episode that comes to mind when talking about human rights occurred in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013. An eight-story building collapsed, which, among other things, housed five textile industries. We’re not sure how many people were inside the building at the time of the collapse, but we know that the victims were more or less 1,125 and the wounded over 2,500.

The building was supposed to have five floors, but the owner had illegally added three more. The day before the tragedy, the workers complained about cracks in the building. They were ignored. This is just one of the episodes that testify to the conditions of workers in textile factories. 

Photo by Rio Lecatompessy
I recommend a documentary that has completely opened my eyes to the fast fashion industry: The True Cost. It is a 2015 documentary film directed by Andrew Morgan that denounces the fashion industry, focusing on fast fashion (in particular, chains such as H&M, Zara, Primark, Forever 21, and so on).

The Environmental Impact

On the environmental side, there are several reasons fast fashion is harmful.

First, there is no attention to the fabrics chosen, the production techniques, and the use of pesticides or aggressive chemicals.

Greenhouse gas emissions are incredibly high. According to the UN Environment, fast fashion accounts for 8% of total carbon emissions.

Then there is the use of vast amounts of water and energy. The fashion industry is the second largest water-consuming industry, requiring approximately 2,700 liters of water to produce a cotton t-shirt. That is the same amount that a person, on average, drinks over two and a half years.

Textile dyeing is the second largest water polluter in the world since the water remaining from the dyeing process is often discharged into ditches, streams, or rivers.

Furthermore, unsold goods are generally burned. Since they’re made with poor-quality materials, we can only imagine how harmful the substances released by the smoke produced by combustion can be.

A striking example of fast fashion is Shein.

Despite numerous supply chain allegations, environmental damage, racist designs, and plagiarism, Shein is the most downloaded shopping app in the United States. It is now the most extensive online fashion company in the world. 

Brands like H&M and Zara introduce new garments by tracking trends and taking three weeks to make new designs. 

Shein has redefined the definition of fast fashion by using real-time data to reduce production time to 5-7 days. 70% of Shein products have been on the site for less than three months, with the retailer adding 700 to 1,000 new items daily. 

Oculus, New York, 2017

How Can You Stop Buying It?

Learn as much as possible about the fast fashion industry. By getting as much information as possible, you will always consider why it is not worth continuing to support this type of industry. 

A helpful tip for those who want to avoid fat fashion is not to go to their physical stores. It takes time to unlearn one’s habits, especially if they are rooted within us. Physically moving away from the temptation and impulse to buy fast fashion is one of the best ways to redirect one’s behavior. 

If in your free time you are used to going to shopping malls or a walk in some street full of shops, try to organize some different activities: walk around the city, go to the countryside, make a trip out of town, visit a new city, go to see a museum, go to the movies, sign up for a course and learn something new. Do whatever you want! 

Realizing that joy does not necessarily derive from purchasing material things can help you stop buying. 

Of course, we do have access to online stores, so we can still shop. Staying indoors doesn’t help, but it’s up to us to decide what to do online and how to spend our money. 

Following people promoting an ethical and conscious lifestyle on social media can help. Stopping supporting people who entice you to buy fast fashion can also help. 

Do You Really Need It? 

Whether I’m buying something second-hand or from an ethical company, I ask myself why I want to buy it. Do I really need it? Am I adding that item to my wardrobe just because I have some space or because I will replace something that I can no longer wear? 

Understanding the reason for our choices can help us determine if we are making a necessary purchase or just buying stuff for the sake of it. 

When you invest your money in something you need and think about using your time and energy, you either use it for good reasons or save it. 

I’m not trying to tell you you never have to shop. If I want to buy something that respects my values, I usually think about it for a while. If I keep thinking about that item for weeks, I purchase it. 

Second-Hand Is The Answer!

Choosing second-hand products is a cheap alternative to sustainable and ethical brands. A significant advantage of buying second-hand stuff is saving money. 

Second-hand things are accessible to everyone, and their prices are often comparable to fast fashion prices, if not lower. 

Buy Fewer Things Of Better Quality

Ditching fast fashion doesn’t necessarily mean never buying anything but finding different ways to do it.

If you push yourself too hard, it is much easier for you to give in and indulge in fast fashion again. Remember that there is no rush!

You could start by:

  • limiting your shopping to some months (for example, May and September)
  • buying expensive high-quality garments less frequently (once or twice a year)
  • setting your own rules, like: “If I can’t match it with at least four things I already have, I won’t buy it”

Only buying clothing that matches your style can help you avoid trends, so you can build a wardrobe that you will love and always wear, even for years to come.

Find Your Balance 

Sometimes we buy too much stuff because we don’t know how to put our wardrobe together. We might buy something we like and realize it’s not matching with anything else we own, then buy multiple items to fit that one thing. 

You may have a closet full of colors and prints, but you feel you have nothing to wear because nothing you have is satisfactory. You don’t have to get rid of your closet. What you may need is to find your balance. 

A wardrobe needs to work together, so having the right mix of essential elements and fun items means you should be able to endlessly mix and match what you own. 

The basics provide the constituent elements: timeless and versatile elements that you don’t have to overthink. The experimental pieces come together because they will always match the basics. And above all, you will love to dress up! 

List Of Fast Fashion Brands In 2022

  • & Other Stories
  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • ASOS
  • Bershka
  • Cheap Monday
  • COS
  • Fashion Nova
  • Forever 21
  • GAP
  • Guess
  • H&M
  • Hot Topic
  • Mango
  • Massimo Dutti
  • Miss Selfridge
  • Missguided
  • Monki
  • Nasty Gal
  • New Look
  • Next
  • Old Navy
  • Oysho
  • Pretty Little Thing
  • Primark
  • Pull & Bear
  • Rip Curl
  • River Island
  • Shein
  • Stradivarius
  • TopShop
  • Uniqlo
  • United Colors of Benetton
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Wish
  • Zaful
  • Zara

The list is continuously updated. If you have any suggestions, you can send an email to vittoria@theoptimisticapple.com

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