Irresistible deals on low-priced clothes and constant reboots of seasonal collections drive the cycle of cheap clothing consumption onward. Yet, there’s an easy way to beat fast fashion: Just ask yourself three simple questions.
Fast fashion has taken any remaining trace of “necessity” out of clothing as a whole. What we’re left with are dispensable products which too often and too quickly end up as trash. Let’s not kid ourselves about how prices stay as low as they are: extremely low wages in developing countries, toxic chemicals in textile production, poor quality, and a short material lifespan. These things make fast fashion possible. And these are things we continue to support with every purchase we make.
Fast Fashion: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself
Rethink how you consume and you’ll set an example against fast fashion – sounds easy, right? The path towards sustainability on a shoestring budget is actually quite simple:
- Be mindful of quality.
- Buy fewer clothes.
- Wear clothes you have for longer.
Whenever you’re out shopping for your next shirt or skirt, pause and ask yourself the following three questions – they may help you quit fast fashion altogether.
1. How Often Will You Wear It?
We tend to buy jeans, sweatshirts, or sneakers simply because they’re cheap. But keep in mind: Fast fashion bargain hunting is often misleading. Sometimes it doesn’t even pay off: How often do we end up wearing those t-shirts we snagged for under ten each anyway?
Take a look at the cost per use and you’ll start to notice a couple of things. Let’s say a pair of pants cost you $90. So we divide the price by the number of days you wore them and we have a running metric of utility.
Here’s an example:
- Pants bought for $90: worn 25 times = $3.60 for each day worn
- Pants bought for $20: worn 5 times = $4.00 for each day worn
This equation brings us back to reality. The more expensive pants pay off in the long run, the cheaper underpriced pair of pants not so much. If we have a look in our closets, there’s a good chance we’ll find a wide range of cheap clothing items that we hardly ever wear.
Keep tabs on the “price per wear” and you’ll always have an idea of what your clothes are actually worth. Plus, you’ll be more likely to consider a more expensive item from sustainable manufacturers.
2. How Long Will It Last?
How should anybody know exactly how long they’ll wear a particular item of clothing in the future?
When it comes to fast fashion, one clear indicator is quality. For one, quality directly determines the total number of times you’ll be able to wear a particular piece of clothing – and thus the “price per wear” presented above.
That bargain on the new fast fashion top that shrinks down to a child’s size within three washes doesn’t exactly add up in the long run. The longer you wear a particular item of clothing (as goes for any item not intended for single-use), the less damaging the item is for the environment.
Take a close hard look at the items in your cart:
- How often will your wear the item and how long will it last?
- How long have similar items from the same brand lasted in the past?
- Were you satifsied with the last fast fashion purchase of the same brand?
- How does the material feel? Does the stitching look durable enough?
- Does the item of clothing smell funny?
3. How Many Fast Fashion Items Do You Already Own?
We’ve now come to the final question you should ask yourself when shopping fast fashion: How many articles of clothing do you already own? Is the honest answer “way too many”? Take an honest inventory of the clothes you have.
Tip: Utopia’s own guide on creating a Minimalist Wardrobe will put you on the sustainable path to doing more with less. Your new closet will consist of a few easily combinable and practical clothing items.
Before you head to the checkout, ask yourself, if it absolutely has to be another version of the colorful button-down you already have and don’t wear too often. Why not give black, white, and gray a try? Although these might seem a bit dreary, basics are a lot easier to mix and match. Practicality is key when designing a minimalist wardrobe.
Another important thing to ask yourself is whether or not you will wear the item in question next season. If you will, you should go ahead and buy it. Add a season to the lifespan of your clothes and you make your closet all the more sustainable.
Clothes: Wear Them Longer
Fast fashion has transformed clothing into a short-lived aspect of our material lives. Cheap clothes intended for limited use are produced at the cost of the environment and the people who make them. Let’s extend the life span of every pair of pants, every t-shirt and jacket we already own by using them for longer and more often. To quit fast fashion simply ask yourself:
- How much do I already own?
- How often will I wear it?
- How long will it last?
Look into Sustainable Fashion Options
Food manufacturers have to jump through numerous hoops to get their goods organic-certified, so shouldn’t this be the same with clothing? Unfortunately, when it comes to fashion, things aren’t as simple.
There are a lot of different seals and certifications for various facets of sustainable clothing production, such as ethical, sustainable, and transparent fashion. This is due to the overall complexity that goes into producing clothes. For example, the raw materials that go into producing a particular jacket may be sourced from all over the world, and sportswear and socks require synthetic fibers for elasticity. To date, there’s no all-encompassing label designating a particular item as sustainable fashion. However, these are the ones to keep your eye out for:
- You’ll recognize eco-friendly “fair fashion” by the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) label, owned by worldwide third party textile processing certification group. It requires all products carrying the “organic” label to be made of 95 percent certified organic fibers.
- OEKO-TEX is another noteworthy sustainable certification organization which focuses on toxic chemicals harmful to humans. These certifications are found all over the world and ensure chemically-safe leather production, environmentally friendly chemical use in production processes and sustainable supply chains.
- Cradle to Cradle certification reviews products based on their environmental performance and social impact. This comprehensive review system assesses products according to their material health, material reuse, production with renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness.
Certifications aside, it makes sense to research the brands you’re interested in. Chances are, if they’re sustainable, they will tell you about it. Luckily, there are lots of cool, eco-friendly fashion brands out there. Here are some to check out:
- The 10 Best Affordable Sustainable Clothing Brands
- 10 Ethical and Sustainable Shoe Brands for Every Occasion
- The 8 Best Organic Clothing Brands for Kids
- Ethical Underwear: 6 Sustainable Brands You Can Get Behind
Buy Second Hand and Donate
We can all play our part in breaking the cycle of fast fashion.
Shopping secondhand is the best way to curb your shopping urge and avoid the cycle of fast fashion. Buy gently-used items and extend the lifespan of quality clothing at a fraction of the price you would pay at fast fashion outlets. Used goods also sink your own environmental footprint as no new natural resources or energy were required to produce them.
Donate Your Old Clothes
There’s absolutely no reason to send your clothes straight to the dumpster. Play your part and contribute to the greater good by donating your gently-used clothes to a non-profit organization in your area. Many will even come and pick them up right from your doorstep. This is a great way to give those former picks a second life after bidding fast fashion farewell for good.
- Rent Clothes Online: Save Money and Help the Planet!
- Visible Mending: Giving New Life to Old Clothes
- How to Clean Shoelaces (White and Other Colors)
This article was translated and adjusted from German to English by Evan Binford. You can view the original version here: Fast Fashion: Diese 3 Fragen gewöhnen uns Wegwerfmode ab** Links to retailers marked with ** or underlined orange are partially partner links: If you buy here, you actively support Utopia.org, because we will receive a small part of the sales proceeds. More info.
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