Everything you need to know to quit fast fashion.
The fashion industry is a lot more complex than we may initially realize. Our garments will travel thousands of miles across countries and pass through the hands of many garment workers and supply chain partners before they reach the store we buy them from. The production process of our clothes has the power to support economies across the globe or wreak havoc on our environment and exploit the workers that make our clothes.
Unfortunately, much of fashion’s impact is the latter. How our clothes are made, used, and then disposed of has very real, very harmful consequences. Fast fashion is largely responsible for this. And as consumers, it’s easy to be unaware of the problems of the fashion industry because we are so disconnected from the production and disposal processes surrounding our clothes.
I’ll walk you through the breakdown of the fashion industry, what to look out for, and how we can avoid shopping fast fashion and quit fast fashion once and for all.
What Is Fast Fashion?
The dictionary definition of fast fashion is an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.
The traditional fashion industry operated around two major seasons to release clothing collections: Spring-Summer and Fall-Winter. Some brands may have also released Pre-Fall or Resort collections, totalling 4 seasons to debut clothing a year. Fast fashion introduced “microseasons.” This business model releases new clothing every single week, creating 52 microseasons a year. With the rise of ultra-fast fashion brands like SHEIN or ASOS, new clothing is released daily. This means that the speed-to-market has increased, i.e. the lead time from runway or idea conception to the store you buy it from is just a matter of weeks or even days.
Therefore, the business model of fast fashion is to identify micro-trends and produce them quickly at a low cost. Due to the cheap price tag, fast fashion has to sell a lot of clothing to make the most of their low prices. Thus, they market in a way that encourages excess consumption. By creating these fast trend cycles, they encourage a constant desire for newness so that customers keep coming back for more. And the low prices make it easy for the customer to justify shopping so frequently.
Why should you quit fast fashion?
On the surface, fast fashion may not sound like such a bad thing. Who wouldn’t want affordable trendy clothes? The problems come with what it takes to get clothing that is that cheap and that quickly produced. The fast fashion industry has many problems. Yet, with the low prices and trendy styles, it may be hard to see why fast fashion is bad. But the truth about fast fashion isn’t as convenient as the low prices.
Fast fashion is exploitative.
Their business model is inherently unethical by pushing for inhumane production speeds at the expense of the environment and their workers without proper compensation. The fashion industry follows what is called “a race to the bottom.” Because brands are looking to find the cheapest way to produce, they pursue factories and countries that are more economically vulnerable with cheaper labor and less worker protections. If factories want the business of fast fashion brands (which are partnerships these factories rely on to stay in business), they have to comply with the unreasonable demands of the brands. These brands are deliberately choosing to exploit garment workers in order to get a cheaper product.
With fast fashion’s prioritization of profit over people, we’ve seen human rights violations and the loss of lives for the sake of fashion.
For more reasons why you should quit fast fashion, see here.
How can you tell if a brand is fast fashion?
When first learning about the harm of fast fashion, all of the marketing around these brands can be confusing. Because of the rising consumer desire and public pressure for sustainability, fast fashion brands are working to convince us that they are “green.” It may leave you wondering “Is Zara fast fashion?” Or “Is H&M sustainable?”
But their business models built on the exploitation of people and the planet can never be sustainable. And if you feel confused by brand messaging, you’re not alone! Fast fashion is purposefully vague in their greenwashing so that it’s harder to see the deception. For a guide to spotting greenwashing, see here.
Fast Fashion Red Flags to Look Out For:
- Quick production in high volume, i.e. the constant release of new clothing collections
- Rapid trend turnover, i.e. new styles all the time that make you feel like you can’t keep up
- Cheaper rip-offs of other brands
- Synthetic, plastic-based fabrics and other low-quality materials
- Low prices that don’t reflect the amount of work that goes into garment creation (Though, some brands get away with high markups and luxury prices even though they operate as fast fashion.)
- Production information is hard to find or vague
- FOMO marketing is used to create a false sense of urgency and drive overconsumption
- Dramatic discounting and markdowns are used frequently to push product
More and more brands are greenwashing and creating misleading “sustainability initiatives.” Instead of taking brands for their word, look at their actions and practices to evaluate if they line up.
Now that we’ve established what fast fashion is and why we want to stop buying from fast fashion brands, let’s dig into how to quit fast fashion once and for all!
How To Quit Fast Fashion!
1. Unfollow & Unsubscribe.
The first step to quit fast fashion is to disconnect from the sources that make you feel the need to shop. Unfollow any fast fashion brands or influencers that promote this type of consumption. Unsubscribe from the marketing emails of brands to avoid additional temptation.
2. Identify your personal style.
Fast fashion pushes a certain trendy style narrative that makes us feel out of style if we aren’t keeping up. When we decide that we no longer want to shop fast fashion, we aren’t tied to what’s “in style” at the moment. We can choose to wear what we feel truly reflects us and our personality and lifestyle. Identifying what you love apart from trends allows you to buy pieces that you’ll want to wear for years to come, not just the moment in time.
3. Reflect & unlearn a consumption mindset.
Take a moment to step back and reflect on what your shopping triggers are. Does social media make you feel the need to keep up? Do you use shopping as a mood boost or retail therapy? By understanding what motivates you to shop, you can unlearn the mindset that our consumer-centric culture encourages and quit fast fashion without looking back.
4. Reimagine Your Own Closet
Don’t throw out your existing fast fashion. The most sustainable thing we can do is keep our things in use for longer in order to reduce our need to buy more. As you transition to a more sustainable wardrobe, there’s no need to clear out and start over. Keep wearing your fast fashion pieces for as long as you can. Take inventory of your closet and find new ways to wear old clothes. Part of disconnecting from fast fashion consumption cycles is learning to find contentment with what we have. This can also involve getting creative and resourceful to find ways to fall back in love and fabricate a feeling of newness with what you already own.
5. Seek Secondhand Alternatives.
Part of why people are resistant to quitting fast fashion is the affordability. However, many fast fashion shoppers actually end up spending more money because they are shopping more often to stay in trend even if the price tag is lower than that of sustainable brands. A great way to sustainably shop at a low price point is to shop secondhand. Buying pre-loved opens up a world of possibilities because you can shop styles from decades ago or current looks at a fraction of the cost of new. Check out your local thrift store or an online secondhand marketplace like Poshmark or Depop. You can find almost anything secondhand, so I always recommend looking for the secondhand version first. It may take a little more time and effort to find, but the environmental and cost savings are worth it.
6. Curb impulse shopping.
Fast fashion loves to promote an impulse buy, and if we want to quit fast fashion, we need to work on these impulses. With flash sales and marketing designed to create FOMO, fast fashion looks to exploit your impulses to make you buy more than you need. Give yourself time before each purchase to really think through it. Use filtering questions to reflect on the usefulness and necessity of the purchase you’re considering
7. Choose Not To Buy
Doing no-buy challenges or setting limitations on your purchases can help to force a disconnect from consumption cycles. This will depend on personality. Sometimes limitations may drive you to overcompensate when those limitations are lifted, so be realistic about what the best path forward is for you. The reality of quitting fast fashion is that you should be cutting back on your overall consumption. We need to learn to buy less. And sometimes that’s uncomfortable. Doing a no-buy challenge could help break a shopping habit. Setting a budget or an amount of items you buy within a certain time frame can create enough structure to not over consume.
8. Check Out Alternatives
Shopping isn’t the only way to acquire something new or new-to-you. It’s empowering to recognize how resourceful we can get and how we don’t have to use shopping to meet our needs. Participate in a sharing economy that takes advantage of existing options and taps into the generosity of your community. This can look like a Buy Nothing Facebook group or a community platform like Nextdoor or Freecycle. You can borrow from family and friends. Alternative business models like renting or swapping or tailoring can offer ways to add newness without buying something new. Quitting fast fashion may just show you just how powerful and skillful you truly are.
9. Take care of your clothes.
Because we don’t want to waste our clothes like fast fashion encourages, we need to take care of them. The goal is to keep our clothes in use for as long as possible. To do this, we should use gentle laundry habits, properly store clothes, and repair damage. By caring for and wearing our clothes, we reduce our need to shop as much which lessens our environmental impact.
10. Stay Informed & Inspired
By staying educated on what’s going on in fashion, you can avoid exploitative brands or champion sustainable initiatives. Find content creators that inspire you to live more sustainably. There are so many amazing educators and creatives that provide resources on how to create a more sustainable wardrobe and make the most of what you have. One of the best ways to quit fast fashion is to surround yourself with friends and educators who support your stance!
11. Find sustainable brands.
When it comes time to buy something new, look to the amazing independent, sustainable brands out there. We have gathered many of our favorites for you to check out. The reason this is last on the list is because we should be careful not to continue a shopping habit while only replacing the label on it. While it is better to shop from a sustainable fashion brand than a fast fashion brand, we first need to learn to shop less overall. This means unlearning how fast fashion has taught us to shop. A sustainable closet prioritizes what already exists before seeking out a new alternative. So, when you’ve looked to meet your needs with what you already have or secondhand and still come up empty, that’s the perfect time to invest in an incredible sustainable piece.
This Was Your Guide On How to Quit Fast Fashion
There are many benefits to quitting fast fashion, both personally and generally. As individuals, quitting fast fashion saves money and time spent mindlessly scrolling page after page on their sites. It allows us to be free from trendy consumption cycles that don’t reflect our true style. It creates an opportunity to reflect and get in touch with what we like and be creative with our clothes. More generally, quitting fast fashion reduces consumer demand for this type of exploitative production. The less we buy, the less brands will produce. As more and more people start shopping sustainably, fast fashion brands will have to address their supply chain problems and harmful business model in order to appeal to the sustainable future that customers want. While fast fashion is built on exploitation and could never be sustainable with its current model, we still need these brands to be better.
I hope that these tips offer a solid foundation for you to avoid fast fashion brands and build a more sustainable wardrobe!