I first discovered the disturbing truth behind cheap, trendy clothing a couple of years ago when I watched a Netflix documentary called The True Cost. The film uncovered the horrifying reality of fast-fashion: underpaid sweatshop labor and environmental pollution. When I saw how destructive the industry was, I decided that I couldn’t keep contributing to it.
Immediately, I began to cut out fast fashion. I didn’t anticipate that it would be a difficult decision until I was forced to spend hours rummaging through thrift store racks and scrolling through resale apps. Ultimately, I ended up buying less clothing, simply because it was so time-consuming.
I”ll admit, though the majority of my purchases now are second-hand, I haven’t completely abstained from the addiction. And there is a reason it’s an addiction. We live in an era where fashion is disposable.
I can scroll through my Instagram news feed and likely see at least a few outfit-of-the-day posts. (#OOTD for those who are shameless enough to use the hashtag.) This overexposure has created the mentality that clothing becomes useless once a photo has been posted on social media. To ensure that we never run out of selfie material, we opt for the affordable, yet stylish option.
Because of this culture of “throwaway” fashion, there is now a second-wave of internet-based stores like Boohoo and Missguided that are producing poorly made clothing even faster than the likes of Forever 21 and H&M. To make it worse, popular Instagram users continuously endorse these brands. Fast fashion has reached an epidemic.
And honestly, we probably aren’t saving very much money in the long run. The disposable nature of fast-fashion just reinforces our need to keep buying more clothes to feel satisfied. It’s a vicious, consumerist trap.
What are the alternatives?
There are a ton of companies (Reformation, Alternative Apparel, etc) that offer sustainable fashion, though they can be more expensive. Recycling is always the most eco-friendly (and affordable) option. Thrift and consignment stores, as well as apps like Depop and Poshmark, are great choices.
Ultimately, buying better quality products, and less often, is the solution.