What is fast fashion vs sustainable clothing
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What is Fast Fashion? Moving to Sustainable Fashion


What is fast fashion



If you’re pressed for time…

  • Fast Fashion started in the 90’s and rapidly mass produces inexpensive clothing to capture perceived fashion trends
  • 80 billion garments a year are created. 400% more than in the year 2000. Creates 10% of the worlds carbon emissions 
  • Most are worn a few times & end up in landfills
  • The sustainable fashion movement was born from this problem. We can affect change by altering our buying habits


Since the 90’s, Fast Fashion mass produces inexpensive, trendy clothing. Styles from the catwalk or celebrities are reproduced at a dizzying pace to capitalize on perceived trends.

Fast fashion shifted the development of garment lines from months to weeks. This yields seemingly endless collections of couture.

When a deluge of inexpensive clothing flooded the market every few weeks, buying patterns began to shift. Consumers jumped on the latest trends, rather than an emphasis on quality. Then, after a few wears, garments were simply disposed.

Wearing “last years” garment was just so…”last year!”

Clothing production has roughly doubled since the year 2000.  While US consumers bought 60% more clothing in 2014 than 2000, they kept their garments for half as long.


When did Fast Fashion Start?

What is Fast Fashion

In the early 90’s,  clothing manufacturer Zara opened its 1st store in New York. The New York Times coined the phrase “fast fashion” to describe Zara’s ability to bring clothing to market quickly; from concept to market within a few weeks.

Zara’s success spawned numerous others, including Forever 21, J Crew, H&M, Gap, Banana Republic & more.

Fast fashion accelerated with the inception of online shopping, fueling the issue. You no longer needed to get off the couch to restock trendy clothes. Zara & fast fashion helped to inspire a decades long throwaway culture.


Why is Fast Fashion Bad?  In short…

  • Fast Fashion mass produces lower quality, disposable clothing.
  • Clothing manufactures account for about 10% of the worlds carbon emissions.
  • Roughly 80 billion garments a year created. 10 clothing items for every man, woman and child on earth.
  • 400% more clothing than was produced in 2000.
  • The average fast fashion garment is worn 10 times, then thrown out.
  • Clothing production uses an estimated 396 billion gallons of water annually (500-700 gallons to produce a T-shirt).
  • 80% of discarded textiles end up in landfills. It takes about 200 years for synthetic textiles to decompose.
  • Half a million to a million tons of microfibers are released into the ocean each year, from washing cheap, synthetic clothing.
  • Developing countries are typically tasked with producing fast fashion. Regulations are often lax, leading to extensive chemical pollution & low wages,  impacting the poorest of countries.


Sustainable Fashion Strategies

There’s several ways to be more strategic when it comes to clothes.

Slow Fashion

Slow fashion focuses on designing & purchasing clothing for quality and longevity. It promotes a philosophy of measured production cycles, fair labor practices & a smaller carbon footprint.

Addressing the cycle of mindlessly buying cheap, disposable clothing is critical.

There are several readily available brands you should consider that have transitioned to slow, sustainable fashion.

A great place to start might be the “shop by cause” sections on Verishop. They include “Clean Home, Cruelty Free, Organic, Philanthropic & Sustainable links to products.”

Take a look when your shopping:

Verishop for Men

Verishop for Women

Also, try Nordstroms Sustainable style section to find manufacturers that:  “Give Back, Responsibly Manufacture & Sustainability Source Materials.”

Shop Secondhand

Shopping secondhand keeps clothing out of landfills & creates a 2nd lifecycle. Additionally, fewer new garments are created & corresponding natural resources are spared.

Companies  such as Poshmark, Thredup & the RealReal specialize in high quality, secondhand clothing. You can also make a few bucks by selling your previously loved garments to others.


Did you read Jaunty’s article on buying & selling with Poshmark!


Rent or Swap

Fashion trends move far too quickly. A new outfit may have already gone out of style by the time laundry day comes around.

Instead of purchasing items outright, consider renting. Similar to buying secondhand, this offsets the need to create clothing from scratch & ultimately reduces demand for new items.

Rent the Runway is an example of a company that specializes in rentable fashion Also, consider local clothing swap groups on Facebook to see what’s available near you.

Repair and Upcycle

You’ve worn your favorite pair of jeans for years. But now the small hole on the inner thigh has become a large gash, rendering them unwearable.

Instead of tossing it out consider mending it yourself. If the garment is beyond repair, upcycle it into something else. The rest of the material may still be useful, even if parts of it are damaged.

There are a number of benefits to upcycling. In addition to saving items from the landfill and reducing the use of raw material, you can also create attractive, unique items that save money. Also, several companies repurpose old clothing or textile manufacturing remenants

Not feeling creative or skilled to create upcycled items? Not a problem. Here’s a list of 30 companies that create upcycled clothing for purchase.

What is fast fashion

Buy From Sustainable Producers

Using the above strategies will certainly help to reign in fast fashion. There are also several manufacturers moving to a carbon neutral model, with more moving in the right direction everyday. Going the extra step to see if your next purchase falls into the sustainable fashion catagory is a great way to help out!

Shop Locally!

Look at the tags on your clothes. It’s likely you’ll see countries like China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and other countries on the other side of the world.

Even if these clothes are sustainably made, it still requires a great deal of energy to transport those garments from factory to closet.

On the other hand, if your clothes are produced locally, the carbon footprint is reduced. When the clothing materials are sourced domestically, that’s even better!

Moving Away from Fast Fashion

The old adage “You get what you pay for” has never been more true when it comes to fast fashion. Cheap, disposable clothing is nether a good investment nor does it support the environment. Making the commitment to slow fashion, secondhand or sustainable brands benefits the environment while adding quality items to your wardrobe.