Don’t let your Instagram feed rope you into buying more jeggings and crop tops just because they’re cheap. Fast fashion brands like Forever 21, H&M and Fashion Nova mass produce clothing made for people’s desire to follow the latest trends at a low price. Companies design clothes to be disposable, so consumers can see them deteriorate in about 10 washes. Unsold items are often thrown away or even incinerated.
In this scramble to keep up with trends, companies generate 23 kilograms of greenhouse gases for each kilogram of fabric produced. Making one pair of jeans produces as much greenhouse gas as driving a car for about 80 miles. It also uses approximately 7,000 liters of water, the amount of water one individual drinks in five to six years.
If that isn’t bad enough, fast fashion brands are notorious for exploitative labor practices. According to the Garment Worker Center, factory employees work upward of 55 hours a week, making an average of $300, an hourly rate of just over $5. In Los Angeles alone, four out of five garment contractors are in violation of the minimum wage, paying their garment workers an average of $5 an hour.
The fashion industry harms workers in these terrible work conditions and threatens the already declining state of the environment.
To slow down fast fashion’s effects, we need to pressure companies to establish more ethical policies, give their employees rights and protections and be transparent about the environmental impact of the clothes they make. According to some Los Angeles garment workers, they would much rather people show up to resist when needed and asked. They can make a change with protests and other actions if more people show up to support them.
You can follow some of these tips to help reduce the harmful impacts of fast fashion on an individual level.
1. Don’t buy a lot of clothes.
Buy what you need, not everything you like. Shop for things you really need and only buy what you went in looking for.
2. Buy items that will last.
If you have to buy something from fast fashion companies like Forever 21, H&M and Fashion Nova, choose something that seems like it will last for a long time. Usually this means that the fabric is thick like structured denim, and includes more sturdy fibers like cotton or wool.
3. Invest in timeless, useful basics.
Invest in basic pieces like plain t-shirts, a good denim jacket or a thick winter coat. These items will never go out of style and will match more than one thing in your closet.
4. Buy secondhand.
Buying clothes secondhand can help save money. While it is important to buy used clothes and from consignment shops, be careful that you’re not taking resources away from people who rely on them. It’s not cool to take good, affordable clothes away from working class people. Thrift stores like Goodwill, Thrift Center and Bargain Barn exist for people who need them, not people seeking a thrifted aesthetic.
If you do choose to shop at these stores, be aware that you’re not buying up all the professional or brand name clothes. If you can afford it, buy from consignment stores like Crossroads Trading, or sustainable and small brands instead. Also, don’t buy something bigger than you need just to make it smaller. There are people that buy plus sized items who are actually those sizes.
5. Learn how to tailor your own clothes.
Wear and tear is natural. Instead of throwing clothes away when they’re worn out, learn to give them new life. There are plenty of tutorials online on how to mend the clothes you already own including how to sew up holes and put on patches. If something isn’t wearable anymore, the cloth could be used as rags.
6. Host or attend a clothing swap.
It’s a fun way to give clothes you no longer wear a home, and for you to find something that you may not be able to find otherwise. Host a swap of your own, or just trade clothes with friends.