It Is Possible To Buy Fast Fashion More Sustainably — Here’s How

Photo: Cotton On
As we reckon with a global climate emergency, many of us are looking inwards at our own choices in the hope of minimising our impact on the planet. For me, that meant starting with my wardrobe. 
It’s no secret that the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries out there, and that garment workers are, more often than not, treated horrendously (only an estimated 2% of them are paid a living wage).
Of course, it’s one thing to know the facts, and another to actually change your lifestyle and shopping habits to reflect your values. Anyone who’s fallen into a flash sale black hole on a fast-fashion website knows how easy it is to succumb to the too-good-to-resist prices. The next thing you know, a package rocks up at your door containing four almost-identical dresses, and six tops you don’t even really like. Guilt and remorse ensue as you stuff the plastic packaging away from plain sight.
Impulse spending aside, we also can’t ignore the big flashing barriers that deny so many consumers access to ethical and sustainable fashion — including a lack of plus sizes offered by many smaller, sustainable labels, and their typically higher price tags. 
But that doesn’t mean that a more conscious approach to fashion is off the table. To carry a conscious mindset means to act with intention and awareness. A conscious approach to buying fast fashion looks like thoroughly thinking through your decision.
Retail therapy, FOMO and spur-of-the-moment purchases fuelled by online sales can often end up living in the back of your wardrobe. To counter this, here are a few questions to ask yourself that can help you decide whether an item is for keeps — or whether you should close that tab and walk away. 

“Will I Wear This 30 Times?”

How many times will you actually wear this garment? On average, we wear an item only seven times before tossing it, according to a British study. When our clothes are horrendously cheap, it’s easy to see them as being disposable.
The '30 wears challenge' was created by Livia Firth, co-founder of Eco-Age, to fix this. When you buy a new piece of clothing, really ask yourself if you can see yourself wearing it 30 times. Picture your closet at home and think about what items you already own that could pair well with this new addition. 
Take pride in fast fashion pieces you've owned for years — keeping and wearing the garments for longer keep them out of landfill for longer.

“Will I Want It In 24 Hours?”

Putting 24 hours between myself and the objects of my longing has stopped many of my impulsive splurges. Looking at why we spend can tell us a lot about the way we treat or distract ourselves. Maybe you’ve had a really good day, or a really bad day. Whatever the case, if you really want the clothing item, surely you’ll still want it after 24 hours. This small barrier puts a stop to the instant dopamine hit that’s gained from a few clicks towards an online shopping cart. 
Alternatively, saving up for your dream item over the span of a few months can make that purchase even sweeter.

“Is It Just A Trend?”

With trends (and micro-trends) doing the social media rounds at lightning speeds, it’s normal to feel pangs of desire (or jealousy) for whatever’s currently at the top of the cool list. It’s sometimes hard to discern whether you really like something or whether it’s just a trend that’s been shoved in front of your eyeballs one too many times.
A good measure of the longevity of a trend is how it fits in with the rest of your wardrobe. Think colour palettes, the cut of garments, and their general aesthetic. 

“What Is It Made Out Of?”

Not all fast-fashion garments are made equal. The materials that a piece of clothing is made with will tell you a lot about its quality and how it’s been made. Plastic is intrinsically tied to the fashion industry — over 60% of clothes are made from petroleum-based plastic fibres. Coming in forms like nylon, acrylic, polyester, and spandex, these garments are not biodegradable, can't be recycled, and will most likely exist in landfill indefinitely. They also release plastic microfibres plastic that can end up in the ocean via your washing machine. A 2016 study found that 700,000 microplastic fibres can be released into the environment from a single washing cycle.
Opt for organic and natural fibres, like cotton, linen, bamboo and hemp. Though they all come with their own issues, these materials are often kinder to the environment — and are all biodegradable.
Being a more thoughtful consumer of fast fashion doesn’t mean you have to go from zero to 100. You don't have to chuck out your entire wardrobe (because that’s even more unsustainable). Challenging yourself to engage in these new mindsets are a step in a more sustainable direction. Because wherever you are on your fast fashion journey, you can always bring more mindfulness and consciousness to each purchase.

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