Jessica Downey | Fri, 31 Jan 2020
The whole ‘fast fashion’ concept was something I never really knew the true meaning of, never mind my contribution towards it. When contemplating my thoughts on this topic, I recall a conversation held between my sister and I when I arrived home in a new sheep-skin jacket. Chuffed with my new purchase, I flaunted my new garment, boasting the reduced price I bagged it for. The joy of my new purchase quickly melted as my sister rolled her eyes and tutted at my support towards ‘fast fashion’. Rather than beginning one of those never-ending sibling quarrels, we began a more civilised conversation. Challenging one another, we discussed the sustainability of our generation’s actions toward fashion.
As great as it is that I have had meaningful conversations about sustainability, but what do you know about ‘fast fashion’? Allow me to elaborate and maybe you can sound like that environmentally conscious individual that everybody internally groans at when they open their mouth. Someone has to do it.
“I saw Cady Heron wearing army pants and flip flops, so I bought army pants and flip flops”
This quote really resonated with me as I contemplated how I would break this concept down. Essentially ‘fast fashion’ is a replica of this satirical line that the teen movie 'Mean Girls' portrayed to us. Shopping for new clothing was once an awaited event in which individuals treated shopping as an occasion that they had specifically saved money for. As the 20th century ended and we entered the noughties, this trend fizzled out and consumers treated shopping as a form of amusement. Consequently, this placed a demand on contemporary trends expecting fashion at a low price on a speedy production line.
Who has really paid for your outfit?
Is it not concerning those popular online retailers can mass produce and sell garments for starting prices as little as £5 each? If you time your purchase tactfully you might be fortunate and bag next day delivery for next to nothing. Such websites target those individuals who buy per occasion and want their new outfit pronto. These days there is little mercy towards ‘outfit recycling’. Me, a recovering victim of this ‘buy & dispose of as quickly as I purchase’ attitude, had to question the ethics behind such a process. If my ‘efficient’ and the convenient purchase was such a harmless cost for me, who has actually paid for my outfit?
We should be asking ourselves who made these garments and what processes were such individuals subject to in order for fast fashion to thrive among our popular retailers. Just as people are becoming increasingly conscious of where the food on our plates has come from, is it not about time we do the same with our clothing.
It may seem wonderful that you can afford to consistently restock your wardrobe at the same speed an Aberdeen reared seagull can swoop up your library cookie. Nonetheless, this purchase is perhaps as harmful as the seagull’s bowels movements, post cookie consumption. Not only are we placing pressure upon the earth and its space for waste, but we are also taking advantage of the nonchalant labour laws and ethics within the developing world. The rise in globalisation has led to large Western retailers moving away from in-house production to relying on third-world factories offering unparalleled production prices. It raises concern over who provides the labour for these factories and what freedom do our bargain buys allow them.
Move forward from fast fashion towards individuality
It is not just a matter of refraining from the big names in retail but it is also about having fun with your own fashion. If I had a penny for every fluffy teddy jacket I spot on campus, maybe I could buy out these greedy retailers. There are only so many shades of beige that the big-name retailers can exhaust this style with. Encouraging myself into a more ethically sourced wardrobe has made me appreciate the individuality fashion allows us. Just as I hated as a child being dressed the same as my sibling, I still feel frustrated when my outfit is easily comparable to someone else in the room. Sourcing clothing elsewhere has encouraged me to be bolder with fashion whilst saving me some pennies.
The World Outside Fast Fashion
The thought of completely abandoning the brands and suppliers we rely on can be daunting but we do not need to just buy from that dusty-looking charity shop you pass by in town. Buying elsewhere is a great way to dip your toes into ethical sourcing and find some cracking brands. If you are compelled to make a change in how and where you source your next shopping spree allow me to offer you some inspiration. Here are four crucial items I alternatively sourced that are frequently reached for in my wardrobe:
Grey BDG Denim Mum Jeans – kindly donated by a friend clearing out her wardrobe. This brand sold in Urban Outfitters typically sells a pair of jeans for £55 face price. Start clothes swapping with your mates!
Cream Nike Air Max 95 Trainers – an absolute steal on the clothing app Depop. The average price for a pair sits at £130. My eagle eyes bagged these (in almost new condition) for £20. Depop is excellent for finding those funky items & brands that do not cooperate with our student funding allowances. The app is also an excellent way to sell your fast fashion bought outfits you now want to dispose of in a sustainable manner.
Black Vintage Leather Mod Skin Jacket – a fun dose of 70’s style into my wardrobe for the small price of £10.95, all thanks to eBay. Not only a stylish addition to my clothing collection but I feel is an investment into my future as it evidently is a timeless piece. The online marketplace, eBay is additionally great for selling on old items. I have built up a small yet monthly income from my own selling activity.
Chai Zip-Up Gym Crop Top – bought from the active-wear brand TALA which was founded by a young female business entrepreneur. In producing gym wear from 92% upcycled materials the company thrive on style, ethics, sustainability and affordability. Large sports brands out there face social responsibility for their ethical treatment towards employees and the environment. My TALA gym top cost £35. A cost I am happy to pay for sustainably sourced, quality materials that do not contribute to the world of fast fashion.
I hope this offers some fashion for thought and inspires your next shopping expedition wherever that may take you.