Sunday, May 17th, 2015
When you think about inexpensive fashion, the first stores you might think of are Forever 21, or Zara, if you’re really fancy. If you don’t, you’re living under a rock. But you might also remember how fast fashion is totally f**ked up, and while people think unfair fast fashion labor is only overseas, it’s alive and well in the U.S. of A., too, i.e. undocumented hours from workers who don’t know their employee rights, facilities infested with cockroaches, etc.. But somehow, it’s still easy to run up to the register with $10 dollar dresses and $3 jewelry. I’ve certainly been the culprit of such actions, so no judgment in these parts of the Internet. Forever 21 anonymous, here, and I’ve been fast-fashion free for 9 months…maybe more.
There’s a lot to wrap your head around when it comes to the consequences of fast fashion. It’s bad for laborers overseas, it’s bad for the environment (if we don’t change our fashion manufacturing ways, demand for water will exceed supply by 40%in 2030), it’s bad for undocumented people in the U.S. and documented citizens…it’s honesty just bad news all around. As a result, it’s hard to know where to shop that doesn’t screw everyone who’s ever handled those garments over. It’s also hard for those who don’t make a ton of money, and don’t want to spend their hard earned cash on expensive clothes. A.k.a. EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE UNITED STATES, pretty much ever.
As a 23-year-old woman living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I will swear on the holy bible that I’ve felt the difficulties that come with looking good on a tight budget. Call me selfish, but I believe looking fabulous is a right and not a privilege. That being said, I’ve completely changed my shopping habits over the past year, and built a 100% unique wardrobe from clothes I feel ethically confident in. Want to know how I did it? Lucky for you, I’m going to tell you how in only three simple steps.
Shopping at thrift stores and consignment stores is the most simple way to stop shopping at fast fashion stores. Consignment stores are the easiest solution to buying brand new items, because they’re choosy about on-trend merchandise. Think about how often you buy the coolest new item at Forever 21, and then it ends up gathering dust in your closet. Some people sell those items to consignment stores! And then, instead of spending $50 on that green leather vest, you’ve spent $13 instead. It’s a win for ethical fashion, and a win for your wallet.
I feel less guilty buying potentially poorly manufactured items from thrift and consignment stores, knowing that I’m not directly giving my money to those corporations. Buying new items, even if they aren’t produced in sweat shops, continues a cycle of toxic chemicals entering our water supply. By buying clothes from thrift stores, you can feel good knowing you haven’t hurt the environment or forced a child into labor with your purchase.
There’s a whole bunch of other benefits from shopping secondhand, too. After I stopped shopping in new-merchandise stores, Forever 21 and H&M made me incredibly anxious. The music was loud, the lights were too bright, and there were so many people…shopping in thrift stores is a much more relaxing experience.
I am also quite pickier about the items I buy in secondhand stores. If I don’t absolutely love something, I let it go. I’m not paying $15 for a used Forever 21 blouse that I don’t think really fits my style – f**k that! This principle has left me with a closet full of clothes I love. And if I decide in two months I’m not feelin’ it anymore, I can just sell it right back to the consignment store.
When you buy most of your clothes secondhand, you can afford to buy more expensive items that you really love. I personally love to hit up sample sales, and don’t feel bad splurging at stores that haven’t been involved in a sweatshop scandal. For example, ASOS is a part of the Ethical Trade Initiative, which works to improve global working conditions. Or, LOFT performs unannounced audits in their factories to make sure their factories are up to safety standards. Despite a history of destroying unsold merchandise, H&M is the largest user of organic cotton worldwide. I also love buying designer clothes from secondhand thrift websites like Fashion Project.
If you’re ever in doubt, the Internet is handy tool for figuring out whether or not your favorite stores use sweatshops or have been involved in bad labor practices. I try to Google every company I purchase from before I shell out my cold hard cash, because I don’t feel comfortable giving my money to companies that are less than ethical.
What do you make of the fast fashion scandal in the U.S.? Let me know in the comments.