September 28, 2016

Redirection: Fast Fashion | My New Approach to Shopping for Clothes

Fast fashion - what does it mean?

About a month ago, I began to take a deeper look into why people promoted minimalist fashion and capsule wardrobes. Sure, the idea of simplicity is appealing, but is it appealing enough to get that many people to actually change their habits?

Turns out, rejection of the negative impacts fast fashion are major influences in convincing people to reduce their impulsive shopping habits, and to redirect their approach to the fashion industry -- and I think they've done a pretty good job at convincing me, too.

I haven't had a chance to watch The True Cost, but the trailer has done enough to shock me. Companies that continually churn out relatively inexpensive, trendy fashion items are often practicing environmentally detrimental and socially unjust practices.

Now I'm no expert on fast fashion, so I'll let you read about it more for yourself here. But what I intend on doing in this "Redirection" series is sharing my newfound approaches/attitudes, so here's what I'm doing to try my best to avoid supporting fast fashion companies:

  1. Second-hand clothing: thrift stores, consignment stores, even hand-me-downs (aka raiding Mom's closet). It's much more inexpensive than supporting ethical brands (I'll address this later), and you're likely to support a great cause if you purchase from a charity-based thrift store. Plus, it's hard to avoid some fast fashion companies completely - let's be honest, sometimes, I do like certain clothing items produced by these companies. By finding products made by these brands at thrift stores, I'm not directly supporting the brand, and therefore, am not supporting fast fashion. I am also not contributing to the mass of waste that also results from short-lived trends. I find that I am even more mindful when I second-hand shop; these stores often do not have a return policy, so I try to make sure that I love the piece before making the purchase. 
  2. Support ethical brands: Reformation, Everlane, and Sseko, are all well-known for practicing ethical and sustainable practices. They are transparent about their production process and pricing -- these are key signs of brands that take responsibility for their impacts. As much as I'd love to support these brands as much as I can, they are also very expensive. They're great options, especially for those long-lasting, closet staples, but I don't currently view them as feasible options for most occasion. I do hope to be able to invest in their products and support them one day, though!
  3. Buy items made in the US: I have to admit, I used to enjoy seeing where my clothing is made from - as someone who loves to travel, having a piece from Vietnam or Cambodia makes me feel like I've seen the world...but it's twisted and upsetting, because these very same pieces made outside of the US are often made in unsafe factory conditions by underpaid workers -- including child laborers. The US has much stricter workers' rights and regulations, so unless the company is very transparent about their production process and I have a clear conscience about purchasing an item made outside of the US, I'm going to stick to buying US-made products.
  4. Reduce my shopping. Period.: Moving to college and having to reduce my closet size has definitely helped me reflect on the clothing items that are worth keeping in my closet. My standards for what stays in my closet has become stricter, but given my circumstances as a student (various occasions, a need for both formal and casual wear...), a "capsule wardrobe" isn't practical and probably too restrictive for me. Instead, I'm going to simply reduce the frequency at which I shop for clothing. If I want a certain piece, I think about it and try to come up with at least 5 outfits that I can wear with it to make sure that it's worth including in my closet. I've begun to think of my closet space as precious real estate! Plus, there are so many more things that are worth investing in than a shopping addiction. (More on this in a future "Redirection" post!)
So those are the four main approaches that I've developed over the past few month to avoid supporting fast fashion companies! It's important to remember, though, I'm not trying to be legalistic. There's room to make mistakes and to be flexible, but I think it's important to challenge myself to be more responsible and accountable for what I support. I'll keep you all updated on how this goes :)

xoxo, han

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