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Sustainable Style: Fast Fashion

Why your clothes mean more than you think.

By: Rachel Baker

These days, we are addicted to a thing called “fast fashion”. What is fast fashion you may ask? It is the trendy, $15.90 crop top you ordered online from Forever 21 that was seen on the runways no more than a couple weeks ago. Fast fashion enables shoppers to buy trendy pieces at affordable prices, and while this seems to be the best deal for college students, when it comes to shopping for clothes, there are huge disadvantages to the act.

We don’t often think of the adorable jean skirt we bought from Zara to be harmful to the environment, but the retail industry is actually the second largest polluter in the world next to big oil.

The fashion chain, and all the steps it takes to turn a single piece of cotton into your new t-shirt, involves a tremendous amount of water, machinery, shipping and toxic chemicals for your shirt to ultimately end up in your closet. Not to mention the poor working conditions and sweatshops that are used by most of these fast fashion retailers.

At the end of their life, fast fashion pieces are often thrown away in landfills due to their poor quality, and inability to withstand more than a few washes. Most fabrics, such as polyester, are man-made and are basically plastic, therefore they don’t decompose. That being said, it’s imperative to remember the importance of donating or recycling worn out garments to your local Goodwill or thrift store. While it may be nearly impossible to cut out buying fast fashion pieces all together, there are personal actions that can be made to help diminish the harmful effects (and addiction) of buying new items.

One simple step involves loving the pieces in your closet that you already own. We all have those pieces: the jeans that hug you the best, that one top that flatters you just right, your favorite basics etc. Anything in your closet that fits you well and makes you feel beautiful will always bring you joy when you wear them. Changing your “I have nothing to wear” mentality starts with recognizing the garments that you’ve kept around for a few years because of how much you adore them on you. Embrace the way they make you feel and your personal style will be noticed, guaranteed. As they say, confidence never goes out of style.

Thrifting also never goes out of style. Sure, it takes a little more effort to sift through racks of clothing, and you may not think it’s the most glamorous thing in the world, but neither is panning for gold. Thrifting gives clothes another chance at life, instead of ending up in landfills. Most of the items found in thrift stores are excellent quality, so they will last longer, and you will honestly gain an edge since no one will be wearing what you are. Plus,

the amount of money you will save is astonishing. Many amazing items can be found at Goodwill, the antique mall or our local resale clothing gem, The Thrifty Butterfly. The Thrifty Butterfly not only provides trendy pieces at very affordable prices, but they help fund the local nonprofit Wings of Hope Family Crisis Service, which provides safe services to individuals and families who experience domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse or neglect.

It’s time to be aware and understand the importance of our decisions when it comes to buying clothes. What we wear tells the story of who we are, so why not have a positive story behind the pieces on our backs? What we buy affects what we waste, so why not buy things which will last? Sure, the Forever 21’s and H&M’s of the world will always be around, so you may question how much you as an individual can really affect any form of change for these big retailers. By loving the items you already own, buying recycled garments from thrift stores and purchasing quality items instead of cheap items, you can, and will, make a long-term difference for yourself and the world, whether you can see it or not.


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