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Kill Fast Fashion

Back-to-school fashion ads are beginning to rear their little heads, and it’s gotten us thinking. With fashion trends changing by the season and the quality of clothing tanking, what is the fashion industry willing to sacrifice in the name of profit? More importantly, how can socially responsible clothing companies combat the Zara’s and Forever 21’s of the world and serve the consumer with well-made affordable clothing? As we head into the fall season, when most of us refresh our wardrobes, here are some things to think about before you swipe that card and turn over your hard-earned cash.

Fast fashion is a process that uses trend replication, rapid production, and low-quality materials to bring inexpensive styles to the public. Coupled with marketing that encourages consumers to buy the latest, greatest styles, fast fashion comes skipping into our lives during our evening Instagram scroll, on the billboards we see commuting to work, even watching the third season of Stranger Things.  While affordability is generally a good thing, undercutting production comes at a cost.

Fast fashion has bred a culture of waste, with some of its products so low quality, they might be considered single-use. Similar to those plastic bags and straws that are widely recognized as polluters of our environment, fast fashion is equally as dangerous. From 1999 to 2009, people discarded 40 percent more textiles in the U.S. than in previous decades. As much as 30 percent of microplastics in the ocean are reported to come from synthetic clothing, and 1.2 billion tons of CO2 a year are released from the production of clothing alone. In fact, “disposable fashion” has become so synonymous with H&M that the company released an eco-clothing line named “Conscious Collection.” Though a seemingly valiant effort to cut back on carbon emissions, the company has hit choppy waters with The Norwegian Consumer Authority for allegedly misrepresenting its sustainability. They’re not buying it, and neither should you.

Before your seam unravels, there are clothing companies looking to tackle the issue one way or another, responsibly and stylishly. A favorite in our office, Rothy’s turns recycled, single-use plastics into durable shoes.  United by Blue is not only committed to quitting single-use plastic, but they remove one pound of trash from waterways for every product sold. Major brands like Land’s End and Patagonia stand behind the quality of their products and will repair your gear if torn, stained, or if it doesn’t work the way you thought it would. Bring in any pair of jeans to Madewell, and they’ll not only recycle them for you, but give you twenty dollars off a new pair.

Discarded footwear on the Andaman Sea in Thailand

Admittedly, clothing from sustainable brands will run you more than the five bucks you’d spend on a t-shirt from TopShop. Most people can’t afford to spend a large percentage of income on clothing. Consider this, though. Because fast fashion has distorted the sense of value, it may end up costing you more in the long run. The longevity of cheap fabrics and shoddy craftsmanship is severely lacking, meaning replacements are needed sooner. If you think about clothing as an investment, by purchasing fewer, higher-quality pieces, you’ll be helping our ailing Mother Earth and your pocketbook. To help you decide where to shop, Good On You has created an app so you can easily discover ethical brands and see how your favorites are rated.

 

Increasingly, consumers are demanding more from the clothes they put on their backs and the companies who put them there. The new business model for clothing companies looking to do right by their customers—and the environment—just may be a more sustainable, ethical approach. Socially responsible clothing companies can appeal to both the emotions and needs of customers and make the goods to back it up. How refreshing.