8 Tips to Help You Avoid Fast Fashion and Build a Sustainable Wardrobe

Ethical Fashion Sep 27, 2020

Look, fast fashion is bad. You either know it, or don’t yet want to accept it. To the former, I want to send you big joyful virtual hugs. To the latter… I’m sending you hugs too, because we all (everyone reading this at least) are on journeys towards sustainability, and it’s important to acknowledge that everyone is at a different stage of that journey.

It’s a journey that doesn’t end, because we are constantly learning and evolving.

It’s a journey with many intersections and barriers, because our societal and economical systems are not inclusive or accessible.  

And it’s a journey that has many beginnings, because knowledge comes to us in a variety of forms, at varying times.

We are all here growing together, so whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey… Hello, Friend!

No-one develops sustainability habits overnight, I actually took a few years to start taking action where my wardrobe was concerned. Fast fashion was my guilty pleasure and mood booster, but over the last 3 years, I’ve managed to go from fast fashion junkie to boycotting fast fashion entirely using a handful a basic tips and tools!

So, if you haven’t got around to addressing fast fashion as part of your sustainable journey or you want to learn more about cutting it out – I got’u boo.

8 Tips for Avoiding Fast Fashion

1. Log Purchases.

Keep a log of purchases, especially impulse buys. Write down where you were, how you were feeling, what led to the purchase, and how much you spent.

Are you going to the same shops? Is there a specific mood that urges you make a purchase? Are there particular friends you always seem to be with when you buy? Are you spending more than you thought? Try to identify any pattern that you can potentially change.

2. Make a List. Check it Twice.

Literally write a list of everything you want to buy... Then don’t buy it. Wait a few days (you can develop to weeks and months) and then check the list again. Do you still want it or was it an impulse urge? Keep checking the list to feel how committed you are to the item.

I started doing this 3 years ago, and STILL do it. I list everything I want to buy and I let it sit on the list while I figure out if I really need it or not (sometimes it’s very clear). Then I either delete it, or let it sit on the list for a while longer as I try to find a more sustainable alternative. Which leads to tip 3…

3. Find a More Sustainable and Ethical Alternative.

I am a HUGE advocate for secondhand, and believe it to be the most sustainable option, so much so that nearly all my fashion purchases for the last 18 months have been secondhand! I find my finds at local thrift and charity shops, but online spots like Depop, ThredUp and Poshmark are great too.

Every year there are 1 or two items (usually sports gear or shoes) I buy new, but only after months of having them on my list, waiting for a secondhand version to crop up, and some pain steaking research over which brands/items are the most sustainable. Making clothing is an extractive and oppressive process, it takes labour and raw materials and as long as we consume, we will never escape this truth. But we can buy better.

Tip: The Good on You app has a directory of businesses rated in terms of their ethical and sustainability practices. If you are buying new, it can be a great resource for finding brands that are better than the high street.

4. Know Your Style.

This is a classic tip!

Style is the signature way you dress, and it includes the fit, colours, fabrics, patterns, and pairings of your clothing. Knowing your style will help you make purchases you will continue to wear and love, while also helping you avoid purchases that you’ll abandon to the back of the closet.

An indicator of style can be found in the clothes you wear frequently and items that make you feel the most comfortable and/or fabulous.

5. Ask Questions.

Before making a purchase ask yourself:

  • Do I need it?
  • Do I have something similar?
  • Is it my style?
  • How long will it be ‘on trend’? / Will it go out of fashion quickly?
  • How many of my existing clothes will this pair with?
  • How long can I make it last?
  • How can I reuse or up-cycle this to extend its life?
  • How will it be disposed of?

When you think about the WHOLE life of an item, it can help put your sustainability values into perspective. If you don’t think it will last you years or stay in style, if you don’t think it’s easy to recycle – chances are it’s not a sustainable purchase.

6. Take Stock.

Do you know what is currently in your closet and how often you wear it?

A few weeks ago, I picked up a dress at a thrift store and LOVED it. However, I quickly realized I have one VERY similar – same colour, fabric and cut. I wear this similar dress just a handful of times each year, so I put the store dress back on the rack, knowing I probably wouldn’t get much wear out of it.

That same trip, I found a white top with big sleeves (big sleeves are totally my jam!) and I don’t have any white tops in my closet, so, I bought it! It's different enough that I know it won't replace something I already own, but within my style so I know I'll wear it plenty.

If you know what you have, how much you wear it, and which items and the styles you ADORE, buying and not buying becomes so much easier.

Tip: The 30Wears app is a space where you can catalogue the items you own and log what you are wearing each day. It will tell you how often you wear each item, as well as what you are most likely to pair it with.

7. Detox.

I’m talking full on cold turkey from the high street bitch.

  • Stop browsing their websites.
  • Unfollow brands and fast fashion influencers on social media.
  • Unsubscribe from emails.
  • Actively avoid the high street (or at least avoid window shopping).

It’ll suck. It’ll be hard. But once you’re out of the habit of spending hours browsing (I’ve been there) you’ll have more time and you’ll be happier without the FOMO.

Did You Know: A marketing tactic employed by fast fashion brands is to bring in new lines frequently (weekly, sometimes daily!) and  remove them after a short period of time to create a ‘fear of missing out’. This FOMO makes you more likely to impulse buy.

8. Talk about it

Chat to your bestie, your parent, or who ever your shopping partner is. Tell them why you’re doing this and see if you can get them on board. When you have someone to hold you accountable, and who you’re accountable to, it can help you stay committed.

If you’re on the path towards sustainability, you can apply these tips to anything, not just fashion! Remember, choosing to buy ethical, sustainable, or choosing not to buy at all, is a form of activism.

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Activist and organizer with Greenpeace Vancouver. Writes about climate and social justice, feminism, greenwashing, and fossil fuel fuckery.

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