The Problem with Fast Fashion and How To Have a Minimalist Wardrobe
In 2020 alone, the popular fast-fashion website ‘Wish’ brought in over$2 billion in sales, fulfilling more than 100 million orders worldwide.
Now you may be wondering, ‘why is an online business’s success a concern?’. While we fully believe in supporting hard-working, online businesses, Wish, as well as many other fast fashion websites simply don’t qualify for this title.
Each year millions of people are placing orders with companies that knock off designers work, utilize cheap, unsustainable materials, and exploit employees with unfair wages and terrible working conditions. What’s worse, is that most of the shoppers who buy from these sites don’t even know they are supporting this.
We’re on a mission to change this. Continue reading to discover the true impact of fast fashion and why a minimalist wardrobe is a responsible choice for your closet.
What Is Fast Fashion?
In simplest terms, fast fashion is the clothing, accessories, and shoes that are readily available online or in-store for mind-blowingly low prices. While initially, these sites look like an amazing deal, the truth is quickly revealed.
Online stores such as Wish, Shein, Zara, and many others have earned a pretty solid reputation for being less-than-reliable, but these aren’t the only fast-fashion fails to watch out for. Even stores like Cotton-On use fast fashion principles that are damaging to both our economy and our environment.
If you’ve ever made a purchase from a fast-fashion site before, you’re already familiar with the disappointment upon arrival. However, for anyone considering making their first order, here’s what to expect:
Instead of the gorgeous garment you ordered, you’ve likely received a poorly stitched, terrible quality piece that only vaguely resembles the photo on the website (if you’re lucky). If you’ve done your shopping in-store at places like cotton-on, that cute piece of fashion starts to show its true colours (and stitching) after just one or two washes.
This is because these companies cut costs in materials, production, and quality control to keep their prices incredibly appealing to a world of consumers who love having a new look for every occasion.
Here are the environmental, economical, and ethical problems with those fast fashion finds.
Shocking Textile Waste
One of the most obvious problems with fast fashion is the decreased lifespan of clothing items. Because these garments are made so cheaply and with poor-quality materials, they don’t last nearly as long as a high-quality sustainable clothing piece would.
According to recent stats, each Australian contributes an average of23kg of textile waste to the landfill each year.
While some of this can be blamed on a wasteful mindset, the fact is, even if you wanted to donate your fast-fashion clothing for a second life, it won’t hold up long enough to make it to a second owner.
CO2 Emissions & Water Pollution
In addition to the sheer amount of waste fast fashion produces, it’s also doing a number on our environment.
The energy-intensive production of synthetic materials, factory running needs, and shipping are all to blame for these high carbon emissions.
Even if these fast fashion companies do use cotton instead of synthetic fabrics, they are still contributing to hundreds of thousands of chemicals being poured into our earth in the form of pesticides if those items are not organic.
Of course, the vast majority of the materials used are synthetic and also require a shocking amount of chemicals and toxins to process. What’s more, is that synthetic fabrics are chocked full of microplastics that wind up in our landfills and oceans.
In fact, just one trip through the washing machine releases around 1900 synthetic fibres per garment. These microplastic fibres are then flushed right through to our sewage system to into our waters.
Unsafe Labour Conditions
Beyond the impact on our environment, the conditions in which the workers face at fast fashion factories is shocking.
From low wages to blatantly dangerous surroundings, these workers are exploited while simply trying to make a living to support their families. By supporting these companies, we inadvertently support the continuation of these awful and unethical conditions.
Destruction of Local Businesses and Creatives
Finally, fast fashion companies quite literally rip off hard-working designers and brands by stealing their designs and images to sell their dodgy products.
This essentially takes business directly away from reputable companies and can do a number on their reputation in the process. At the end of the day, it’s simply unethical and unfair.
The Minimalist Alternative
So what’s the solution for this fast fashion disaster? Like most sustainability practices, the most impactful action you can take is to reduce your consumption.
The most common reason why consumers give in to fast fashion is that the alternative is expensive. While eco-friendly clothing does come with a higher price tag, there are affordable ways to dress in these sustainable choices.
When it comes down to it, creating a sustainable wardrobe is much simpler than you may think.
1. Invest in High-Quality, Sustainable Staples
Look for sustainable, locally made clothing products for yourstaple pieces. Choosing quality materials that are stitched with love and care will ensure your pieces last the ages. This will significantly cut down on the amount of textile waste you send off to the bin.
For your main pieces, aim for neutral colours that will pair well with multiple options for sustainable clothing variety. For example, by investing in an eco-friendly clothing item such as a pair of organic cotton trousers, you can make up several different outfits and save money (and resources) that you would have spent on additional pairs. Have you spotted our range of organic cotton t-shirts?! Check them out here.
If buying new sustainable style pieces isn’t in your budget, utilize op shops and online second-hand sites such as Facebook Marketplace to source these high-quality pieces at a fraction of the price.
And of course, when it’s time to part ways with a piece, always try to donate, sell, or repurpose before throwing away. Your old t-shirts may not be fashion-forward anymore, but they are perfectly suitable for sleepwear!
2. Normalize ‘Outfit Repeating’
Once you’ve got your staples, the next step is to become comfortable with repeating outfits. At the end of the day, we wash our clothing far more often than necessary. This is not only wearing out our clothing but also wasting heaps of water.
We’re willing to bet you can get at least 2-3 wears out of that organic cotton t-shirt you love so much, so why not put off the washing for another day and conserve in style.
3. Rent or Borrow Special Occasion Pieces
Worried about those special occasion outfits? While buying a new dress for an event can be fun and exciting, most of us barely get 2-3 wears out of formal wear. This is incredibly wasteful and not to mention, expensive!
If you’re opting for a minimalist wardrobe, don’t worry too much about these formal wear options. Get by with borrowed goodies, rent your formal wear for the night, or search for a second-hand item that’s versatile (hello little black dress).
And that’s all there is to it! Just remember when getting started that throwing away unwanted clothing to create a minimalist wardrobe is counter-productive. Use what you have and start building your collection of versatile, sustainable clothing on your own timeline.
Sustainable Style for Every Closet
Now that you know the true impact of fast fashion, you two can be a part of the solution. From spreading the word to reducing our clothing consumption, every little step toward sustainability helps!
Are you just getting started on your sustainability journey or strengthening your approach? We’re here to support you every step of the way!Get in touch with our team if you have any questions about fast fashion or any other sustainability mission and don’t forget to check out our other blog posts for zero-waste tips and tricks!