How I have stopped fast fashion and what I think after my first year of abstinence
It’s hard to realize that it has been more than a year since I went into a Zara, H&M, Mango and other fast fashion shops to expand my wardrobe. However, I did stop in June 2018, just like that.
Stop over-consuming, stop buying "trendy" clothes that I will only wear once or three times, stop impulse buying, stop buying poor quality clothes, and stop buying clothes made in sometimes inhumane conditions.
From now on I want to know everything. How and where these pants, this shirt, and this sweater were made. I want to buy less but better. I want to buy timeless pieces that I will wear again and again without getting bored of them. I want to buy clothes that really suit me and that aren’t trendy. I want to know that what I am wearing didn’t damage our beautiful planet or endanger the lives of exploited workers on the other side of the world.
Let's clear things up right now, I'm far from perfect. Me too, sometimes I’m tempted by this cheap little dress seen again and again on Instagram. I, too, want to try out the trend of Spring / Summer 2019 season. I have my weaknesses (the H&M group’s brand And Other Stories is one of them). But now, I’m fully conscious when I consume. I cannot say anymore that I didn’t know. I do my best every day and that's the most important, right?
Sometimes, you just need an electric shock (for example, watching the documentary "The true cost" on Netflix that shows the human and environmental cost of fast fashion for garment workers and developing countries), a bit of indulgence and some advice to motivate oneself to change (bad) consumption habits. I just hope that with this article, I will make some of you want to consume fashion differently.
Do not go into a fast fashion store any more and stop visiting fast fashion brands websites. It's simple and ultra efficient. Do not forget either to unsubscribe to news letters and their tempting promotions to avoid any temptation. I also stopped to follow some accounts on Instagram that were only the promotion of fast fashion items and which were encouraging overconsumption of unethical brands. I did not recognize myself anymore in these accounts. On Instagram, I like to be inspired, advised and to make beautiful discoveries. I’m now only following accounts that make me feel good.
Do your Marie Kondo. I made a huge selection in my wardrobe. I followed the Marie Kondo method which consists of putting all the clothes on your bed to be aware of the amount of clothes you own. Then, you take each clothe and ask yourself if it sparks joy. You have to remember when was the last time you wore it and found out if this item still fit you (size wise and style wise). Then you make four piles of clothes: "I keep", "I sell", "I give" and "I throw away". This method made me realize that I was sometimes buying very “trendy” and cheap clothes that I was wearing only once or twice, or clothes that I bought only because I’ve been influenced by social media, but they didn’t even fit me or my style.
This method also allows you to make an objective assessment of what you really need to complete and build your ideal wardrobe. A wardrobe made of clothes that fit your morphology, that are comfortable, that can be worn on every occasion and that are going well with each other. A minimalist wardrobe that will last a long time.
Do research. As much as you can. I don’t buy anything impulsively anymore. I always look at the label to know what materials were used to make the clothes and in which country it was made. I also have a look at the brand’s website to learn about its story and its commitments. Unfortunately, it’s harder to find ethical clothes than fast fashion when you walk around in the streets. There are some shops specialized in ethical fashion but otherwise, for the moment, you will find ethical brands mostly on internet. Why? Because they are usually young and local brands that are producing in small quantities and offer only few models. Small brands that cannot afford a physical shop yet or who prefer not to have one to be able to offer their items at more affordable prices. Because this is the critical part. The price. Let’s be realistic, an ethical dress will always cost more than an H&M dress. Sometimes, three, four or five times more. Producing in France or in Europe is more expensive than making clothes in Bangladesh in often deplorable conditions. Beside that, there are some big brands that sell their clothes at exorbitant prices while they were manufactured the same way as Zara, H&M and other cheap brands. Those are perhaps the worst ones! Fast fashion is not always affordable, that's why you have to be vigilant and ALWAYS get informed.
Instagram is a gold mine for finding local and ethical brands. When I discover a brand whose values and products match with mine, I pin one photo of the brand's instagram account and save it in my "Ethical Fashion" collection on Instagram to be able to remember this brand or the clothes when I will need to add new clothes to my wardrobe. I keep learning about the subject, especially on the materials used. I try to prioritize materials as eco-friendly as possible ...But as I said, I'm not perfect. I‘m just trying my best to buy ethically and sustainably.
Consume less but better. That means accepting the idea of spending more money on each than before. In the end, I promise, you will be a winner! Even if a sweater cost 200 euros, if you feel beautiful in it, you can be yourself in it, it comes in good quality, it’s ethical and it goes well with many of your pants and skirts, you would love to wear it again and again. In the end, it's cheaper than buying new clothes at Zara every week. Spending regularly 20, 30 or 50 euros on clothes that you'll get tired of quickly or that will begin to bobble after wearing them once, it's clearly not a good investment. I’m not saying that everything is bad quality in Zara. I still have some clothes from Zara in my wardrobe that I still enjoy wearing even though I have owned them for years. It would not make any sense to throw them away just because it’s fast fashion. Nevertheless, let's be honest, this kind of item is rare. Although there is still the guilt of knowing how they were made ...
Buy second hand and vintage. There are so many treasures in vintage shops (Nawal and her instagram account @nawalbonnefoy proves it every day) that it would be a shame to not take advantage of it. It’s cheaper, gives a second or third life to clothes in perfect condition and allows you to get your hands on unique pieces. The favorite pieces of my wardrobe are vintage shirts and jackets. Don’t worry, if you're not into vintage you can go for fairly new second hand items from recent years. Today, we can find great things in thrift stores or websites like Vinted for example. So why not check on these websites first to see if the item you are looking for is already available at a much more attractive price? Or maybe you can find a similar item?
Don’t put too much pressure on you either. Accept your moments of weakness. Think why you flinched and ask yourself how you can avoid it next time. Also, accept that everyone has her own way of consuming. I'm really trying to reduce my wardrobe as much as possible because it makes me feel better and it's easier for me to get dressed in the morning. Nonetheless there are people like Nawal. She stopped buying fast fashion. She doesn’t buy brand new clothes, either. Yet, she did not end up with a minimalist wardrobe. Nawal’s wardrobe is so big that it has invaded her whole apartment and it's great! The most important is to find what suits you.
I consume according to my values. So, I have better conscience. I cherish every garment I own.
It was easier than I thought to give up on fast fashion. I enjoy it very much!
I feel I have finally taken the time to really think about my style, what I like to wear, and the colors that suit me. I know myself better and therefore only buy clothes that fit me and that I will keep for a long time.
I spend a lot less! My standard of living had dropped considerably after I moved to Japan. This had been one of the triggers in my desire to consume less but better. Today, I still do not have the means to offer myself all the ethical pieces I dream of, but I try to enjoy with what I have. I realized that I do not mind wearing the same clothes often if I feel good in them and if they are good quality. Nevertheless, I still remain a great lover of fashion. So when I really want an item I save money for it.
I do not let myself be influenced by trends anymore. I have my own style and I buy mainly timeless clothes. I only buy clothes that I will not get tired of after a season.
I’m discovering lots of cool little brands and talented designers. I like to know the story behind the products I buy. And it's also nice to know that I’m supporting ethical and eco-responsible movements when buying my clothes.
The price. As I previously explained, ethical clothes are generally more expensive or a lot more expensive than fast fashion items. I do not have big incomes. So it’s sometimes frustrating to not be able to afford the dress or the sweater I really want.
Shopping sprees are less fun because it's hard to find shops that sell ethical brands. And since most brands sell only their products online, it's impossible to try them on.
Research takes time. It's sometimes tedious. We must also pay attention to “ethical speeches” and “green promises” made by fast fashion brands. You always have to ask for more information, so it takes more effort! However, it’s also good to ask brands for more transparency because this will force them to change their manufacturing processes and be really ethical and green.
And, that's all! For me, the record is clear. The pros prevails widely and I do not regret one minute to have given up on fast fashion. Of course, I don’t judge you if you always enjoy hang out at Zara. It's a personal choice. I just hope you will give a thought about it and who knows, maybe you will feel like giving it a try :)