Alright, so we all likely know the harms of fast fashion well by now — the rapid churning out of clothing and short life-cycles of those synthetic, cheap pieces have led to environmental destruction, exploited labor, and a whole host of other issues.
But with clothes at prices we just can’t resist and quality so low we come back to buy again and again… fast fashion is designed to be addicting.
And just like any addiction, it’s not easy to quit. So here are five steps outlining tips to transition into a life of slower fashion and leaving the world of fast fashion behind!
1. Figure Out Your Motivation(s)
Most times, our reasons for stepping into the likes of Zara of Forever 21 are far more diverse than just needing a a t-shirt. It can come from feeling the need to always keep up with the latest trends we see everyone else wearing, from the desire for that quick gratification of a purchase, or because we’re bored, unhappy, or dissatisfied and look to shopping as the cure.
Once we know the root cause of our shopping habits, it’s much easier to act against it.
For instance, I used to frequently browse for clothes online when I was bored. Once I got honest with myself and recognized this, I was able to stop when I found myself automatically opening up my browser and going to my favorite clothing store websites just when I wanted to waste a bit of time.
Instead I called up a friend or read one of the many books on my reading list.
Now, with a full-time job and blog, I certainly don’t have to worry about having time on my hands… But, I do find myself seeking out shopping when I want a release from my stress. Knowing this, I’ve been able to funnel that stress to writing or taking a yoga class instead.
Now I’m not saying these transitions will happen overnight, but certainly understanding the cause of the action of shopping fast fashion, is a huge game-changer for fighting the urge.
2. Eliminate Temptation
In the face of digital media and marketing, temptation is virtually (no pun intended!) everywhere. I know from first-hand experience that Instagram is a major source of envy—for clothing, travel, house decor, and everything in between.
So recently, I decided to unfollow a sizable amount of major influencer accounts who were flaunting their designer bags and constantly jet-setting. I also ended my subscriptions to conventional fashion magazines and store promotional emails, instead opting in to more conscious publications like The Good Trade and to emails from ethical fashion brands that I truly love and believe in.
Another big source of temptation is being around brick and mortar stores. I used to spend a lot of time just browsing through stores with friends on the weekends.
But I realized that this was a huge source of temptation for things that I really didn’t need. Even if I didn’t end up making a purchase that day, it would get me thinking about the idea of buying something, and I’d find myself being more likely to think about shopping and having a bigger inclination to shop the following week.
If going into stores is also a source of temptation for you, I’d recommend to cut down on shopping trips, and when hanging out with friends, try suggest activities like grabbing a coffee, getting lunch, or just simply walking through a park rather than going to the mall.
3. Learn and Research
The more we learn about both the vast detriments of fast fashion and the true value of ethical and sustainable fashion, the easier it is to opt for the latter.
Watching documentaries like The True Cost or The Next Black, and reading books such as Slave to Fashion or Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, really open up your eyes to the realities of the fast fashion world. And just as the documentaries of the last decade exposed us to the harsh realities of the food industry and opened the doors for the slow food movement, I believe the exposés of the fashion industry will begin to do the same for slow fashion.
Also, know that getting into a slower, more sustainable approach to fashion, does NOT mean sacrifice! In fact, it often means getting more JOY from your clothes. By appreciating and wearing our clothes more, we find gratitude instead of envy, and satisfaction instead of desire.
Then, when we do decide to buy a piece, we can feel good about what we’re supporting. Whether it’s thrifting an item and saving that piece from the landfill, buying a sustainably-made piece we know was made with respect to the earth, or investing in a Fair Trade artisan-made good that is supporting cultural traditions and communities around the world.
There’s no question that once we dig deeper and see all the realities, our mindsets shift. As one of my favorite quotes of all time puts it, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”.
I honestly find no part of fast fashion appealing anymore after digging deeper into the TRUTH of the industry. (And while the price tags and sales may still tempt me once in a while, I remember that it’s 100% off if I don’t buy it!)
4. Find an Accountability Partner
There’s nothing like an accountability partner to hold you to your commitments. Whether that accountability partner is your best friend, an online community, or even a spreadsheet on your laptop.
For me, my accountability partner is my blog and corresponding social media accounts. Even after knowing the perils of fast fashion, I still made fast fashion purchases… that is until I created Conscious Life & Style and I put it out there in the world that I was committed to spreading the word on ethical fashion.
Even though my following was tiny, I knew that this audience trusted me to provide content on conscious fashion and i would’ve felt dishonest to go off and buy a $10 dress from a fast fashion retailer while promoting the benefits of responsible purchasing.
But it certainly doesn’t have to require creating a blog to have an accountability partner. There are online communities on Instagram and Facebook you could join.
You could also tell your friend, your mom, or your significant other about your journey and let them know that you’d like their help in encouraging you to stay away from fast fashion stores.
And, if you know that you’d be your own best accountability partner, try creating a spreadsheet or write in a journal with what you already have in your closet, along with a wishlist and budget. Make a plan of the pieces you truly will need that season or year and reference this list whenever you feel the urge to shop.
5. Seek Alternatives
Now that we’ve established how to stay AWAY from fast fashion, let’s talk about what to do when we do need to make a clothing or accessory purchase.
– Thrifting: Long-gone are the days of frumpy, unfashionable thrifted clothes. Online secondhand shops such as Poshmark, ThredUP, Tradesy, and Refashioner have great pre-loved options and make it pretty darn easy to search around for specific items, too.
– Shopping Ethical Brands: In the past few years, there’s been a surge of ethical and sustainable brands… the options really are incredible now! Try searching on Good On You app for in-depth details on ethical and eco brands, or look at your favorite conscious blogger’s website for their brand guides and roundups.
I hope these tips were helpful for you — if you try them out or have additional thoughts and ideas to add, leave a comment below!