The Ethics of Fast Fashion: How to Shop Responsibly for Your Wardrobe
Let’s explore the negative impact of fast fashion on the environment, people, and the planet. Plus, I’m offering some easy tips on how to shop responsibly for your wardrobe, including buying from ethical and sustainable brands, shopping secondhand, and investing in high-quality pieces that last longer.
Fast fashion has become a ubiquitous term in recent years, referring to the practice of producing cheap, trendy clothing at a breakneck pace. However, this comes at a steep cost to the environment, workers, and the economy. The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, with textile production and dyeing responsible for massive amounts of water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and chemical waste. Furthermore, the vast majority of fast fashion is produced in low-wage factories overseas, where workers are often subjected to poor working conditions, long hours, and low pay.
To combat these issues, it’s important to shop responsibly for your wardrobe. This includes buying from ethical and sustainable brands, shopping secondhand, and investing in high-quality pieces that last longer. Ethical and sustainable brands prioritize worker rights, environmental protection, and transparency in their supply chains. Shopping secondhand helps reduce waste and gives clothing a second life. Investing in high-quality pieces that are well-made and timeless ensures that you’ll wear them for years to come.
Note: I wanted to make a small tribute to one of my absolute favourite ethical brands: VETAA, who is unfortunately closing shop. In this post, I’m wearing a reversible blouse and reversible skirt by VETTA while touring the Versailles gardens in Paris. My pieces from VETTA saw me through travel, working, pregnancy, and post-pregnancy while allowing me feel stylish and put-together. I will miss this brand so much, but wish the founder the very best as she navigates a new future.
“More Affordable” is Often Bad News for the Earth
Firstly, it is important to understand the impact of fast fashion on the environment. Fast fashion relies on cheap materials and labor to produce clothing quickly and inexpensively. The synthetic materials that fast fashion brands rely on are not biodegradable and contribute to the pollution of the environment. Additionally, the geographic areas where fast fashion tends to cluster are almost exclusively poorer, underdeveloped communities. Companies are not held responsible for the devastating pollution that their factories create, which often contaminates drinking water, agricultural land, and even the air. The draining, tanning, dying and treatment of animal skins and denim only adds further chemicals to the pollution problem and prevents these otherwise biodegradable materials from breaking down once they are discarded.
When shopping for your wardrobe, it is ideal to choose clothing made from sustainable, natural materials such as organic cotton or bamboo. Recycled fabrics are also growing in popularity, just keep in mind that the ones made from recycled water bottles and such don’t breakdown well if they end up landfills. There are even vegan silk alternatives and plant-based leathers for those of you looking for ethical options that are also chic and exude an expensive appearance.
Fast Fashion Exploits People, Animals, and the Planet
Secondly, the ethics of fast fashion cannot be ignored. Many fast fashion brands rely on cheap labor to produce their clothing, often in unsafe and unethical conditions. This exploitation of workers is not only morally wrong, but it also perpetuates a cycle of poverty and oppression. I already touched on the pollution of treating animals skins for fashion, but you should also consider the inhumane cruelty of factory farms. These animals live short, horrifically miserable lives in service of cheap leather production for fashion brands. There are ethical alternatives like plant-based leathers (made from grape, corn, banana leaves, and other crop waste) that are beautiful, durable, and biodegradable.
When shopping for your wardrobe, consider purchasing from brands that have transparent and ethical supply chains. Look for certifications such as Fair Trade or GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) that ensure workers are paid fairly and work in safe conditions. Support local clothing brands. Try shopping vegan. And head to your local secondhand shops if you’re hoping for a bargain that’s more ethical.
Don’t know where to start or which brands to consider when shopping for newly made items? Check out my curated collection of ethical fashion brands on my Shop page.
The Amount of Clothing Waste Is Astronomical
Lastly, it is important to consider the longevity of your clothing when shopping for your wardrobe. Fast fashion relies on trends that come and go quickly, leading to clothing that is often worn only a few times before being discarded. This leads to a significant amount of waste and contributes to the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
When shopping for your wardrobe, choose clothing that is well-made and can be worn for years to come. Look for classic styles that are versatile and can be dressed up or down, and avoid trendy pieces that will quickly go out of style. And again, don’t discount thrift, vintage, or secondhand shops. Some of my most complimented pieces in my wardrobe came from thrift and luxury consignment shops. I even scored a really cool summer top last week from a thrift store for $12! That’s less than I would have paid at H&M or ZARA, and by choosing that item, I’m continuing its lifecycle.
What You Can Do
The deplorable ethics of fast fashion cannot be ignored when shopping for your wardrobe. If you’re looking to make a change in your shopping habits, it is important to consider the impact of fast fashion on the environment and the workers who make these clothes. That’s why it’s best to avoid shopping directly from fast fashion whenever possible—and if you need to shop on a budget, browse secondhand fashion first!
When shopping “first hand”, choose sustainable materials, ethical brands, and long-lasting clothing in timeless styles that can be worn for years to come. By shopping responsibly for your wardrobe, you can make a positive impact on the fashion industry and contribute to a more sustainable and ethical future. Remember, you as a consumer vote with your dollars. Choose to shop with companies and brands that align with the fashion future you’d like to see.
Browse My Favourite Ethical Fashion Pieces
Not sure where to look for ethically-made fashion? Interested in swapping leather for bio-leathers? Check out some of my tried-and-true favourites below. And for even more ideas on vegan beauty products, ethical luxury accessories, and more, browse my Shop page to see curated collections of the standout pieces I’ve personally tested and grown to adore.