Over two years ago, I went on a Fast Fashion Fast.
Since then, 90% of my clothing purchases have been second-hand, vintage, hand-me-down, ethically produced, or Canadian-made.
What’s fast fashion? Cheap clothes produced in a hurry by mass-market retailers, usually imitating the latest catwalk trends.
Most of us have enjoyed the benefits of fast fashion: a cute top for the holiday party, affordable school clothes for our kids, easy access to whatever fashion trend is happening right now. And when we’ve worn that item a few times? In the giveaway pile — or the trash — it goes! No big deal, right?
Except it IS a big deal. Every year, North Americans send 10 MILLION TONNES of clothing to the landfill and the average person throws away 37 KILOGRAMS of textiles. Around the world, we produce 100 BILLION new garments annually.
This doesn’t even touch the environmental cost: 10% of our global carbon impact comes from the textile industry, and 79 million cubic metres of water are used each year to make clothes we don’t actually need. (Not to mention those pesky sweat shops and child labour.)
What the actual hell?
Listen, I’m no environmental superstar, but I DO wake up in a cold sweat of climate anxiety on a regular basis. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.
I know what you’re thinking: “Oh my gaaaaawwwwd. I don’t have time to research every single clothing purchase.” But consider this: If you could make your fast fashion consumption 20% more sustainable, would you do it?
You would! And I’m here to help you.
Herewith, my rules for sloooowing down your fashion choices.
Think style, not fashion.
Fashion comes and goes, but style is forever. You know what you love, what you feel good in, and what looks good on you. Not sure if an outfit will stand the test of time? Imagine a photo of yourself on the mantlepiece in that getup in 10 or 20 years. Will it make you want to die? If the answer is yes, or even maybe, leave it on the rack.
Good used is better than cheap new.
I wear my clothes for a really long time. My grade 12 prom dress is still in rotation. (True story: a fabulous Simon Chang number my very stylish mother had the foresight to invest in circa 1988.) A high-quality used garment fits better, lasts longer, and won’t go out of style. I love Penelope’s Boutique for great quality second-hand and amazing vintage.
Thrift is my life.
I live for Frenchy’s, Value Village, and any other true thrift shop. Same rules apply: if you know what to look for, you can get marvellous high-quality garments at low, low prices. It takes practice, and resist the urge to buy stuff that’s just okay. Five bucks is five bucks, and an ill-fitting, junky shirt is not a good investment, even at 50 cents. And if you need a fast, fun fashion fix, you can pick up a totally unique, one-of-a-kind, trendy thing or two for under $20.
Spring for an investment piece once in a while.
Here’s the joyous thing about shopping second-hand: You can use the money you save to invest in a few beautiful, long-lasting items you love. Sattva is my favourite for ethical, sustainable, gorgeous, interesting clothes. I can’t afford to shop there all the time, but two or three times a year I treat myself.
Local Fashion Rocks
It’s still not super-easy to find ethical, sustainable, and local clothing options, but here are a few ideas: Vivacious Vixen in downtown Dartmouth is THE source for vintage-inspired, locally designed and made clothing. Art Pays Me is one of my favourites — it’s a small range of socially conscious and ultra-cool clothes by Halifax designer Duane Jones. New Scotland Clothing Company offers Canadian-made casual wear and My Home Apparel, based in Truro, has a range of Canadian-made clothing and donates 5% of profits to homelessness initiatives across the country.
I’m not here to tell you how to shop. And I’m not saying you can never grab that darling dress off the sale rack again. What I CAN tell you is that since starting my Fast Fashion Fast, the way I think about shopping (for everything) has completely changed.
I’m less impulsive, I don’t shop to make myself feel better, I buy local, and my clothes are — I think! — even more awesome than ever. (Even though last night my son described my luscious thrifted coat as “only a little bit wrong.” Whatever, kid. WhattaYOUknow!?)
As we close in on Consumption Fest 2019, get out there and find your locally-made investment piece, one-of-a-kind vintage garment, or ethical buy.
It’s the perfect opportunity to try those plaid culottes or 80s shoulder pads you’ve been eyeing. COME ON! You know you want to.