How do I purchase to avoid the pitfalls of fast fashion?
If you have read the recent article here at VIVA GLAM on fast fashion, you might be shocked at what really drives the garment industry. Now, you might be privy to information that you might not have wanted to know. But now that you are aware of the negative effects of fast fashion, what can you do to help correct this unethical situation?
ICYDK, “fast fashion” is a term that refers to the way we currently purchase fashion. During the past ten years, the way we create, purchase and sell fashion has dramatically changed. We used to buy fewer items at a higher cost. But today’s ever increasing demand for fashion has created “fast fashion”.
Have you noticed that a blazer that might have cost $50.00 seven years ago now costs only $19.95? I noticed it too! And I wondered why the price of clothing seemed to be going down while everything else seemed to be going up. Houses, cars, education and other high-ticket items were getting more and more expensive. Yet, I could purchase a cute top at Forever 21 for $4.99. At first, I was excited because I felt I could purchase more and that I was getting more value for my hard earned dollar. Little did I know the price others were paying for my crop top.
You see, in order for fast fashion to work, demands must be high. And in order for companies to keep up with high demands, they outsource manufacturing to developing countries. In fact, 97% of manufacturing is now outsourced to third world countries. The making of clothing has been outsourced to these countries where the economy is low and therefore wages are kept low. How low? The average garment worker in Bangladesh makes approximately $2.10 US a day.
This was a staggering fact to me. There is simply no way to live within reasonable standards on less than $3.00 a day. Factory workers interviewed in the documentary, “The True Cost” said when they first started working they made $20.00 US a month.
Knowing this information, I began to re-think how I purchased clothing. After all, fashion designer Stella McCartney said it best when she said, “The customer has to know they are in charge. Without them, we don’t have jobs. That is really important.” So understanding that I, as a consumer, had control over what I chose to purchase was vital.
Now, I also understand the power of propaganda that permeates our daily lives without many of us even being aware of it. The garment industry fills our existence with propaganda in the form of billboards, commercials and print ads. In these ads, we see beautiful people living beautiful lives wearing the advertiser’s clothing. The message: you too can lead a happy, fulfilled life if you purchase our product. I am trying to be more aware of the true message behind advertising. And I am ever more increasingly aware that the pursuit of buying things will not make me any happier.
I am now seeking a different way of consuming in a humane way. Don’t get me wrong, it is very difficult for me to think I will never go to Forever 21, The Gap, H & M, Zara, Target, Walmart, Steve Madden and the countless other companies that I used to purchase clothing from. In fact, after understanding what was behind fast fashion, I didn’t know what to do!
Previously, I used to visit the mall and purchase fast fashion items for the sole purpose of social media. If I were going on a trip, I’d buy several inexpensive items to wear. And if I didn’t like them, embarrassingly enough, I’d throw them away. I wore them for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I either donated or threw away in garbage bags clothing without much thought. Today, I am ashamed of this, but am making amends to move forward in a compassionate way.
So, what am I going to do? First off, I encourage you to ask yourself a simple question, “Where do my clothes come from?” When you go shopping, don’t just look at the price tag, look at the label and see where an item is made. If it is made in India, Cambodia or other third world countries, I would think twice about purchasing it. Even if it is a “good deal”, think about the true cost of purchasing that item.
Instead, I am going to purchase items not made in underdeveloped countries. I will purchase from the US, Italy, Japan, Canada and other countries that pay workers a viable wage. These items are harder to find as 97% of manufacturing is now in third world countries. And purchasing from a developed country may mean the item is higher priced. But know that your purchase is a humane one and therefore better. Remember, far away from the US, large corporations are able to avoid all accountability for human and environmental costs by sourcing cheap labor.
I will purchase less, better quality items than before. Therefore, I will throw away less. After all, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry on earth, second only to the oil industry.
And I have started purchasing gently used second-hand items online. These are higher end designer items that were made in Italy, France or the US and are priced at a more affordable cost because they are used. I’ve purchased at EBAY and other sites such as Poshmark and have been pleased with my items. I might be wearing a blazer more than once, but I’m not worried about the trappings of social media that tell me I need to be seen in a different outfit in each post.
These are just a few, easy ways to avoid the trappings of fast fashion. But start by asking the simple question, “Where do MY clothes come from?” And I believe compassion will lead you the rest of the way to a new way of purchasing fashion.
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