Have any of y’all ever wondered how brands like H&M and Zara are able to bring out new collections almost every month? And how they are able to able to price their products much cheaper, have frequent sales, and still manage to make profits?  During the course of the lockdown, I came across many Instagram pages selling good-condition second-hand clothes in an effort to be more sustainable. This is when I first came across the term ‘fast fashion’. It was only when I started reading up more about fast fashion did I realise what really goes about behind the making of our clothes and it changed the way I purchase and consume products forever.

First, let’s start with the question, “what is fast fashion?”

Fast fashion is ‘fast’ in a number of senses: the rate of production is fast; the customer’s decision to purchase is fast; delivery is fast; and garments are worn fast, usually only a few times before being discarded. It is a model that is entirely unsustainable. Fast fashion brands make upwards of 10 collections a year, in comparison to the traditional fashion cycle of 2-4 collections a year. Obviously, mass production of anything results in cheaper costs of individual items and in turn inferior quality. This encourages us to buy more than we need, buy more often and undervalue the garments we already have.

Is any of this starting to sound familiar? We are all guilty of falling into the fast fashion cycle at some point but it’s extremely important to change our consumption habits.

Not only does it adversely affect the environment but also the people behind the process. If you come to think about it, when such brands are able to charge such low prices for their clothes and still continue to earn profits, someone somewhere must be suffering. From a consumer point of a view, these brands provide affordable and trendy clothing to many who might not be able to afford other brands. So, the blame can’t be put on the shoppers but rather on the billionaire owners who have created a model built to make profits for a few. It’s a toxic system that’s reliant on people overconsuming.

So what is it that we can do as consumers to buy more sustainably? What are some decisions and changes we should make?

Firstly, it starts with you, the consumer, and staying away from impulse purchases from fast-fashion retailers. You have to make a conscious decision to avoid buying from fast fashion brands as much as you can and really think through your purchases. But it’s not just about saving pennies, it’s as much thinking about who made your clothes as well as the environmental impact it has made. And it’s not just about not buying from fast fashion brands but also stopping this practice of overconsuming clothes in general. There are various brands that are more sustainable and transparent in their production and who treat the workers much better.

Some changes you can make are buying second-hand clothes or upcycling existing ones, repeating clothes more often and investing in good quality clothes, or even getting them made yourself. Try to build a more timeless wardrobe instead of giving into every trend there is. 95% of discarded clothing can be upcycled or recycled. Think of ways you can give your old clothes a new look and there is always inspiration available on the internet. And fashion trends come in waves, so hang onto that 10-year-old t-shirt, you could be wearing it again in a few years. These are conscious efforts that we as consumers need to make and though it will be hard in the beginning it’s extremely important.

As legendary fashion designer Vivienne Westwood says: ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last.’ So, the next time you’re making a purchase, I hope you’ll think twice about the impact it has made not only on the planet but also on the various people behind the process.

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