I Purchased Fast Fashion. Now What?
Recently my youngest daughter needed some new underpants. I have a reputation in my family for taking my sweet time when purchasing things like this. I research the sustainable options online and as I'm so aesthetically driven, I take even longer to choose the design I like. It often involves multiple tabs open on my computer with me trying to remember where the style or the online shop was that had my favourite option. As you can see, this can take time! Becuase there are no sustainable kids clothing shops close to me and my daughter was definately drawing the line at second-hand undies, an online purchase needed to be made. Having been asked about a month ago and still I hadn't looked online, my daughter put her foot down and told me today was the day, she needed her new undies…now!
What happened next? We bought them at a fast fashion chain.
Yes, I shopped fast fashion
One word comes to mind, hypocrite. I go on and on (and on and on and on, according to my kids) about NOT supporting fast fashion, and here I was buying fast fashion. And I didn't even just buy the underpants. She wanted a pair of leggings, and I bought them too! It's important I share this with you because I want you to know that this is a judgment-free zone and transparency is important to me. If I show you on my socials about my life involved in sustainable fashion, but I don't show you the times that I slip up and buy fast fashion, then you may compare yourself against an ideal that is not actually real. I've never pretended to be perfect and I don't expect you to be either. So what do we do when we find ourselves shopping fast fashion?
be Intentional about it
The issue with society's spending habits isn't the occasional shop at a fast fashion chain. It's the excessive purchasing that has become the norm that fast fashion has ever so kindly jumped in and helped to enable. I'll admit, as a full-time working parent, I find it hard to buy sustainably when I've got a lot on my plate, as would anyone in our society, because our society is a bit busy and nuts at the moment.
The first thing to remember is to not beat yourself up about it. I used to feel really guilty when I shopped in these stores. But for some reason, it would actually make me buy more things. Not sure why, maybe a therapist could help me with that one. On this visit, we chose to shop intentionally. We had a chat about going in for what we needed before we entered the store. We found the underwear section, my daughter chose the design she liked and we walked to the cash registers. It didn't stop her asking me for about 20 other items on the way out but we stayed strong, or rather I stayed strong and she kept asking for more things. It was a bit exhausting and I was glad when we left.
These fast fashion chains are experts at making you think you need something that you really don't. You know the scenario, you pop into a shop for one thing and come out with a trolley full of items you had no idea you needed. That is shopping randomly and unintentionally and it is keeping fast fashion in business.
Fast fashion's business models price their items so low that they rely on mass purchasing to keep themselves out of the red. It is not the occasional small purchase at a fast fashion chain that is supporting fast fashion. If we all did this then they would be out of business quickly, and wouldn't that be nice!
Preparation is key
If you are anything like me, the less prepared and organized you are in your day, the more likely you are to make bad shopping decisions and slip up in a fast fashion store. I feel this is actually more of an issue than we give credit for. The busyness we are finding our lives in is hurting the planet. So much of our time is used being reactive rather than being intentional and fast fashion takes advantage of this.
You know that question we get from friends of “How have you been, busy?” shows just how normal it is to be busy, or rather how much of a badge of honour it is. Being busy distracts us from what matters. Like not supporting fast fashion. Slow fashion isn't as accessible as fast fashion and I'm not going to beat around the bush, it is harder to shop sustainably. Even more so when we are busy.
To me, busyness and a lack of organization go hand in hand. My organizational skills have been something that I have been focusing on this year. Not just so I can feel less stressed, but because I want to focus on what matters, what's important to me. I know this doesn't happen when I'm not organized. And if we go back to these undies again (it always comes back to the undies!) if I was more organized and shopped online, I may not even need to write an article like this.
Own it and learn from it
If I only had one motto for life it would be to Own It. What this means to me is stop making excuses. We are all in control of this wonderful life we have been blessed with and it's up to us to be accountable for our own actions. As an ethical fashion designer who is anti-fast fashion, I own the fact that I walked into a huge fast fashion chain and made a purchase. I own it so much so that I'm telling you all about it, so you know I'm not perfect and it's ok that you are not perfect too. But I'm sure as hell not making an excuse about why I did it other than the lack of organization which I am fully accountable for.
Treat fast fashion like it's expensive
Just because it's cheap and fast doesn't mean we need to treat it that way. Someone worked hard at minimum wage, which isn't even enough to live off, to make this garment so it could find it's way into shops. People don't value fast fashion, because fast fashion doesn't value people. It leaves a cheap taste in our mouths after the pre-purchase endorphin rush has left us and this has escalated into our wear-it-once culture that couldn't exist without fast fashion.
So store it correctly, keep it off the floor, wash it with respect, and wear it until it has so many holes it can't be mended. Just like you would a favourite winter coat that cost you a whole month's wage.