Are you champing at the bit to unleash your inner fashionista while also on a mission to live more sustainably? It’s a conundrum for many. But learning how to stop fast fashion starts with the individual consumer. We can’t just wait for companies and fashion brands to wake up.
Luckily, sustainable fashion is increasing in popularity, and more and more brands are catching on because they realize the environmental impact of fast fashion. So, you may think you can’t keep up with the latest trends if you’re also eco-conscious, but it can be done.
In this post, I will give you nine easy tips on slitting the throat of fast fashion and rocking a killer wardrobe without murdering the planet in the process.
So grab your switchblade … err, um … I mean your handy dandy note-taking tool, and let’s dive in.
How Do You Stop Fast Fashion?
Tip #1 – Go hunting for those oldies but goodies
No, you don’t need a hunting rifle or a bow and arrow. Only an open mind and a willingness to embrace the possibility of finding some outfits you once loved … and still do.
Look, we put clothes up for a reason. Either they don’t fit anymore, they’re out of season, or we think they’re out of date. And while that may be true, some of those old clothes might still be in great condition, and you can learn to fall in love with them all over again.
Remember that shirt you wore on vacation several years ago? Maybe it’ll go perfectly with those pants you bought last winter.
And that sweater Grandma gave you for Christmas? Well, okay, that might be a titch embarrassing to wear to the company party. But you could put it on when you visit her for Thanksgiving. And someday, it’ll make the perfect centerpiece for that memory blanket your aunt promised to make.
If your old clothes are in bad shape, you can donate them to an organization that accepts fabric scraps, or upcycle them into a pet bed or cleaning rags.
This is a good way to stop fast fashion in its tracks, and we’re only getting started.
Tip #2 – Host a clothing swap party
Years ago, when my daughter Kim was very young, my mom’s dear friend would give us bags of clothes that her daughters had outgrown. The age difference between them is around 10+ years, so it was a great way for her to get some hand-me-downs.
And many of the clothes were still new with tags or barely worn and in great shape.
I didn’t have much extra money then, and her father wasn’t paying child support regularly, so I needed all the help I could get. I remember how fun it was going through the bags with her and finding all these new clothes and outfits she loved. And some of them fit me as well, especially the ones from her older daughter.
I always felt a little bad that I couldn’t swap clothes with her, and I didn’t have anything to give her in return, other than my undying appreciation.
But what would have been a good idea was to suggest that she and I host a clothing swap.
This is something you can do with your friends, co-workers, or neighbors. And the more people who show, the more fun items you all have to pick from. Plus, trying on “new to you” clothes and finding unique items you can’t find anywhere else is a blast.
If you’re concerned that people won’t show, you could turn it into a party to entice people to come. Offer snacks or make it a potluck/clothing swap. Make mimosas or have a door prize or two.
Tip #3 – Visit community clothing sales
I hardly ever took my daughter clothes shopping when she was younger because my mom was constantly picking up clothes for her, getting hand-me-downs from her friends, or visiting these community children’s clothing sales.
The first time I went to one, Kim was about three years old, and I was blown away by the number of clothing racks, not just for babies and toddlers but for older kids as well. I could pick up a ton of used clothes to last for the next 6-9 months at a fraction of the cost and simultaneously keep clothes out of the landfill.
I mean, do kids really need new clothes? They’re kind of rough on them, especially if they’re really active, and unless they need an outfit for a special occasion and they don’t have anything in their closet, buying second-hand is the way to go if you’re looking to stop fast fashion.
Most of them are hosted at local churches or preschools. Parents donate the clothes, and the proceeds either go to the preschool/church or they might be split between the hosting organization and the parents, making it a win for everyone, including the planet.
Tip #4 Buy (or rent) secondhand clothes
You guys should know by now how much I love thrift stores, and I can’t go without mentioning them here because they’re a great place to find old clothes that are unique and still in great condition.
And, if you love vintage clothes, this is the best way to find them. Vintage fashion is full of charm, and I love to think about the stories behind the older clothes I’m wearing.
Don’t just limit yourself to thrift stores, either. Check your area for consignment shops that have a decent selection of clothing.
I live in Wilmington, NC, and we are blessed with a number of consignment stores. Not long ago I visited almost all of them in one day in search of a very specific type of outfit. (I hope to do a write-up soon on the best thrift stores in Wilmington).
If your hometown doesn’t have a good selection or you want to branch out a little, consider buying from an online thrift or consignment store.
I’ve put together a list of online thrift stores you can feel good about supporting, and you’ll also find a guide there on how to thrift the right way.
One more way to stop fast fashion is to rent your clothes. It’s a great way to keep clothes out of the landfill, showcase your personal style, and keep up with the latest fashion trends.
A couple of online stores have achieved phenomenal success with this concept. Nuuly is one such brand, but here’s a short list of some other clothing rental companies to check out whether you want a fancy outfit, a pair of shoes or a pair of jeans, or something for your kid to wear to their first dance.
- Rainey’s Closet (mostly for kids but they have maternity clothes too)
- Rent the Runway (“elevated” workwear or evening wear for women)
- Tulerie (peer-to-peer rental)
- Fashion to Figure (for the curvy woman)
Tip #5 Purchase a capsule wardrobe
A capsule wardrobe is a minimalist approach to clothing, consisting of versatile and essential pieces that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits. The concept of a capsule wardrobe emphasizes quality over quantity, focusing on timeless, classic styles that transcend seasonal trends.
A capsule wardrobe eliminates excess clothes and promotes simplicity, efficiency, and sustainability. It allows individuals to save time, money, and energy in selecting their daily outfits while still looking stylish and put together.
It truly allows you to embrace conscious fashion.
You can make your own capsule wardrobe out of existing pieces, but I’ve done a little research and found that the best sustainable capsule wardrobe brands include Cossac, Eileen Fisher, and Vetta (Vetta recently closed but you can still buy their used clothes online).
Tip # 6 Make your own clothes
If you’ve been itching to learn how to sew, now’s your golden opportunity.
You’ll have total control over the materials you use, allowing you to lean into eco-friendly fabrics such as organic cotton and linen or recycled materials.
Here are some other benefits to making your own clothes:
- Reduces the environmental impact associated with conventional fabric production.
- Promotes a more mindful approach to consumption overall.
- Encourages us to appreciate the value of clothing.
- Fosters a deeper connection to our wardrobe and reduces the desire for constant novelty.
- We’re more likely to cherish and care for handmade clothes, extending their lifespan and reducing waste.
- Enables customization and personalization because you can tailor garments to your exact measurements and preferences, ensuring a perfect fit and reducing the likelihood of discarded or poorly-fitted items.
- Minimizes the need for excessive production, transportation, and packaging associated with mass-produced clothing.
- Allows for the upcycling of old garments or using fabric remnants, reducing textile waste and giving new life to materials that might otherwise end up in landfills.
Making your own clothes embraces the principles of slow fashion, emphasizing quality, durability, and conscious consumption. It empowers individuals to take an active role in reducing their ecological footprint and supports a more sustainable and ethical approach to dressing.
Tip #7 Support ethical and sustainable brands
It should come as no surprise that stopping fast fashion includes supporting slow fashion brands that use eco-friendly materials.
It’s also important to purchase from companies with a transparent supply chain that practice fair labor as well as ones that maintain overall sustainable practices.
Whether shopping for summer swimwear or a nice, sustainable winter coat, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
Let’s look first at the best natural fabrics and sustainable materials. These fabrics are made in a way that doesn’t leave behind toxins, uses less water than other fabrics, and doesn’t require massive deforestation.
- organic linen
- organic cotton
- recycled cotton (more eco-friendly than organic cotton)
- recycled polyester (rPET)
- Deadstock fabric (made from fashion “cutaways”)
*is potentially sustainable but depends on how ethically the animals are treated, farm workers, and whether or not they come with certifications that ensure they are toxin free and eco-friendly.
Avoid the following materials as they are either made with toxic chemicals, require deforestation or petroleum drilling, utilize too many resources to manufacture, or do not have longevity.
- conventional cotton
- fabrics labeled stain-proof, wrinkle-free, permanent press, etc.
Some sustainable brands include the following.
- Harvest & Mill
- Groceries Apparel
- Sense Organics
- Made Trade
- Fair Indigo
- Christy Dawn
- Girlfriend Collective
- For Days
And here are some fast fashion companies to avoid at all costs as they use toxic chemicals, do not practice fair labor (one in particular is accused of refusing to hire black people), practice unsafe working conditions, and overall contribute greatly to climate change. This list is NOT exhaustive.
- H&M (falsely marketed a line as “sustainable”)
- Pretty Little Thing
- Forever 21
- Urban Outfitters
- Brandy Melville
- Victoria’s Secret
By supporting ethical fashion brands, you’ll contribute to reducing harmful environmental impacts caused by the fast fashion industry, like pollution, deforestation, and water scarcity, while also promoting social responsibility and the well-being of laborers and employees.
Tip #8 Spread the word
If you have a social media following, you can become an advocate for sustainable fashion.
Show off outfits you’ve thrifted or made shamelessly. Be proud of what you’re doing to protect the environment. Share your tips on shopping habits and how to score great ethical and eco-friendly finds.
Make sure to use relevant hashtags and remember that your choices influence and inspire others to make a positive change.
Tip #9 Write to political leaders
You might think you’re a nobody or that you don’t have a voice. But if you’re really motivated to effect change, and you enjoy doing so at the government level, then writing to political leaders is one way to advocate for changes in laws that can reduce the devastating effects of fast fashion on the planet.
By expressing your concerns and urging them to take action, you can be a part of influencing policy decisions.
Many politicians are responsive to the concerns of their constituents, and of course, many care about the planet and are aware of the problem. But weighing in on these issues lights a fire (the good kind) that weeds out toxic laws and leaders.
To learn about the current policies in place, head over to Fashion FWD and look at their article that outlines what’s currently allowed and what is prohibited in the US. It’s pretty mind-boggling, to be honest.
How to Stop Fast Fashion – Some Final Thoughts
Learning how to stop fast fashion isn’t hard. It just requires a small and steady changes to the way we shop. You don’t even to change the way you dress or anything.
But you do need to be aware of who you’re buying from, what they stand for, and how those products are made.
As consumers, we need to be more conscientious of what we’re supporting when we buy from non sustainable fashion brands. We need to fully understand the long-term consequences of what these companies are doing to our planet, to factory workers, to some of the communities that are negatively impacted by growing and harvesting materials needed, and to our health.
I think if you start by following even a few of these tips, you’ll be well on your way to ending fast fashion without sacrificing an awesome wardrobe.