July 07, 2021

How Can We Fight Fast Fashion?

By Elisa Rerolle
How Can We Fight Fast Fashion?

How Can We Fight Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is destroying our planet by churning out garments that don't last, pushing consumption by creating FOMO (fear of missing out) in consumers, and dumping pollutants into the air and waterways. Yet, there are many ways to fight fast fashion. In these words, get inspiration from what other people are doing and find out how you can do your part.

Indigo dyed blue shirt with sashiko embroidery

Indigo-dyed GOTS-certified organic linen garments are hand dyed and embroidered by Jenny Fong of Modern Shibori. 

Fast fashion vs. Sustainable fashion

The revolving door of fashion trends has an inevitable by-product: as yesterday’s “in” becomes today’s “out,” clothes are shoveled out of closets and into the garbage. Welcome to the world of fast fashion. To keep up, shoppers must always be renewing their wardrobe.

With this style of purchasing, there are costs that reach beyond the patron’s bank account. “Fast fashion has become more prevalent; clothing is produced on shorter time frames with new designs appearing every few weeks to satisfy demand for the latest trends, but with this comes increased consumption and more waste”1. In this, the cycle that creates the speed of fast fashion - an attribute so defining that it is literally found in its name - is born.  The statistics are frightening: (In 2014, consumers) were buying 60% more than in 2000.

McKinsey Report on consumer consumption of clothing

Each garment is worn less before being disposed of and this shorter lifespan means higher relative manufacturing emissions”1. This high turnover is the foundation of fast fashion.

Take instead the philosophy behind sustainable fashion. The frantic pace of buying is slowed down and clothes are made to last. 

Modern Shibori, a sustainable fashion brand, considers much more than just the silhouette when designing and making clothes.

The result: high quality garments that are meant to be passed down generationally, not passed into landfill after a few months. 

The following are carefully considered in the creation process: which fabric will last the longest and cause the least damage to the planet, which dyes are natural and not synthetic, how many different looks can the wearer get out of the piece for their capsule wardrobe... all leading to a garment that stays in circulation for a long time, adding to a circular economy. These are fashionable and also durable clothes. 

High quality garments from Modern Shibori that are made to last.

Each Modern Shibori garment's details from fabric to dyes to trims is thoughtfully considered to produce beautiful and durable pieces.

The result: high quality garments that are meant to be passed down generationally, not passed into landfill after a few months. Jenny Fong, Modern Shibori’s designer and founder, makes clothing that she calls “future heritage” pieces. Sustainable fashion is slow fashion.

The cost of fast fashion

So what does an ever-increasing rate of fashion production really mean, beyond the obvious cost to you, the consumer? There is a much bigger environmental and social price to pay to keep up the frantic pace.

These statistics illustrate the magnitude of impact (and were originally published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation):

  • “Every year the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water — enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people.”2
  • “Around 20 % of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.”2
  • “The fashion industry is responsible for 10 % of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 % by 2030.”2
  • “Every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. The danger? Microfibers cannot be extracted from the water and they can spread throughout the food chain.”2

A $5 dollar t-shirt may seem like a bargain at first, but ultimately its price tag has a lot more devastating consequences - especially when the piece of clothing is cheaply made and will need to be replaced soon after purchase.

Choosing sustainable businesses when shopping for clothes means fighting back against that dark side of fashion. It also means using your shopping time and budget efficiently, as your beloved purchases will last you a long time. Why fall in love with pants if they won’t last? Choosing “future heritage” pieces like the ones Jenny designs for Modern Shibori means accumulating memories in your favorite clothes for many years.

Here's a rack of clothing I dyed. Each piece is made from organic fabric and natural dyes.

Consumers have options to purchase fewer better garments that will last a lifetime.

What can you do to fight fast fashion?

Awareness is the first step. But what next? NPR came up with 5 tips to ditch fast fashion, which is a great place to start:

  1. “Don't think of your clothes as disposable”3

“Symphony Clarke, known as the Thrift Guru on social media ... recommends a 30-wear test: When shopping, ask yourself if you'd wear that item 30 times or more.”3

A good sub-point to this: it’s good to consider if the item of clothing is high quality enough to survive 30 cycles (or more!) in the wash. In the long run, investing in high-quality, basic essentials that will survive indefinitely turns out to be a better investment than replacing the same item of clothing - even cheap clothing - over and over. 

  1. “Revamp or ‘thrift flip’ your clothing and accessories”3

“Clarke established her own personal style by revamping — taking something old and changing it up. She gives clothes a fresh feel by cutting them up or adding some new details. This is also known as upcycling.”3

You can get some help in “revamping” clothes: Modern Shibori offers upcycling of past garments - with an option of re-dyeing and/or custom embroidery. Giving a well-loved item of clothing a second chance and fresh start can be a rewarding move.

  1. “Get rid of your clothing responsibly”3

“Organize a clothing swap with friends or sell your unneeded items on resale sites.”3 

Jenny is thinking of starting a Modern Shibori clothing swap. What better way to switch up your wardrobe without condemning clothes that still have a lot of life in them!

  1. “Buy second-hand when you're in the mood for something ‘new’”3

“Since the pandemic means many people avoid extra in-person shopping, thrifting online is more and more widespread.

‘You don't have to have the hassle of going into the thrift store and feeling overwhelmed,’ Clarke says.

You can buy on the same sites people sell their clothes.”3

Find fashion inspiration and amazing deals on dedicated resale sites such as ThredUp, Poshmark, Depop, and The Real Real. 4

  1. “Get educated”3

Some fashion campaigns are misleading, relying on greenwashing to appeal to consumers. Learn to look out for everly exaggerated campaigns for a fairer, more sustainable fashion industry. Elizabeth Cline, author of The Conscious Closet: A Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good, defines greenwashing as "when companies either intentionally mislead consumers or just oversell and embellish the efforts they're making to be more sustainable.3

Your purchasing power as a consumer can change the lay of the fashion land. Supporting businesses that are genuinely investing in their workers and the planet can help grow slow, sustainable fashion - to the point that it can outpace fast fashion.

Fashion visionary Caprece Jackson of Baltimore

Caprece Jackson of Baltimore has nurtured the sustainable fashion scene there since 2011.

A fashion visionary’s fight against fast fashion

Jenny met with Caprece Jackson, who operates out of Baltimore, to discuss her journey and social engagement around sustainable fashion. They discovered each other on Instagram, where they quickly found that they share a love for fashion and a desire to act against climate change. Caprece’s story is a great example of how you can fight fast fashion by creating community and awareness around sustainable fashion. 

Caprece found an outlet in Instagram during the pandemic, where she found inspiration in art and fashion. Fashion is a core part of her identity, and she has been organizing focusing on involving herself in sustainable fashion events in Baltimore since 2011. She created fashion shows that banded together an emerging sustainable fashion community full of wearable artists, upcycle and zero-waste designers, and natural dyers. She’s considered a fashion visionary for Baltimore and has plans to tour the country hosting clothing swaps she calls “Swapeterias” during the fall of 2021.

Find out more about Caprece and her efforts as Jenny interviewed her on Modern Shibori’s IGTV Instagram page (@modernshibori). 

Are you interested in joining the fight against fast fashion? Share your ideas on how you can contribute in the comments below.

Resources:

1 The price of fast fashion

2 How Much Do Our Wardrobes Cost to the Environment? 

3 5 Tips To Ditch Fast Fashion And Cultivate A Sustainable Closet

4 Resale sites: ThredUp, Poshmark, Depop and The Real Real

Additional Reading:

The Conscious Closet: A Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good, by Elizabeth Cline

27 Sustainable Clothing Brands Changing The Fashion Industry

What is slow fashion? Movement Toward Sustainable Style is Expanding