When I was younger, I used to buy fast fashion all the time. I’d only wear items once or twice – or sometimes not at all. Since the pieces were affordable, I didn’t think it was a big deal. But after taking a class on sustainability at university, my buying habits changed. I started checking clothing labels to get more information about what fabric pieces were made out of, where the clothing was made, etc., to make my shopping habits more sustainable.
Often, when my partner and I go shopping for clothes, he looks for the cheapest option. At the store, he always asks me, “Which of these two shirts is better?” I explain the difference in fabrics and quality to him, that certain materials and craftsmanship cost more, but that the piece will ultimately last longer. He often says, “But they feel the same. I don’t see how the more expensive one is any better. I think I’ll just get the cheaper one.”
When he says that, I just smile at him and say, “Watch what happens after a few washes!” A few days later, he always asks me why his shirt is already misshapen, discolored, or falling apart, and I always remind him that I’d warned him that cheaper pieces aren’t made to last. Inevitably, we have to go shopping all over again. He ends up spending the same amount of money as he would have spent on the higher-quality shirt in the first place.
What does this example show? “Affordable” clothing might not be as affordable as you think. Not everyone is concerned about the environmental impact of fast fashion, but spending a little more on a quality piece that is comfortable, high-quality, and made to last will be worth so much more in the long run.
If you’re interested in moving away from relying on fast fashion but aren’t sure where to start, remember there’s no one “right” way to approach sustainable clothing. It’s a complex issue that involves a lot of factors. However, we can get started with some easy steps:
- When deciding whether or not to buy an item, read the label. Check whether it’s made of natural or recycled fabric, and whether it’s cold-water-wash only. What your clothes are made of matters, but taking care of them is also essential to keep them in good condition long-term.
- Shift your shopping mindset. Aim to buy fewer pieces, but make every piece high-quality. This will save you money in the long run.
- Try shopping from secondhand stores. Lots of people are used to only buying new clothing, but plenty of thrift stores are full of high-quality items at a fraction of what you’d pay for them new. And thrifting is environmentally friendly.
- At the check-out counter, consider whether you actually need a bag to carry your purchases in. This is a small, but meaningful step to reduce single-use plastic and paper bags.
It’s all about finding small, actionable steps that you can fit into your life. Remember, if we all do the little things, together that can make a big difference!