Fast Fashion: What to Do When You Can’t Afford to Shop Those Fancy Brands

Published on December 24, 2019

Let’s face it; fast fashion is an easy option. Brands like Forever 21, Fashion Nova, H&M, and so many more are cheap, easy to find, and always have the latest on-trend pieces at the ready.

Fast fashion outfits are all over Instagram, and these brands know exactly how to appeal to a young audience, making them hard to avoid. The problem is that fast fashion is contributing to the destruction of the planet.

What is Fast Fashion and Why is it Bad?

Fast fashion is an environmental disaster because it’s a concept based on mass-producing cheap products as quickly as possible. The mass production to meet the demands of ever-changing trends means that items often get overproduced, and millions of dollars of clothing are left unpurchased to be disposed of or thrown away.

Burned Clothing?

There are even some reports claiming that unwanted clothing gets burned. While H&M denies participating in this practice, a Danish TV channel reported in 2017 that H&M burns tons of discarded clothing every year.

Whether or not brands are burning their clothes, overproduced and unsold garments have to be disposed of somehow. Disposal of that much waste has a negative environmental impact.

Toxicity and Worldwide Water Pollution

These fast fashion brands also mass produce their fabrics using toxic chemicals to dye fabrics, a practice that is contributing to worldwide water pollution. If that wasn’t bad enough, the majority of fast fashion clothing pieces are polyester, which, when washed or discarded, can become microplastics that end up in the oceans.

But the environment is not the only issue here.

Violating Child Labor Laws

Fast fashion is also notorious for its horrendous labor practices. Fast fashion often employs child labor and pays workers, both children and adults, next to nothing. To produce such cheap garments, brands need cheap labor.

The least expensive work comes from the poorest countries with minimal laws on child labor, safe working conditions, and wages. Fewer than 2% of garment workers make a living wage.

So What’s the Answer?

There is no shortage of sustainable brands out there, but sustainable comes at a price. These brands are using earth-friendly practices and humane labor to produce their pieces, so naturally, it’s going to cost more.

Sustainable fashion brands are amazing and should be supported whenever possible, but for those of us on a budget, it might not be an option.

That doesn’t mean fast fashion is the only choice. An excellent and affordable alternative is shopping secondhand. Thrift shops are everywhere, and it might take a little time, but fashion gems are definitely out there.

However, if you’re like me and rely almost entirely on online shopping, actually going to a thrift shop and digging through the racks might seem daunting. That’s where stores like ThredUp come in. 

ThredUp is an online secondhand store that allows you to search and find exactly what you’re looking for from shoes to jeans to dresses. New items are available every day, and there are always tons of options. ThredUp is my personal favorite, but there are tons of others out there to fit every style and preference.

Poshmark is another popular option. On Poshmark, you can find everything from designer pieces to basics. Items are resold from users for much cheaper than their original prices.

Tradesy is a high-end online thrift store, geared towards designer clothing. It’ll cost more, but there are some great pieces to find.

Shopping secondhand might not be the most glamorous idea in the world, but with some effort, you can find cool vintage pieces that are more sustainable than the fast fashion staples. Secondhand clothes won’t be carbon copies of what Kylie Jenner wore to an event last week, but you can still look good and rest easy knowing that you did something good for the planet.

In an image-conscious society, we place a premium on looking good, even at the expense of the planet, but we don’t have to. This holiday season and beyond, think before you shop and remember that fast fashion isn’t worth it. 

Olivia Smith is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in San Francisco, she covers events, entertainment, fashion, and technology. She also serves as a Voices contributor at PopSugar.

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