Ask: what do I value about these clothes? What’s their purpose? Are they making me feel better about myself? Will I wear it for a long time or is it just trendy? Does the brand’s story and ethics align with my values? Who made the clothes? Do they get fair wages?
Next time you go shopping, check the tags. Understand where your clothes are made and what their materials are. Check the seams of the clothing! They can tell you a lot about the quality of the item. If you turn the clothes inside out -for example when trying them in the dressing room- you can sometimes see the seams coming apart. Ask yourself, is this piece going to last me a long time? Are the materials organic? What are the names of factories the brand works with? Are the mills certified? Are they dealing with their dye and water appropriately?
Stay up to date with the fashion industry’s new methods to become greener, and stay alert for greenwashing.
See our article about terms in the fashion industry you need to know.
2. EXTEND THE LIFE OF YOUR EXISTING WARDROBE.
Learn the simple art of hand stitching with needles and thread. You can alter your existing clothes so that they fit you better and last longer or mix and match pieces of fabric to create new items.
3. RECYCLE, TRADE, SELL, OR DONATE YOUR CLOTHES.
Think about the dozens of items in your closet that you barely wear. Many of them still have price tags on them after months of purchase, or they haven’t been worn in years. Make it a habit to clean your closet every once in a while, perhaps every 6 months to a year. And if your items are in good condition, donate, trade, or sell them. Applications such as Poshmark, eBay, Vinted, ThreadUp, and Depop allow you to sell your existing items to extend the life of those pieces and provide them a new home while making some money.
You can also donate your clothes to help charities or grow your new second hand clothing business. Or, trade clothes with your friends! It is a very easy and exciting way to change your wardrobe and shop in your friends and family’s closets.
If the items you have are not necessarily in great condition, recycle them. Think about all the socks you have had throughout your life that you simply threw away. Did you know that in the US alone, 25 billion pounds of textile are wasted every year, and only 15% of that is recycled, while the rest goes to landfills.
4. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET + BEHAVIOR TOWARD FASHION.
Think quality over quantity. Nowadays, marketing campaigns and social media are in constant competition to encourage us to keep buying through advertisements that remind us that we are not enough or that we are lacking or that a certain product will suddenly complete us and make us happier. Buy more basic and minimalist items that can be reworn in different styles and that are of better quality instead of constantly getting cheap clothes that would only last you a few wears. See your purchase as an investment and take responsibility for your actions and choices. True, we are all tempted by fast fashion -- it’s just so accessible. However, cheap clothing means cheap labor, drastic consequences on the environment, and unethical business practices. We need to be constantly aware of the effects of our shopping choices. Perhaps try to limit purchases to once every few months.
The value of the items we own often comes from the sentimental experiences we had while using them. We all have to realize, though, that those memories and experiences are more valuable than the items themselves. Keeping a lot of items only for the sake of the experiences you associate with them can reduce the value of those memories and leave you with clutter. Yes, you can keep an item or two to remind you of someone or a certain experience, but when you have less items, each one of them becomes more and more valuable and precious.
Read our articles about minimalism.
Think about garment life cycle: its materials, how it is produced, its end life and where it ends up after use. Think also about the relationship between nature and the ethics of our actions. After researching fast fashion for a week, I entered a large department store with my mother only to realize how guilty I felt buying extremely cheap items. Of course, my mom was incredibly enthusiastic and couldn’t believe how great it was to find relatively good pieces at such cheap prices, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the people who make these clothes and their working conditions. Perhaps clothes should not be this cheap or easily accessible. Maybe they need to be expensive -to an extent- but of good quality.
Challenge yourself to wear and rewear your clothes! Challenge yourself to stop shopping for an entire year. Too difficult? Start slow. Try to not buy clothes for a month or two. But most importantly, love what you buy!
5. BUY SECON HAND +/OR RECYCLED.
Extend the life of your garments. Look up stores in your area that sell second hand items. Many of them are in great condition and sometimes haven’t even been worn, so they offer a great opportunity to get quality items for cheaper prices too. You can also buy recycled materials.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, shopping in person has become difficult or nearly impossible. You can still shop secondhand through online stores such as ReRuns and apps like Poshmark, Depop, eBay, and more.
6. FOLLOW ETHICAL FASHION PLATFORMS AND BRANDS. PROMOTE THEM WHEN YOU CAN.
Check out our feature of these ethical organizations that can help you gain knowledge and make better shopping decisions:
Good On You // IG: @goodonyou_app
Eco-Age // IG: @ecoage
Wardrobe Crisis Podcast by Clare Press // @thewardrobecrisis
Fashion Revolution // @fash_rev
Masters of Good // IG: @mastersofgood
GoodHuman // @get_goodhuman
Fashion Heroes // @fashionheroes.eco
7. EDUCATE YOURSELF.
Learn about the fashion industry and its negative effects on the environment, on people working in it, and on you! Watch TED talks, read articles, follow sites like Good On You and Good Human, and use the power you have as a consumer!
Examples of TED & TEDx Talks used in this article:
We have (purchase) power as consumers! What we choose to purchase dictates where the fashion industry is headed and how it reacts to change. Individually, it takes simple changes that add up to big changes in our lives, the environment, and producers around the world.
For more information on fast fashion and its disastrous effects on the world, see our article in the journal.
Good On You - Fast Fashion Facts
TED TALK: Fast Fashion’s Effect on People, the Planet, & You
The High Cost of our Cheap Fashion on YouTube
Medium.com Over consumption in the fashion industry