The Basics of Slow Fashion and Ethical Shopping

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

I’m sure you’ve heard the term fast fashion before, but if you haven’t, here is the dictionary definition:

“Fast Fashion is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers for designs that move from catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends. It is not only about quickly moving from runway to store to consumer, but also quickly to the garbage.”

Did you get that last part? Quickly to the garbage.

These products are made quickly using cheap labor. They are sold to us for unreasonably cheap prices because they are horrible quality. They wear out and need to be thrown away, or even worse, they “go out of fashion” and are also thrown away.

I honestly can’t believe how we as a society fell victim to advertising. Yes, these items are cheap, but if you are buying them constantly and only wearing them a handful of times, imagine how much money and resources are wasted. Imagine how many people were paid unfair wages for you to throw that item away.

I don’t understand how so many companies got away with this before we learned the truth. According to this study, Americans don’t wear 82% of clothes, they go completely unworn. Imagine if we shopped more consciously and didn’t buy everything we thought we wanted or needed. Imagine how much time, money, and resources we could save. If you want to read more about fast fashion, click here.

Featured brands: Happy Glass Co necklace and Green Spirits tee

So what are the alternatives?

First, as an individual, you need to evaluate yourself. How much of your wardrobe are you wearing? How much of your wardrobe goes unworn? How many of these items do you actually need?

I’m not saying you need to convert to minimalism and a capsule wardrobe, but maybe you can reduce your purchases a little bit. Next time you go shopping, stop and evaluate your purchases. Ask yourself if you need that item right now or even at all.

A tip I like to use is to put items you want in a list on your phone. If you go a week or a month without thinking about that item, you don’t need it and clearly can live just fine without it.

We often get sucked into this idea that we need everything. We need more clothes, more stuff. We need to be fashionable and stylish. We need to go shopping. Those are just wants, not needs.

The good news, though, is that you can still shop and you can still be fashionable; you just have to be a bit more conscious about your decisions and where your money is going.

Entire outfit was thrifted locally here in Okinawa

First, try shopping second hand.

I won't go too in-depth about this hear, this is a topic for another day, but basically second-hand shopping is the best way to shop. These items are not contributing to supply and demand and the waste cycle. Second-hand shopping is basically just reusing items that have already been created and no new materials have to be extracted, harvested, and created into something new.

But, this truly might not be for everyone, and I get that. Though, this doesn't mean you still can't quit fast fashion. There are still other alternatives.

Featured brands: Happy Glass Co necklace, Pura Vida bracelet and Green Spirits tee

Shopping ethically and sustainably is the next step.

By shopping ethically, sustainably, and from small businesses, you are ensuring that everyone in the production chain is getting paid a fair wage instead of helping CEOs make another $1 million. While, yes, these big corporations do supply jobs to people, they often search out the cheapest labor. This is often women and children who are exploited. They are not paid fairly, they work overtime, they work in unsafe conditions, and we, as consumers, are fueling this fire. By purchasing from these companies, you are essentially supporting how they treat their employees. For more information, click here.

Choosing an ethical company means that everyone in the production chain gets paid a fair wage and they great treated fairly.

*Most* ethical brands are also sustainable brands. This means that you aren’t contributing nearly as much to emissions and pollution. Fast fashion clothing is almost always polyester. If you didn’t know, polyester is just plastic fibers that break down when they are washed, releasing microplastics into our waterways. When these garments are thrown away, they will never break down completely. Sustainable companies also strive for paper packaging, reducing emissions as much as they can, and reducing their carbon footprint as a whole.

Featured brands: Happy Glass Co necklace, Pura Vida bracelet and Green Spirits tee and bag

There are a lot of benefits

Not to mention, these garments typically last much longer. Ethically and sustainably made garments are of higher quality and are not designed to be thrown away. They are designed to last a long time.

Something to keep in mind, though, is that ethically and sustainably made clothing is going to be more expensive in comparison. Of course, this is because everyone must get paid fair wages and sustainably sourced materials is more expensive than polyester.

But, think about your “cost per wear” of your clothes. If you buy a shirt that is $30 and you take care of it, it can last you a year or more. Let’s say you wear it once a month, that’s 12 times a year meaning it really only cost you $2.58 to wear it each time. If you wear it once a week, that’s 52 times a year meaning that it costs you $0.58 per each wear! Though these items might seem like a lot at first, they last significantly longer and teaches you to appreciate your clothing and take better care of it. The better you take care of it, the longer it lasts, the more you wear it, and more bang you get for your buck.

Entire outfit is thrifted, necklace is from Happy Glass Co and bracelet is from Pura Vida

Think about what you want to support

Do you want to support the exploitation of women and children? Or do you want to support fair wages, living conditions, and working conditions?

Do you want to support plastic clothing and excess pollution? Or do you want to reduce your carbon footprint even more?

Do you want to help corporations make millions and still not do any good in the world? Or do you want to help small businesses or eco-friendly business thrive and give back to communities?

Do your research

Your favorite small business might not be sourcing their materials from ethical and sustainable sources. Those brands that say they are helping wildlife or women in need, might not be putting their money where their mouth is.

Spend some time looking for ethically and sustainably made products the next time you need something. Read the brands “about” section. Contact them if you have to. This might sound tedious, but if you sit down and think about it, it will make a big difference in people’s lives.

You can still be a “shopaholic” and be “fashionable.” But, do it the right way. Shop ethically, shop sustainably, and even shop second hand. One of the greenest ways to shop is to buy a product that has already been made instead of a brand new item. You can read more about that here.

We can change the face of fashion, one ethical brand and one customer at a time.

Featured brands: Pura Vida bracelet and Green Spirits tee

Remember, your small changes have a big impact in the long run.

- Emma

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