The Real Cost of Fast Fashion

Ever since I saw the words conscious living, I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. The idea of conscious living struck me because it means being aware.

It means being aware that you play a part in the world, no matter how small you think it is. It means being aware of what you consume and its effects on others as well as the state of our ever deteriorating environment. To illustrate, Antartica is melting at an alarming rate. The beginning of 2016 kickstarted with the hottest global winter in history due to the escalation of human consumption.

One of which is due to fast fashion.

Before I systematically studied about the industry, I loved fast fashion. It was the easiest way to acquire the latest trends at a reasonable price. At the time, I believed I could stay trendy without breaking the bank and that it was a win-win situation.

What I didn’t know is that the fashion industry is the second largest contributor to world pollution with oil being the first.

Secondhand finds at Treasure Island Flea Market, SF.

Fast fashion is exactly as it’s named – fast.

This means knocking off runway looks that took months of hard work and making a profit. It means exploiting human labor from third world countries in the worst working conditions.

Every piece you purchase from a fast fashion store will end up in the landfill. Why?

It’s because they were made with quantity over quality in mind, which is how landfill fashion is coined. Fast fashion businesses make their profit off mass production. To paint a picture, H&M has grown to over 3,900 stores globally. It’s also good to know that Amancio Ortega, the founder of Zara, is the second richest man on earth.

Think of how many H&M blouses have been bought and thrown away worldwide.

You might say that donating fast fashion clothing is the answer, but these pieces aren’t made to last. They are so cheap that people will throw them out without a second thought after they’ve worn out due to wear and tear or once the trend is over.

So, how do we avoid fast fashion?

Thrifted jacket.
Thrifted jacket from L Train Vintage, NY.

One of the ways you can do so is by shopping in thrift stores or vintage stores. Vintage clothing is usually more durable, hence their long life. This is a personal favorite as you would usually find the most amazing pieces that are one-of-a-kind.

In Malaysia, we have the option of bundle stores. It’s cheap because their clothing selection comes from countries such as Japan in bulk.

Once you find your go-to bundle store, there’s no turning back. My favorite bundle store in Summit USJ has dresses, blouses, skirts, and pants for RM5. Once I scored a Levi’s denim jacket for RM15.

It takes effort and time to dig through everything, but once you get the hang of it, it is absolutely thrilling and rewarding.

Alternatively, you can invest in ethical fashion brands or support independent, up-and-coming local brands. Some may come with a hefty price tag, but investing in a good piece that will last for years can be worthwhile. By investing, it makes you think twice about the way you consume and how much you really want it. Saving up for a pair of jeans that can last you a decade is costs less than repurchasing low-quality jeans over the span of 10 years.

In the long run, you are doing both you and the planet a favor.


Further reading:

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