OPINION: Fast fashion is ruining the world of fashion, and your closet

Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

With the rise of the fast fashion industry, accessing cheap clothes that keep up with the ever-changing trends is at an all-time high for consumers. However, these shopping habits have proven to be wasteful and a hassle in the long run. 

“Fast fashion” can be defined as the rapid and cheap production of clothing that offers consumers the latest fashion trends at a low cost. Although fast fashion provides convenience, plentiful options and the thrill of a good deal, the end result is completely unsatisfying.

Some people claim that our society has normalized shopping as a hobby, leading to a closet that is overflowing with clothes.

I would argue that shopping itself is not the issue. Rather, the problem lies with where and how we are shopping. 

Fast fashion brands like Shein, H&M and Forever 21 are the best at following trends, which in this day and age are coming and going faster than ever, especially because of the influence of social media. 

Microtrends, trends that rise to popularity quickly and leave the trend cycle even faster, are dominating these clothing racks.

It’s easy to go into these stores and find the latest style with a wide selection of colors and sizes, but the convenience comes to a halt after purchasing due to rapidly decreasing rates of garment usage and satisfaction.

Since 2000, clothing sales have doubled from 100 to 200 billion units a year, and the average usage of a garment has decreased 36%, according to an article from Earth.org.

That’s the thing about microtrends and feeding into them — they come and go so rapidly and thus these clothes go in and out of style. So how do we avoid this?

First is a new general rule: buy clothes because you love them, not because they’re trendy. Don’t get me wrong — it’s okay to enjoy trends, but you should ask yourself, “Do I like this piece of clothing because it’s ‘in’ right now or because I really like it and it resonates with me?” 

In other words, will you wear that piece of clothing when it goes out of style?

Last year I became so frustrated with my closet because I could never put together an outfit I felt happy with. You would think that the more clothes you have the easier it would be to put together a good outfit, but it turns out it’s quite the opposite. 

I noticed myself rewearing a few of the same outfits, as well as a few new items I was currently fixated on, though I seemed to be cycling the same few items in and out of use.

In my completely frustrated haze, I gutted my closet and donated everything that I never wore and anything that didn’t go with the style and aesthetic I aspired to dress like — and I learned a few things.

[Photo of a crowded closet.]
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

I used to go on shopping sprees online and at the mall, taking advantage of the seasonal sales and discounts offered by mass clothing companies. Unfortunately, these shopping habits led to an overflowing closet full of items I never wore, or wore a few times and got bored of. 

Of the pieces I own, I wear some more often than others because they are unique to me and fit my style. They are also mostly pieces that I’ve bought second-hand.

Thrifting and purchasing from sustainable brands allows for the opportunity to find clothing pieces that are specific to your own style and aesthetic, and therefore never go out of style! 

Sustainable fashion doesn’t have to be restricted to shopping second-hand. Shopping at small, local clothing stores often offers sustainably made clothing, and some bigger brands you might already know and love are coming out with sustainable lines.

Brands like Adidas, Levi’s and Patagonia are making the shift to clothing made with renewable materials. The important thing here is to do research before shopping mainstream.

Fast fashion was the one thing holding me back from a closet I love, one that allowed me to dress in my own style everyday, easily.

After gutting my closet and shifting my shopping habits, I now have a closet I love and one that I know how to responsibly shop for. 

Since overconsumption itself isn’t necessarily the problem, I don’t restrict the amount of shopping I do, but I do try to buy pieces I know will have longevity in my closet and try to always stick to second hand shopping and eco-friendly brands.

Converting to sustainable fashion might seem like a big change, but it’s not one that has to happen overnight. Start slow and let yourself explore new styles and fashion inspirations. Lean into sustainable shopping and see what happens!

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