9 things we can do to challenge fast fashion

Some upcycled outfits by Cathy (Photo: Eddie O’Reilly)

In my last post I discussed some of the environmental and social issues involved with fast fashion. If we are serious about sustainability and social justice we need to find alternatives.

The following are eight things we can do to challenge fast fashion.

1. Shop less and buy less

We cannot afford to continue consuming as if we have unlimited resources. One very effective way to do something, is to shop less and buy less.

2. Buy second-hand and/or through clothes swaps.

So many clothes are discarded and end up in op shops, thrift shops or second-hand shops that there are so many choices. Buying from op shops or thrift shops will not only reduce the consumption of new clothes, but by doing so you can also support the work of charities and not-for-profits. A number of places now organise clothes swaps or you could arrange one with your friends.

3. Upcycle

Rather than discarding clothes, try upcycling them and creating something new out of something old. (My partner is the driving force behind Upcycle Newcastle.)

4. Buy natural fibres

While natural fibres still have a significant environmental impact, they are not made from fossil fuels and are not putting plastic into our water ways (like many polyesters). Avoid cheap clothes made from synthetics. ABC Science has a good overview of different fibres.

5. Choose quality over quantity

Because clothes are so cheap, it is easy to ignore the quality of what we buy. So when buying clothes look for quality (clothes that will last and are versatile) and buy things you love and will want to wear. Recovering Shopaholic has an interesting post about how to tell if a garment is well-made.

6. Become a conscious consumer

Keep learning about the clothes you buy. Have a look at The True Cost which is a disturbing look at the fashion industry. There are numerous website that can help us think about what we buy (e.g., Baptist World Aid Australia has an Ethical Fashion Guide).

7. Learn to sew

Sewing is a very useful skill and means you can upcycle or repair clothes, rather than throwing them out. (Must admit this is more of a “do as I say rather than do as I do.”)

 8. Avoid magazines, TV shows and advertising that try to make us dissatisfied with what we have

Fast fashion relies on consumers wanting to keep up with the latest fashions, and being dissatisfied with what they have. One thing we can do is not to get caught up in the hype. We can avoid magazines, TV shows and advertising that try to make us want what we don’t have, or think about how we can upgrade what we have. When you do look at magazines, watch TV shows or see advertising, think about the messages and assumptions that underpin them. Actively resist the temptation to fall for messages that encourage materialism and consumption.

9. Join the campaign against the environmental and social costs of fast fashion

While individual actions are important, we also need political and commercial pressure to force the textile industry to clean up their act. You can read more about the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s ideas for redesigning fashion’s future, or get involved in Greenpeace’s Detox My Fashion, the Clean Clothes campaign or Oxfam’s campaign to improve workers’ rights in the fashion industry. You can also support businesses that are trying new ways of operating—have a look of the brands suggested by The True Cost movie.

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. We need to rethink fast fashion
  2. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  3. Consumption and the Transition movement
  4. A passion for upcycling
  5. The life you can save by donating
  6. The widening gap between rich and poor – Time to even it up.

If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
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