It's been a month since I broke up with Fast Fashion.
Which means I got out of a long term relationship…with the mall. *Collective gasp of disbelief from anyone who knows me.* I know. It hurts to say. I’ve often pledged my love for the Mall of America, usually followed by a groan by those who grew up in Minneapolis. (Or lived here longer than a month?) MOA is the largest Mall in the US; there are over 520 stores in this gigantore p(a)lace. That’s right. It’s the stuff of my shopaholic dreams, and others’ nightmares- always crowded, full of tourists, lacking parking.
My shopping addiction has been with me as long as I can remember. And I’ve been shopping cheap clothes since I was wearing pigtails. I grew up shopping sales and clearance racks and factory outlets, thanks to my lovely Indian parents who instilled the value of good deals in me. But I distinctly remember being annoyed with them for picking up shirts and feeling the quality and materials they were spending money on. Back then, I never got why they wouldn’t spend money on clothes at Forever 21- who cares if they fell apart? Middle school me needed that matching bubblegum sweat suit with the vague phrases on it. (Possibly a weird combination of VS PINK and Juicy Couture all at a knockoff price? Not my best outfit…)
Looking back.. I finally get it. When I started shopping for myself, I ran straight to cheap, trendy clothing. I don’t have just one ‘style’- I like to switch up my looks and outfits. I love the feeling of buying new fun pieces, and like my parents, I love the feeling of scoring a great deal.
But clothing like that- fast fashion- only seems cheap. Its real cost is deadly… literally. In 2013, 1300 workers died in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, not to mention the 600 deaths between 2005 and 2013 from factory fires. Take a second to think about that. Almost 2000 lives taken or ruined so I could score that tee under ten dollars. Families destroyed, communities affected- Meanwhile, we keep shopping, big companies keep buying, factories keep underpaying and running in unsafe conditions… it’s a vicious cycle.
I had always heard stories of distant sweatshops, low pay, and bad conditions, but to be totally honest, I didn’t think about them when shopping. Why would I? We barely hear about the details of these conditions- in fact until this month, ie three years after the events above, I had never heard about the death toll that these factories had. For someone who cares so much about what goes into my food, I was woefully ignorant about what was going on behind every new dress I got. I always had this feeling that it was just a dress- how much harm could I be doing? And those sweatshops and stuff- they couldn’t still be that bad…probably a thing of the past…
Let’s back up, and start with the basics: what is ‘fast fashion’? Well, it’s the reason we can get our hands on this season’s most popular boyfriend jeans, culottes, crop tops, and more, fast and cheap. It’s a perfect system, one that guarantees profit for the companies who perpetrate it.
How? Think back to your Economics class- supply and demand. We want trendy, cheap clothes because huge brands offer them to us, and they want to keep supplying them, either at a cheaper price than their competitors, or at a higher margin for themselves. As a result, brands pressure factories to cut their prices, and a domino effect starts- factories in turn are pressured to keep wages low, and this same system caused many to ignore safety concerns leading to the collapse and fires.
And, that’s just one part of the problem. Today’s Fashion industry is the second largest consumer and polluter of water. Making just one pair of jeans uses over 900 gallons of water. Cotton, a “natural” material, uses 11% of the world’s pesticides and 24% of the world’s insecticides. One t-shirt can use up to 700 gallons of water- ie 18 bathtubs full of water. And polyester, acrylic, nylon, spandex, acetate- the fabrics most often found in our clothes- are actually made of fossil fuels. Ouch. The list goes on.
So, I broke up with Fast Fashion. I’m going on a journey to make a difference with the decisions I make with my wallet. I’m not breaking up with Fashion. I love Fashion, it’s my hobby, it is my art form, it inspires me, it matters. But, nothing I put on my body is worth supporting stifling others' rights and toxicity to the environment.
Follow me as I kick my Fast Fashion habit. I’ll look at popular brands, deciding which ones to keep supporting, and which ones to completely cut off. I’ll try out and learn about sustainable brands that I can feel great about shopping. I’ll make the clothes in my wardrobe work over and over, rather than buying things that I’ll only wear once. I’ll debunk the myth that to be stylish, we have to support this model that benefits the huge companies and hurts the human beings behind it.
BTW, my closet is packed with fast fashion. I won’t be doing an overhaul of my closet (that’ll only add to 82 pounds of textile the average American wastes per year), but I've already started overhauling my habits. That being said, this is totally new to me. And I have zero judgment for anyone’s closet or shopping decisions. This journey is about a decision I’ve made for myself, to help me stay accountable, and to hopefully share something that will help make a positive impact on your life. I originally started this blog and Instagram to share my style. This launch will still be about style and fashion- with the added filter of sustainability.
Thanks so much for reading. I’m so excited to be making a difference with my closet and my credit card, and in such a huge and important part of my life.
PS: I could go on and on about the crazy stats behind this topic, but The True Cost, an amazing documentary on Netflix, does it way better. Check it out! I can honestly say it changed my life- this blog is proof.
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Impact of Fashion- Reformation
The True Cost