For the past nine years I have worked part-time in retail. More specifically fast fashion. Until this week. This week I quit my fast fashion job, and as of this Sunday I will (hope to) never work in retail again.
I should say now that it was not the specific retailer that I was working for that made me quit, but instead the idea of fast fashion itself and the effects it has that pushed me to quit.
Over the years more and more quick and cheap brands have become available that offer consumers a surplus of items, made quickly, with the intention to be replaced by a new fashion trend in just a matter of weeks.
But while cheap fashion may benefit our bank accounts in the short term, in the long run it has environmental and economic consequences for consumers, the labourers making our clothes, and the environment.
Fast fashion is having a devastating impact on our planet.
The majority of our clothing is now made overseas with fast paced turn around times. Mass production of cheap materials, made for by underpaid labourers in poor working conditions, under short deadlines leads to poor quality products, being shipped to the West, putting a strain not just on those making the clothes, but also the environment.
Like I said earlier, I’ve worked in fast fashion for nine years! Again it isn’t this particular company that has made me want to quit but rather the industry itself. I had been thinking about it for a while, and even while in America, discovering the minimalist and zero waste lifestyles, I had promised myself not to return to my comfortable retail job when I returned.
But returning meant returning to all the things I had to pay for, like food and bills.
But last week, after a combination of things, including needing to make more time for my university work and this blog, I decided once and for all, my time had come to leave my comfortable job.
1. Quit Your Fast Fashion Job
If like me you work for a highstreet clothing shop, a step you can take to remove yourself from the industry is literally remove yourself from the industry.
This is a lot easier said than done, I know. This isn’t the first time I’ve quit my fast fashion job, its the third.
Yes, this job is what puts food on my plate and pays the bills every month, but I’m also in a position to be able to survive off of my student loan, especially when implementing the next three steps. I do not advise anyone to quit their job if they do not have the financial means to do so. You need to eat! But in the mean time search for jobs within companies who have a sustainable brand ethic.
If you are not working and are searching for jobs, think twice about the shops you’re applying to. Things to ask beore applying are how are their products manufactured, where are they manufactured, and by who?
Again, I know this is an extreme step and isn’t an easy step to take, especially for students and young people, and I am in no way advising anyone to quit their jobs and put their finances in jeopardy. Only do so if your in a position financially to do so.
2. Buy Second Hand
Thrifting is fashionable right now, so take advantage of it!
Visit your local thrift stores, second hand markets, charity shops, and apps like Depop for those previously owned, well loved pieces that will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but will also keep your bank account happy.
Plus charity shops are great places to find all your highstreet favourites, as well as many items that still have the tags on them! And if you’re still keen on keeping up with the quickly changing fashion trends, buying second hand does not mean you have to give that up either.
Check out below YouTuber Kailee Mckenzie’s tips for thrifting fashionable pieces. Kailee thrifts most of her wardrobe, and then sells many of her items on Depop after she no longer finds use from within her personal style.
If you’re still not sold on the idea of buying second hand then think of it this way – every time you buy one brand new piece of clothing from a fast fashion retailer, the piece has been made cheaply and quickly, in another country. The material it is made from, unnatural polyester, wastes gallons of water to be made, producing harmful by-products in the process that is then returned back into the local water, soil and air in the area it has been produced in. It is then shipped over to your country, and then placed onto a lorry to be delivered to your local store, creating more harmful pollution. Between the completion of your item of clothing and you purchasing it, it has been placed in a plastic film protecter and then placed into a box, both of which are disposed of as soon as it reaches the store.
Lets jump to two months into the future – you loved your piece of clothing and you’ve worn it several times, but you’re now noticing that every time you wash it it shrinks a little more, unravels at the seams, and even has a hole or tear in it somewhere. You may be thinking to yourself, “well that’s okay because it was so cheap anyway, I can just go buy another.”
But should you?
Or should the clothes you buy last longer than a few weeks?
3. Buy Lasting Pieces
If you still can’t quit your favourite shops, then limit yourself to the amount of items you buy. Instead of buying whole outfits every time you hit the shops, instead buys lasting pieces that will stay timeless and keep you looking fashionable all year round.
Although you could end up spending more for one item, buying a more expensive, better quality pair of jeans or shoes, could save you money for years to come.
Recently I have been wanting a pear of suede ankle boots and found many cheap options, but knew that after a few wears they would become scuffed or ruined by the weather. Instead I saved of for a few weeks and purchased a pair that although cost more, would last longer.
Creating a capsule wardrobe, like many minimalists have, of around 30 pieces that are simple but stylish in design, can save you money, and keep you looking good all year round.
It’s no coincidence you’ve noticed black and grey clothing items becoming staples in everyones wardrobes this year, they are timeless colours, that are stylish no matter the fashion trend.
Creating a capsule wardrobe can also limit you in the amount of clothes you purchase, again decreasing your input in fast fashion, saving you money and lessening your carbon footprint.
4. If It’s Broke, Fix It
This makes the most sense. If a button falls off, a seam comes undone, or a zip gets stuck, repair it, don’t replace it.
Not everyone is handy with a sewing needle, but that’s what Google is for. There are endless amount of tutorials and videos online that can show you the basics in clothes repairing.
And if you still can’t repair, pay for someone else to. It will be a fraction of the cost you would be paying to buy a brand new item.
The fashion industry isn’t going to change anytime soon, so it’s up to us. If we cut off the demand for cheap, mass produced clothing, these brands and companies will have no choice but to change how they produce their clothing.