A couple of years ago, the term fast fashion meant very little to me — cheap, mass-produced clothes that move quickly from the runway to stores to keep up with trends. Since my work with Adelante began, it has come to mean so much more.
The fashion industry, as it exists in today’s world, is anything but innocuous. As Mike, our Head of U.S. Operations, puts it, fast fashion represents an unsustainable consumption of products that comes at the expense of the environment and the people that produce them. This industry — and the consumer behavior that drives it — is destructive. It hurts people, the environment, and, interestingly enough, our wallets. Not only does fast fashion clog landfills with enormous amounts of textile waste and exploit millions of underpaid workers, but it isn’t as cheap as we think.
As most of us have probably experienced, the lifespan of a $20 sweater or a $45 pair of shoes is quite short — we buy for the now and because it’s easy, only to wear twice and forget… or watch our shoddy accessories fall apart after a season.
It’s easy to indulge in fast fashion; I am guilty of this myself. A quick rummage through my closet reveals piles of inexpensive, barely-worn clothes that seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, why spend $300 on one dress when you can buy five for the same price?
The reality, in fact, is that slow fashion is more economical over time. Investing in fewer, high quality items actually saves us money in the long run because those items last longer. Instead of buying inexpensive things frequently, we can buy better things less often. From the perspective of cost-per-use, a $20 shirt worn twice is more expensive than a $100 shirt worn 50 times. Spending more money up front on high-quality pieces that last a lifetime is the kinder (and smarter) way to shop.
Whether fast fashion will endure is decided by the choices we make as consumers. Every dollar we spend affects the future of the planet and its people.The status quo won’t change overnight, but we have the power to move the needle.