The Problem with Fast Fashion and How to Solve It

Our generation has been dubbed by many as the “Era of Fast Fashion”; a time where we can find ultra trendy, runway inspired looks at extremely manageable prices. In recent years, many of these so called Fast Fashion brands like Forever21, H&M, Zara, Uniqlo, and others have seen an intense boom in popularity, replacing the resident brands for young people of the early 2000’s like Abercrombie and Fitch and American Eagle. What’s great about Fast Fashion is that these brands are sympathetic to our wallets, they quickly respond to popular trends, and are constantly replacing their inventory with new product– much more quickly than other companies who may only get two or three collections in a season.

This all sounds great, right? Well, with all the positives, it’s only natural that there’s going to be some negatives. Because Fast Fashion has to keep up with the demand of quickly changing fashion fashion trends, the product they release has to be produced just as quickly and in a large quantity. In order to do this and to keep releasing new looks constantly, the quality of many of these brands’ items is compromised. Cheaply produced textiles are chosen, which can affect the fit of the product, its longevity in your wardrobe, and the overall look of your ensemble. Let’s be honest– if you’re going to buy cheap clothes, you’re more than likely going to look cheap. Additionally, many of these brands compromise craftsmanship when producing their goods, outsourcing many of their factory jobs to more inexpensive countries like China, Thailand, and Malaysia. And what’s more is many of these brands target consumers solely in their teens and twenties– which is great for us now, but this means even if the articles of clothing we buy from these brands survive their third wash cycles, we probably won’t be able to wear them later on in life.

The issue with Fast Fashion is that we get caught up in the moment, the power of trends, and we end up valuing quantity over quality. We essentially build a large wardrobe in a short amount of time, but end up throwing most, if not all of these pieces out after maybe only a years’ worth of wear. While we’re so focused on the pros of Fast Fashion, we forget one of the biggest, and most important concepts of style: timelessness. Timeless looks are always relevant. Examples of this are the peacoat, the wrap dress, and the crew neck sweater.

In order to build a truly solid, polished, and timeless wardrobe I highly recommend buying higher quality, timeless pieces from trustworthy brands who value craftsmanship over mass production. Quality items that are classic and well constructed are going to last you for years and years to come and will end up enhancing your wardrobe more than most of your Fast Fashion finds would. Here are some of my tips for building a quality wardrobe:

#1 Give Yourself Goals:

It’s easy to get intimidated when you enter a store and find an amazing pair of jeans for $200, especially when you could go next door to Forever21 to find something similar for less. But there’s something to keep in mind: you don’t have to buy everything at once. Fast Fashion gives us instant satisfaction, something we have come to love in this generation. We can buy like 3 outfits for the price of that pair of jeans. But think about it: instant satisfaction is squashed by what I like to call “gratification”. The feeling of satisfaction and pride that you get from earning something. Isn’t so much more exciting to say to yourself: “Yes, I bought these jeans with my own money because I worked for it!”?

Find a higher priced, high quality item that you can’t live without. Save a picture of it and put it somewhere you will be able to see it every day, that way it’s a constant reminder of what you’re working towards! Put away a little money with each paycheck; a great way to do this if you work somewhere that has direct deposit is to allocate a percentage of your paycheck to your savings account! In no time, you’ll have saved up enough money to own that perfect pair of jeans and probably own them for many years to come provided you care for them properly!

#2 Start With The Basics:

What’s the point of dropping all that dough on something that you won’t get as much wear out of? This is where the timeless aspect comes in! Find pieces that you know will be chic for years to come! Put down those amazing faux leather motorcycle jeans you found at Madewell, and opt for a more wearable pair of mid wash blue jeans that will go with everything. You will feel more gratification if you can actually get some use out of your more expensive items. Some I recommend starting with are a classic white oxford shirt, a pencil skirt (fitted slacks for guys), dark wash jeans, and a mid-length winter coat to name a few. Make sure you’re picking neutral colors and that the items you buy fit perfectly (Tailoring is a great option, and oftentimes inexpensive! No one likes a slob!).

Once you’ve gotten the essentials down, then you can start picking up trendier styles and colors.

#3 Stop Shopping So Frequently:

If you stop shopping at inexpensive stores so often, you will end up with more money to spend on those high priced items. Duh.

This doesn’t mean you should stop window shopping though. Give yourself style inspiration by looking in some of your favorite stores; if you window shop and see the same items frequently, you give yourself time to really think about if you really love them! What’s more is if you check back with those stores frequently, you can often find what you wanted to buy on promotion! All cold weather accessories 40% off?! Yes please!

#4 The 5 Outfit Rule:

When you’re shopping and you find a really fabulous piece of clothing, try and think of at least 5 head-to-toe outfits in your head that you could wear it with. This will reinforce the concept of practicality in your wardrobe: pieces that you will actually wear and that fit your lifestyle.

If you can’t come up with at least 5, it’s probably not worth it. Wait for it to go on sale.

#5 Educate Yourself On What You’re Buying:

These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself when you’re shopping: “What kind of fabric is this made out of? How do I care for it? What kind of treatments, if any, should I use on this garment to increase its longevity? How was this garment produced and what kind of craftsmanship has gone into it?” You wouldn’t buy a car without knowing how to maintain it and how it compares to other models on the road, would you? The same concept applies to buying your clothes!

If you don’t know the answers, do some online research or even ask the sales associates! What’s cool about most higher price-point stores is that their employees have a lot of product knowledge and are willing to help you out! Some of my favorite brands I recommend  based on great craftsmanship and quality are: Lucky Brand, Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Free People, and AllSaints.

Keeping all this in mind, I do not want to discount the great advantages of shopping Fast Fashion! I am a strong advocate of it and I live and breathe for Zara! You get to experience some really trendy pieces and have a lot of fun with your style; so keep shopping (less frequently) with Fast Fashion brands for your trendy pieces, while grounding your wardrobe with gorgeous, high quality essentials! Mixing and matching classic pieces with your trendier Fast Fashion finds will amp up your look, making your style more eye catching! When all is said and done, you’ll be building a polished wardrobe full of pieces that you can still wear 5, 10, maybe even 20 years from now! (I’m looking at you Barbour jackets!)

-xoxo Thomas

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