Being aware of, and sympathetic to the rampant problems in the fashion industry isn't enough. That said, I am a college student with a minimum wage job during the summer and a barely-pennies-above minimum wage job during the school year. There is no possible way for me to not perpetuate the cycle of fast fashion.
Recently, I stumbled upon The True Cost on Netflix, a social justice powered documentary analyzing the societal, economic, and environmental effects of fast fashion. We hear about factories collapsing in third world countries like Bangladesh and we know it's terrible but two weeks later we're still shopping at GAP and ZARA and Forever 21 and every other company that created that disaster.
In our defense, maybe it doesn't fully click in our heads. The CEOs and CFOs come out with pretty statements saying they had no idea the conditions and they would never knowingly support that system but document after document proves otherwise. We need to realize that they will not change anything unless they are forced to. We also need to realize that yes, that isn't the way it should be, but we also have the power to force them.
If we spend more thoughtfully and reconsider throwing so much money at stores that don't care who dies as long at that shirt stays $6.50, maybe they will be forced to reconsider how they treat their workers, what factories they use, and maybe, just maybe, these workers will be treated like humans.
I've long been subscribed to Rachel Zoe's mailing list and periodically enjoy the posts on her blog (GOALS, PEOPLE, GOALS). Today I received a link to an article that fueled this post. I appreciated how realistic is was, acknowledging that it is likely impossible for us to invest in high end pieces that are well made by people treated fairly.
This article suggests thrifting, trading with friends, and taking a pair of scissors to what you already have. All of these are great options, but I'd like to further emphasize how beneficial thrifting can be. Only a tiny percentage (The True Cost) of what we donate to thrift stores and charity is actually repurchased, and the rest is send to landfills and third world countries. If we just decided to try thrifting before running to Forever 21 we might find everything we need, want, and lust after at a fraction of the price, while reducing the waste, and not supporting the fast fashion cycle.
I'm not saying never go shopping again, I only urge you to consider all your options and the pros and cons of those options. It may be fun and quick and easy to just run to H&M and grab that black blazer for $9.80, but is there blood on your hands when the next factory collapses and a thousand garment workers die? Is it easier to text your friend first and ask if they have one you could borrow? Is it easier to try your local thrift store for better made, cheaper, vintage options? You may just find that black blazer, along with a vintage bag, three fun tops, a pair of rad cut-offs and a weird wool hat that you kinda like, all for less that twenty bucks.
And if you need to buy something, go ahead, just consider what's being supported when you see rack after rack of cheap brand new clothes every week.