Fast fashion: What is it and what can I do?

What is fast fashion?

Let’s slow down — What is slow fashion?

The future is circular — What is circular fashion?

Next time you want to go clothes shopping

Before shopping:

  • First think: “Do I actually need new clothes?” If not — go do something else or spend your money somewhere else!
  • Wait a while — this will help you determine if it is a want or a need.
  • Consider whether you only wear a small fraction of your current wardrobe — learn to appreciate what you already have.
  • Challenge yourself to not buy any clothes for a fixed amount of time. My mum recently challenged herself to not buy any new clothes for an entire year and has since realised how little of her wardrobe she was actually wearing.
  • Repair damaged clothing. Some clothing brands / stores now offer after-care services to encourage customers to restore rather than replace purchases (e.g. Patagonia and Nudie Jeans).
  • Swap clothes with a friend.
  • Redesign items in your wardrobe that have gone out of style — maybe you’ll find that you enjoy sewing or knitting!
  • Consider renting clothes. Here and here are a couple of lists of clothing rental services you should check out.

Where to shop:

  • Think carefully about where you will buy your clothes from. Though fast fashion houses like Zara, TopShop, H&M, Primark, Uniqlo etc. sell cheap clothes, consider how much this is actually saving you in the long run — how long will these clothes last and/or stay in style?
  • Buy vintage or second hand clothing — there are so many great options out there from online markets to curated second hand clothing stores to weekend flea markets.
  • Shop locally (and avoid shipping costs). This is especially important during COVID-19 where many small businesses are struggling to survive.
  • Look online at where different companies’ clothes were made and under what conditions. The Fashion Transparency Index is a great resource for this. There are even some apps out there that can help you, like Good On You in which you can check ethical brand ratings and Buycott which helps you understand how the companies you are buying from align with your values.
  • Learn how to spot greenwashing. Greenwashing is when companies market themselves as sustainable in order to mislead consumers who prefer to purchase environmentally friendly products. Greenwashing is a really easy trap to fall into, especially in the food industry. In the fashion industry, this is also hard to spot but there are some articles out there that provide tips on how to do so — here and here are a couple of examples.

What to look for when shopping:

  • Avoid synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, rayon, spandex and viscose — these fabrics will not decay in a landfill (nor will they decay in the ocean). Instead, opt for natural fabrics like organic cotton, linen, hemp and organic wool. Side note to consider: Organic cotton biodegrades and isn’t GMO (organic cotton only makes up 0.7% of global cotton production but still takes a lot of water to produce). There is a lot of information out there about different types of fabrics and their advantages and disadvantages and it can be difficult to wrap your head around it — Moral Fibres has created a good guide for this.
  • Avoid leather or buy second hand leather. Cows need a lot of land, food and water — 80% of the current deforestation within the Amazon is caused by cattle ranching.
  • Buy clothes made using natural dyes. This is an aspect that doesn’t often get as much consideration even though around 20% of industrial water pollution is from fabric dyes and treatments which are highly toxic to the environment and people. I imagine this topic will gain more traction in the near future, but there are now some smaller brands who are leading the way in natural dye or dye-free techniques, such as Harvest & Mill, Hara and Danu Organic.
  • Ask yourself whether what you’re buying truly fits your style.
  • Ask yourself how many times you realistically will wear this item of clothing.
  • Consider whether the item of clothing you’re buying is easy to repair or will it just be thrown away once you get a hole in it?
  • Lastly — buy less clothes! Break the stigma around outfit repeating.

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Tessa Miskell

Tessa Miskell


Senior Mobile Growth Consultant and member of the Climate Team at Phiture, a Berlin based Mobile Growth Consultancy.