I’d totally be lying if I said that I don’t buy into fast fashion. I love clicking through Women’s Wear Daily and Fashionista.com, flipping through the glossy pages of Glamour and Vogue and checking out my favorite trends for the season. Suede skirts and bell sleeves? Lace up tops and floppy hats? Yes please! I’m not someone that minds wearing more than one trend at a time for day to day play clothes. When it comes to professional wear I totally get sticking to the classics and mixing in a statement or trend on occasion, but I work in retail…I can dress as trendy as I like.
Finding a runway inspired piece at a small fraction of the price feels amazing, am I right? Fast fashion has allowed everyone to dress fashionably if they so choose from the high schooler who earns money babysitting, to the young professionals and even the budget conscious CEO. You no longer need a trust fund to wear the season’s trendiest styles, just an eye for design and the patience to tear through the racks of Forever 21, H&M, Zara and Topshop. Your sense of style no longer functionally serves as a red flag to indicate your caste or class in society, at least it arguably doesn’t need to, style has been democratized though sporting the top designers is still left to those with million dollar yachts with their own private islands.
I’m known to splurge on pieces I love and know I’ll get a lot of wear out of like a handbag, great pair of boots, a jacket or sunglasses. Though I loved the look of suede skirts from the moment they became trendy, I knew I couldn’t bring myself to snag a high-priced one. I’ve certainly felt a once beloved trendy item slip through my hands as it fell out of fashion in the blink of an eye. Fast fashion pieces are meant to fall out of style and similarly many of the fast fashion pieces we buy for ultra cheap are meant to fall apart. I’m cool with buying a $20 top that won’t last longer than a couple months (though admittedly I’ve hung onto a handful of my Forever 21 pieces for substantially longer). I won’t cry if I grass stain my $25 dress the same way I’ll mentally break down when I scuff my long-desired Valentino flats. I’m not afraid to live in fast fashion pieces and isn’t that a liberating feeling?
The caveat (oh and there always is a caveat for all of those “too good to be true” portions of life), is that the cost of fast fashion isn’t as cheap as Uniqlo would like us to believe. Beyond the downright copying of designers by many fast fashion brands (I can get over that, it’s the culture of fashion) there’s a major humanitarian aspect and an environmental aspect and oh yeah…a global health aspect. From sweatshops exploiting children in Bangladesh to lead found in recalled Wet Seal, Charlotte Russe and Forever 21 pieces and all the waste from the twice worn Zara tees we throw out after six months…it boggles my mind that more young people who proclaim themselves as socially aware aren’t more outraged by fast fashion. But then again, what’s a fashionista to do?
No matter how much I hate to think I am perpetuating poor working conditions in China, I still can’t afford to buy solely J.Crew (another guilty fast fashion chain) let alone Diane Von Furstenburg, Miu Miu or Rodarte. How do I reduce my fast fashion foot print while still upholding the lifestyle I’ve found myself so happy living? There isn’t an easy answer.
My hope is to fast fashion a little more consciously. I can’t quit fast fashion completely and vowing to buy locally from this point forward would only set me up for failure. Attempting to mix well made, eco conscious pieces with lust-worthy splurge designer pieces and the occasional “I need a cute dress for this party but I have bills and I don’t get paid for another week and a half” fast fashion pieces is the only answer I can come up with. I can reduce my fast fashion footprint the same way I would reduce my carbon footprint or my ice cream consumption (although, to be honest I won’t be limiting my ice cream consumption).