How to avoid getting sucked in by fast fashion

Want to step away from mindless consumerism and do your thing for the planet? Here’s how to avoid fast fashion in style.

Keen to rock the very latest fashion, for the lowest possible price?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ve become part of a global problem that’s hurting the environment in more ways than you might imagine.

What is fast fashion?

“Every year, Australians each consume more than 27 kilograms of textiles, discarding 23 kilograms of this into landfill,” according to UniSA PhD candidate Erin Skinner, who is undertaking a study on Australians’ knowledge of fast and slow fashion.

“That’s an extraordinary 6000 kilograms every 10 minutes – or the equivalent of the weight of an African elephant.”

Fast fashion also has real impacts on the people in its supply chain – an issue brought to light after the horrific Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013.

More recently, Chinese label Shein has been under the spotlight for its dominance of the fast fashion market.

Convenience culture

Faye De Lanty, an eco-stylist for Salvos Stores and author of the book Opshopulence, says we’re constantly bombarded with messages of consumption, so it’s no surprise those cheap threads can lure us in.

“It’s quick, because it’s easy, but the more that you dive into fast fashion, you realise it’s cheap for a reason and that’s because garment workers are not being paid properly; they’re not being treated fairly,” Faye says.

And that’s before you consider how much environmental energy, such as carbon and water, goes into making items you might only wear a handful of times.

How to move away from fast fashion

So what to do if you’re on a tight budget, but still want to look good?

First, take a closer look at what you already own, suggests Camille Reed, an entrepreneur in the sustainable and circular fashion industry.

“Do you really need it? Is it an emotional feeling that you’re fulfilling – or is it a necessity, or a piece that needs to be replaced because something might be damaged or it’s no longer repairable?”

If you do want to shop, she recommends looking to the pre-loved market, from op shops (Camille once scored a $20 pair of Sass & Bide jeans, with the tag still on), to upmarket secondhand stores or rental companies.

To help minimise wardrobe turnover, Camille suggests being choosy about the quality of clothes you buy.

Check the tag to find out what the garment is made of, and ensure the seams are well-stitched, with no obvious gaps.

Smart tips for pre-loved shopping

Overwhelmed by the racks of pre-loved items at your local op shop?

Start simply, suggests Faye, by searching for a black suit jacket for work.

“Just go look for that and be discerning about what fabric you want and the fit of it, but also think about how you could elevate it.”

A simple tactic is to switch out those boring-looking buttons for some brass military-inspired buttons from Etsy or a craft store, she says.

Next tip? Take a few of those gently-loved jeans for a whirl in the op shop changing rooms, and help the environment by saving the 10,000 litres or so of water it takes to make just one pair, says Faye.

If you don’t find the ultimate jeans first time around, no worries.

Instead, grab a colourful op shop scarf, a belt or a popping pair of shoes to add a little eco-friendly razzle dazzle to your wardrobe.

Pre-loved shopping suggestions


Written by Larissa Ham.