Fast Fashion: Not Worth the Cost

Trying on a new outfit and going out for coffee sounds like my perfect afternoon. Something about those new clothes makes everything…better. Fashion comes at a high cost, however, and not just monetary. Fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing with low quality materials. Websites such as Shein, Wish, and Amazon cater towards this type of product, but clothing with this description is easily found at stores such as H&M or Target. Fast fashion may create an affordable product, however it comes at a cost our planet can't sustain.

Fast fashion clothing is generally produced in countries with lower environmental and employee standards. Textile production causes water pollution through pesticides and dyes and contributes 8-10% of humanity's carbon emissions. Making high volume amounts of clothing takes an enormous amount of water. Textiles use roughly 93 billion cubic meters of water annually - often using water from areas struggling with access to clean water to begin with. Unfortunately this cycle continues, as 83% of all textiles go to the dump each year. For perspective, as of 2018 the equivalent of one garbage truck of clothes is disposed of EVERY SECOND.

We can take steps to decrease our support of fast fashion business practices. Here are some tips:

  1. Buy from ethical brands. It can be difficult to know in the moment what brands are ethical so doing research before shopping is always helpful. Brands like Everlane, Organic Basics, Christy Dawn, Afends, and Patagonia are good examples of sustainable fashion. They are purposeful about where they source their materials, pay ethical wages, and create products that will last for many years. 

  2. Purchase second hand. Second hand shopping is available online or in person so it does not matter if you prefer to browse isles or fill up your virtual cart - there is an option for you! In person shopping is available through popular chains such as Goodwill, Style Encore, and Plato’s Closet, but be sure to check out your local second hand shops as well. In Winston-Salem there are some awesome choices like Yours Truly and Major Tomms Oddities & Vintage (for the adventurous). There are online options for second hand shopping as well such as Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace.

  3. Have a clothing swap. A clothing swap is a party of friends where each attendee brings an agreed upon amount of clothing and accessories to the event with the intention of trading them. Clothing swaps follow the basic outline of inviting friends, clearing a hosting area, setting the rules, swapping, then potentially donating any left over clothes to a thrift store.

  4. Buy higher end or more durable clothing. Fast fashion is not made to last. Find brands or pieces of clothing that will stand the test of time. Some pieces may quickly become dated (I’m looking at you acid wash jean vest) or others may quickly become worn due to poor material quality. Materials such as linen, hemp, wool, and silk are more resistant to wear. These materials also do not leach microplastics into the water system like synthetic materials. While durable pieces may cost more initially, their longevity makes them worth the cost. 

  5. Learn a new skill. When clothing does become damaged try to repair it before throwing it away. Learning how to repair buttons, zippers, and seams is a helpful skill. Patches can be used not only to fix holes, but to add personality to your clothing. Adding personal touches through embroidery has become very fashionable as well!


Embroidery design by Rachael Dobbins (

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Written by Morgan Brazeau