Reducing Our Fast Fashion Consumption In An Increasingly Material World

The word(s) on everyone’s lips right now revolve around the issue of fast-fashion – our consumption of it, it’s incredibly negative impact, exploring our options and weighing up various solutions. When we live in a world of instant gratification, existing in a generation obsessed with social media, the extent of our fast fashion consumption is hardly surprising.

How many of you have bought an outfit solely for the ‘gram, never to be worn again once the likes begin flooding in?

How many of you have made excuses, apologised or been embarrassed about publicly outfit repeating?

And going back to the Instagram issue, how many of you have chosen not to upload a photo having recently worn the same outfit in a post on an entirely different day?

We’re all guilty of at least one of the above, myself included.

In fact, in a recent survey by eco-cleaning company, Method, research found that one in four 16-24 year olds said they would be pictured in an item one to three times on social media before discarding it.

The rise of social media as a marketing platform has undoubtedly impacted our approach to fashion and while the positive elements of this shouldn’t be dismissed, there’s no denying that it has created a pressure to constantly obtain the newest items, directly contributing to unrealistic and materialistic standards increasing.

In a poignant post written by blogger, Francesca Saffari, The Devastating Impact of Fast Fashion, she poses the question, “With social media constantly projecting this unrealistic and unattainable lifestyle to us 24/7, have we become completely unsatisfiable? Is fast fashion a direct result of our generation’s obsession with ‘living our best life’ leading to the constant need to have newer and better things to make us happy?”

Retailers have seen a shift from two seasons per year to multiple collection releases per month with consumers adopting damaging attitudes of shopping daily rather than seasonally, discarding items after just one wear ahead of embarking on a mission to buy more and repeat the process.

I’ve spent many a quiet evening scrolling through ASOS’s new in section and flicking through my wishlist, not because I need anything new, mainly as a means to pass the time. There’s also this unspoken expectation that if we buy more new things our lives will be better for it. It’s this attitude that by having more clothes, a bigger house, a fancy car, the latest gadget, we’ll somehow be much happier people.

Minimalism is a lifestyle that embraces the idea that everything in your life should exist to enrich it. It’s not about giving up all of your belongings, emptying your wardrobe to a mere jeans, crisp white shirts and two pairs of shoes kind of existence nor does it mean ditching your favourite pieces in favour of basic staples lacking personality. Instead it’s about taking stock of your belongings, new purchases or temptations and asking yourself, will this bring joy or purpose to my life? Will it enhance my productivity? If so, by all means go for it. If not, ask yourself just how much you really need the current ‘it’ jumper circulating Instagram.

Adopting a more minimalist approach to fashion is just one of the ways we can combat our fast-fashion consumption in an increasingly material world but we can appreciate that not everybody is cut out for the minimalist aesthetic – nor do they want to be. If cutting back on your fast fashion consumption is something you feel strongly about, try these tips to get you started.

Resist temptation

Unfollow accounts promoting fast fashion – both influencers and retailers alike that you find tempt you to buy items you don’t need. While you’re there, clear out your inbox and unsubscribe to retailer’s newsletters. We all know how tempting those ‘New In’ and sales promotion emails can be. You’d be surprised how much you don’t miss them when they’re not filling your inbox 24/7.

Shop second hand or commit to investment pieces

An obvious one but nonetheless helpful for those that enjoy shopping but want to reduce their fast fashion consumption. Give vintage shopping a go or tackle local charity shops to find some hidden gems. Alternatively commit to buying more investment pieces that you know will stand by you for years to come as opposed to opting for the cheap version that will require replacement purchases after just one season.

Do your research

Every day more and more resources become available to educate ourselves on the issue of sustainability in the fashion industry. Most recently released is Stacey Dooley’s Fashion’s Dirty Secret where she explores the shocking impact that our shopping addictions are having on our planet (available on BBC iPlayer). Other documentaries include The True Cost, available on Netflix and Who Made My Clothes, a YouTube documentary created by Fashion Revolution.

Switch out those fast fashion accounts for Instagram accounts such as, @fash_rev, @greenpeace, @project_stopshop, @thenuwardrobe, @fashionforgood and @matethelabel to brush up on your knowledge of ethical and sustainable fashion.


Niamh Crawford-Walker

Niamh is a full time fashion and features writer at The Style Edit. Her work has previously appeared in IMAGE magazine, and Emirates Woman.

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