Useful Links: Fast Fashion and Ethical Shopping

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week!  Since it’s now Friday, it’s time for another useful links round-up.  This week, I’m touching upon the topics of “fast fashion” and ethical shopping.  These issues have been addressed on the blog a few times in the past, both by me and in a few excellent guest posts.  If you’re new to the blog or would like to revisit these articles, click here to view all of the posts in the “Clothing Quality & Sustainability” category.

Ethical Shopping Resources

Today I’m sharing a few articles related to fast fashion and ethical shopping, as well as several links to ethical shopping guides.  While there are a number of companies who are committed to producing clothing in socially and environmentally sound ways, I decided to link to a few shopping guides instead of inundating you with links to individual retailers.

Learn More about Fast Fashion & Ethical Shopping

Earlier this year, I knew very little about “fast fashion” and its dangerous impact on the world.  But that all changed when I read an engaging and enlightening book called “Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline.  After reading this book, I knew I had to make some changes to my shopping practices, as the impact of my actions goes far beyond my own wallet and closet. I highly recommend you read “Overdressed” if you haven’t already done so, but here are some other excellent resources to help you learn more about the global impact of the fashion industry.

Winona Dimeo-Ediger, a fashion writer for The Frisky, writes about how the April 24th factory collapse in Bangladesh propelled her to change the way she thinks about and approaches fashion.  She shares the eight ways she’s now “walking the walk” to become a more conscious consumer.  Some of her recommendations have been discussed on this blog, including shopping less and aiming for quality over quantity.

This short video from Online MBA presents an overview of the “fast fashion” industry in less than 2 minutes, accompanied by fun graphics to illustrate the cogent points.  Did you know that Zara churns out 10,000 new pieces per year, as compared to only 50-100 pieces released by many luxury designers? The video is chock full of facts like this one, and if you miss any of the facts, you can read the transcript included on the page.   It’s a good overview for just a small slice of your time.

Jill Chivers of “Shop Your Wardrobe” presents an overview of a panel discussion in which she participated on the topic of “Is Fashion Sustainable?”  Included in Jill’s article are some compelling statistics on spending, clothing wear and washing, energy use, and the environmental impact of fashion.  Jill also provides a number of suggestions on what consumers can do to help make fashion more sustainable.

Ethical Shopping Guides

I found a few excellent online guides to make it easier for us to shop for clothing that was produced in a more socially and environmentally responsible manner.   I have bookmarked these guides to help me make better decisions when I shop both online and in brick and mortar stores.  I plan to not only buy less, but also to shift my purchases to those retailers who have better records for working conditions and environmental impact.

Please Share Your Ethical Shopping Resources!

I hope you find the links in this post useful.  I think many of us are looking to change some of our shopping habits to minimize our impact on both the environment and the people in developing countries who produce many of the goods we purchase.

If you know of any additional articles or resources to assist us all with this journey, please share them in the comments section below.  Thanks and have a wonderful weekend!  Next week, I’ll be delving into the exercises in “To Buy or Not to Buy” and dishing about the enduring myth of “retail therapy.”

18 thoughts on “Useful Links: Fast Fashion and Ethical Shopping

  1. Great links Debbie.
    Just to add to it, I thought “To die for – Is fashion wearing out the world?” by Lucy Siegle is an extremely informative and eye-opening read. I also read “Overdressed” and found that “To die for” goes even further, covers a lot of detail and contains some very surprising elements, like the impact our increasing demand for cashmere has on the planet. I would definitely recommend it to anybody interested in the subject of fast fashion.

    • I have that book, K, but haven’t read it yet. Someone recommended it on the blog (maybe it was you?) so I ordered it. It’s on my list and I definitely want to read it! After reading “Overdressed,” I was amazed at the impact fast fashion is having on the world. It’s actually quite sad and I hope more people become aware and decide to make different choices.

      • It could have been me! I recommend it everywhere because I was so amazed by certain aspects of the book. It’s really changed how I look at fashion these days. I’ve started reading the labels to see where my clothes come from, I haven’t set foot into Primark again (they have a particularly bad reputation for work conditions) and ultimately I want to use ethical and fair-trade brands to build my wardrobe on. I believe it’s our responsibility as consumers to educate ourselves and each other. After all, supply is demand driven and it’s our demand for a new look each week and cheaper and cheaper clothing that has created this industry the way it is now. The consumers (ie us) are the only ones who can make a change in the long term by making better choices.

      • You’re SO right, K! It makes me think of Gandhi’s quote: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Now that we know better, it’s our responsibility to DO better. Of course, we don’t have to do a complete 180 degree turn overnight. If we start taking steps in the right direction and encourage others to do the same, the changes we wish to see WILL happen! Thanks for sharing another great resource with me and my readers.

  2. Debbie, I’m glad to see this post, and I want to share something shocking that I experienced just this week. Working on culling my wardrobe for fall/winter, I decided to divide the go-to-consignment garments into 2 groups: early fall and late fall. I had 39 garments designated early fall.

    I have been taking clothing to the same upscale consignment store for a number of years, and ‘thought’ I knew the kinds of styles and brands they accepted. I had carefully cleaned, pressed, and prepared all the pieces and was certain they would accept them all.

    To my utter astonishment, they only accepted 11 of my 39 pieces, and NONE of my higher end ones! They refused 2 Karen Kane dresses, some Pendleton separates, and a Calvin Klein dress that was 6 months old and still with tags on it. All classic pieces in excellent condition. Instead, she chose lesser items that I didn’t consider in the same quality calibre.

    Picking my jaw up from my knees, I asked the saleswoman why she was refusing my better garments. She disdainfully replied “they aren’t our style–not ‘on-trend’ enough”. I looked around the store and saw that a good many of the items they had were of the type I loathe: overly embellished, flimsy fabrics, garish prints, impossible color combinations–in other words, fast fashion. In comparison my clothes were higher end, natural fibers, conservative classic colors, and timeless in style.

    I could see why she didn’t want my clothing– it wasn’t “of the nanosecond”. They couldn’t sell it “fast enough”. It wasn’t that the clothes were outdated–each piece was no more than 2 years old–they just weren’t trend driven enough. I was disheartened to see that their philosophy had changed and it had become a place where I could no longer expect to find the sort of high end timeless fashion I had come to associate with the store over the years.

    After this experience, and viewing what the store now considers fit to offer, I doubt I will be shopping there in the future because I don’t care for spangly fast fashion. I am tired of embroidery, beading, sequins, garish metallic threads. You can’t style these kinds of clothing into a multitude of different looks– their embellishment determines the limited ways in which they can be worn. And after wearing them a few times, they either fall apart or you get bored with them. No wonder they must be sold so fast–before their shelf life is up!

    You are probably wondering what I did with my cast off pieces? I admit that I was rather upset by the whole episode, and I considered taking all the clothing to another consignment shop, one I didn’t know very well. But then I paused. Instead, I revisited all the rejected garments, pulled out the best ones to take to consignment, and I donated the rest to charity. The young man at the intake was certainly surprised to see my piles of nicer clothing and I am happy that someone will enjoy wearing them.

    So you see, fast fashion has now even infiltrated supposedly ‘high end’ consignment shops where one could reliably go to find less trend driven garments. I am disappointed beyond belief. It helps me realize that I am glad to be organizing my wardrobe at this point in time, because in a few months, I will have fully curated my closet to the point where it would be counterproductive to shop recreationally and can finally distance myself from the flimsy and cheap-looking embellished clothing I find so visually offensive!

    • I should add at the end, that I find this kind of clothing aesthetically offending as well as visually.

    • As I read your comment, Deby, my mouth was gaping open. You see, I’ve had VERY similar experiences myself in recent months! As I’ve pared down my wardrobe, I’ve taken lots of garments and shoes to what was my favorite consignment store. They took some of them, but I was surprised at what they didn’t accept (even some items I had bought THERE only months before!). And what they did take got relegated to their “Wear It Well” section, which is less trendy and geared to the “more mature” woman, you might say. Many of those “less current” pieces were purchased in the Point of View department of Nordstrom just last year! Not exactly dated, you would think.

      The past two times I took items to the consignment store, I looked around to see if there was anything I wanted to buy using the credit I’d earned at the store. With the exception of one bracelet, I found NOTHING! Everything there is just as you described – flimsy, cheap-looking, embellished clothing. Both times, I cashed out my credit and used the money elsewhere. I don’t think I’ll visit that store much in the future, if at all.

      • I had a similar experience with two short sleeved Loft cardigans–they didn’t want them in the summer, but they told me to bring them back in the fall. When I did, they told me they weren’t on trend enough (!) However, one of the most surprising things they refused to take was an expensive patterned silk blouse from Nordstrom I purchased less than a year ago. It is one of those beautiful pieces with a lot of handwork–a unique garment that makes a statement–one you would think they might even want to feature on a mannequin. (I may be deciding to keep that blouse after all…)

        I don’t think my wardrobe is “mature” just because I don’t like to wear screen printed tee shirts with sequins! My mother dresses “mature”. I never see anything I like in my local consignment store either, everything has begun to look too cheap, even though they present themselves as our town’s most high end resale boutique and have numerous locations. In fact, I often see more appealing clothing at the neighborhood thrift store. They are not as new as a minute as far as trends go (but we are going for a look that defies fleeting trends anyway), but the garments are generally better made.

      • I think the consignment stores are feeling to change their business practices in order to compete. As it gets so inexpensive to buy things at retail stores due to “fast fashion,” fewer people are shopping consignment. So the business strategy of consignment stores is to stay just a few paces behind the retail stores. The trend chasers bring their few months old castoffs to consignment and go out and buy more new and cheap pieces. When you and I bring in pieces that are a year or two old (if that), they’re considered “not current” or “too mature.”

        I used to LOVE consignment because I got more variety and could pick up designer pieces at a lower price. Sometimes I don’t like the current trends (e.g. the ultra-embellished pieces you wrote about), but that’s pretty much all one can find in retail shops. I’m sad that consignment seems to be much the same as retail these days. I worry that thrift will also follow suit and we’ll just have to wait until we like the current trends. Sadly, sometimes it’s a long wait.

    • Very cool, Sara! I love The Frisky! I have another article from that site that I plan to link to soon. Your friend is doing a great job with the site!

    • Glad you liked the links, Rochelle. I’m glad I now have the opportunity to share the great things I find with others!

  3. Excellent post on an important topic.

    I like Patagonia for my everyday wear and I appreciate their ethical stance. The “Common Threads Partnership” has grown and is now more than just a recycling program, it’s their next step in reducing consumption, getting the most life out of existing gear, and sharing what they discover in the process. Now that I have begun to wear Patagonia daily I have been able to cut back to a very small amount of clothing because it is excellent quality, it lasts longer and since it is not trendy I find that I am always well dressed for my casual lifestyle.

    • Thanks, Terra! I like Patagonia, too. They excellent casual clothing. I recently bought a jacket from them to wear on my evening walks. Of course, it’s now so warm that I don’t need a jacket! But I know the jacket will serve me well for years to come. My husband has quite a few of their garments and likes them a lot. We’re both trying to purchase our clothes from more ethical manufacturers as much as possible these days.

  4. Interesting post. Almost 20 years ago, I decided to eschew “fashion” and focus on classic, well-constructed clothing that will last a few years (some items in my wardrobe over over 20 years old and still very wearable). No fashion magazines, etc. The challenge I now face is trying to replace clothes that have worn out or are otherwise no longer wearable. There’s not much to choose from, and the quality of clothing — even from higher end stores — is not as good as the stuff I already have. I have resoled and relined shoes, patched and rew0ven sweaters, etc., in order to extend the life of a garment. Trying to find basic clothing without gimmicky decoration (sequins that will never stay on, etc.) is discouraging. My sister and sister-in-law also follow this creed, and they too have trouble finding good stuff. The Karen Kane lead is a good one, but I haven’t seen this label in stores for a while.

    • Very good points, Dottie. Unfortunately, well-made clothing has become harder and harder to find. It used to be that one could find well-made gently used garments at thrift and consignment stores, but even those shops have increasingly become stocked with disposable “fast fashion” garments. There ARE still some well-made items out there, but one has to search a lot more for them than in the past. I hope that as people are becoming more aware of the downside of “fast fashion,” that we’ll have more options to choose from moving forward. Fingers crossed…

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