Spotted on a celeb, then seen in the shops just moments later - that is fast fashion. It’s the mass production of clothing, designed to satisfy ever changing trends. Pumped out by brands as fast as possible just to cash in on the latest must-have looks.
But green is now truly the new black, and it’s finally time to say goodbye to shopping fast fashion. That means no more late night shopping at places like #shein or #prettylittlething, no more shopping hauls and no more buying clothes to only wear them once.
So, what are the alternatives to shopping fast fashion?
Swapping, thrifting, making, renting or shopping slow fashion - are all great (and green) alternatives, and I encourage you to use one (or more) of these options instead of shopping fast fashion.
Let’s dive in.
Time to gather up your friends and the clothes you don’t have a use for anymore and get swapping! I mean, what could be better than snagging a ‘new’ item that you’ve been eyeing up on your nearest and dearest? You don’t just have to swap clothes with your siblings or closest friends though, there are Facebook groups and meetups designed for people to gather and exchange wardrobes.
There are so many benefits to swapping. One being that you get to save money - not just on the clothes themselves, but also on the trip to the mall, and shipping costs. But most importantly your clothes get a second life, and aren’t put to waste in landfill. It saves water, avoids greenhouse gas emissions and preserves our natural resources.
Ready to give swapping a try? Why not organise a swap locally and as a bonus request an entry fee so that you can donate the money raised to a charity that helps sweatshop and textile workers.
Thrifting is probably the most popular or well known alternative to shopping fast fashion. Influencers like Emma Chamberlain are to thank for this, inspiring many of the Gen Z population to thrift their clothes for “unique” items.
Waste reduction, lower prices and community bonding are just a few of the many benefits that come with shopping for “uniqueness”.
By thrifting your clothes, you can help reduce the 60-80 pounds of textile waste that ends up in landfills every year. You also will help save the more than 400 gallons of water that’s needed to produce just one single cotton tee.
Thrifting also helps the community by employing people with disabilities or veterans, since many thrift stores employ those who may have a hard time finding a job.
If you are a dab hand with a needle and thread then making your own clothes may be the option for you. Making your own clothes can give you a sense of purpose and creativity. However, if you are sewing-challenged like me, this may not be the best alternative. You can still support small businesses though, and buy from people that hand make clothes - there are numerous etsy shops out there!
Making your own clothing allows you to create a kind of ‘bond’ with the item. When you enjoy the process and the outcome, you’ll feel proud to wear it and want share the story. Sounds silly, but this very bond could lead to many years of usage which in turn, saves the blouse or purse from ending up in a landfill.
Top tip, if you are looking to give making your own clothes a go, try to source organic and recycled materials, or choose from the fabric off cuts at the store, even better yet try modifying the clothes you’ve thrifted, swapped or stopped wearing - you could start by switching out the buttons, embroidering over worn areas or completely transform the garment from a dress to a pair of shorts - there are no limits.
Designer and high end clothes are now at your fingertips thanks to clothing rental services like Rent the Runway. These platforms effectively allow you to borrow pieces you’d normally only wear once, or could only dream of buying.
If you are someone who enjoys the finer things in life, then this may be the best sustainable option for you! Even better yet, if one of the pieces you rent really takes your fancy, you can choose to buy it - often scoring it for around HALF the retail price!
Renting clothing is a great sustainable option, it reduces the amount of fast fashion you might buy, reduces the amount of textiles sent to landfill, prolongs the life of clothing already in circulation, and with enough demand could reduce the amount of clothing that is produced annually.
With Rent the Runway you can rent up to four designer and high end pieces for $159 a month, but there are lots of other options out there too, like Hurr in the UK. Local boutique stores like Rue Saint Paul in Brooklyn, NY are also now offering rental programs.
Slow fashion doesn’t follow the same mass produced, fast pace, low quality model of fast fashion. With slow fashion, fewer styles are produced in lower quantities at higher quality.
Typically slow fashion brands don’t follow seasons and trends, they usually only release new items once inventory has sold out or when the seasons change.
Slow fashion brands will be using eco-friendly materials, and producing ethically. (Check out our blog on sustainable materials for more on the fabrics to look out for). The garments they produce have a lower footprint on our planet and are designed to last. For this reason the upfront investment is usually higher, but the lifetime cost of the garment is better than that of fast fashion prices.
If you haven’t been able to find what you are looking for by swapping, thrifting, renting or making, then shopping slow fashion is the best option.
Overall, there are many alternatives to shopping fast fashion. And, all of them are helping to save our environment while suiting our ever-growing sustainable lives.
So- what are you waiting for?!
By Meg Ahearn
Nature®, S. (2021). Slow Fashion, What is it and What are the Advantages? Slow Nature®.
Cincinnati, G. (2020, February 24). 5 Incredible Benefits of Thrift Shopping. Goodwill Cincinnati.
Jones, J. (2019, October 2). I Rented Clothes for a Month Instead of Buying Them-and Saved So Much Money. Who What Wear.
Trauth, E. (2014, March 24). How Clothing Swaps Could Help Save the World. One Green Planet.
Walsh , A. (2020, January 24). The benefits of making your own clothes. That's Not My Age.