Tag: fast fashion

Spend More, Buy Less – Part 4

As I said in my first post on this topic, I plan to investigate the matter further. The first step that I planned to take was watching The True Cost, the documentary that has been talked about in every fast-fashion criticism of the past few years. I have also read a book on the topic Where Am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman, a writer who chronicled his travels around the world to find out exactly where his clothes were made: Levi’s, the all-American icon were made in Cambodia, his flip-flops made in China. I also went to a talk by the author during my orientation week at school. I found it very interesting and it also brought up further ethical dilemmas. It so happened that I went to a talk about sustainability in Edinburgh in July which sparked another post, so here is part 4 in the Spend More, Buy Less series; a series that I hope to continue for as long as I can keep thinking up ideas on the matter.

I did actually watch The True Cost and I found it rather saddening. I hate to think that people would be dying just so I can buy a pair of jeans for £20 or a t-shirt for £3. Obviously these items should cost more but I think we have become so accustomed to paying these prices that we think nothing of it. Especially when you’re a teenager and you have a small monthly allowance, you’re unlikely to save up to get an expensive, ethically made pair of jeans or a t-shirt. For the past year I have been working full time and therefore have had a little bit more money than I did before (but I was saving for college so I didn’t have quite as much spending money as I wish I did!) so I did buy more expensive, hopefully more ethical purchases than I did before. Now I’m back to being a student without a job and therefore no income. So the small amount of money that I do have I am likely to spend on clothes from Zara. I feel slightly ashamed to even think like that now that I am fully aware of what goes into the making of these clothes but I will also not be able to afford anything better so it’s a bit of a catch-22 that I’m sure many other people are in.

On one hand, I could shop locally made. For example, since I’ll be in the USA I could buy items from American Apparel, a now-flailing brand, but they don’t have the selection that I’m looking for. They’re just basics. I could also shop vintage. I do enjoy this actually but it is definitely more difficult if you’re looking for something super specific. Since arriving in New York I’ve found a bunch of great vintage/second hand stores, although I find that they can be a little bit expensive for used clothing. Really I’m broke as hell so I’m not doing much shopping at all right now.

Since attending fashion school I’m experiencing further disdain for the fast-fashion industry and even private label brands who are ripping off the work of other designers. Yet I feel stuck because I can’t afford any better, and being at a fashion school it almost feels necessary to keep refreshing your style. It is very difficult to be around people who are constantly wearing new looks and trying new things and not wanting to be involved. It’s rather disappointing to me because when I started researching this I thought that by the end of the year I might have stopped shopping fast fashion altogether, and now here is me buying multiple pieces from Zara a month. I’ve even shopped at Forever 21 a couple of times. It’s kind of embarrassing to me, especially because I’m now ultra aware of the effects of my consumption.

It is funny reading this post from beginning to end for me because I started it in August with the best intentions and as time has passed and I’ve got less and less money and more and more urges and desires to have new things, I seem to have just lost everything that I had found over the summer. I can see my viewpoint changing throughout the post. From before I got to New York (I could shop at American Apparel) to after I’d been there a few weeks (I could go thrifting) to now (Zara, Forever 21). It is shameful and I am sorry. I really need to sit down and reevaluate things because I know that fast fashion isn’t worth it, not to me or to the people (and the environment) that are being harmed as a result of it.

To anyone out there who is reading this and wants to remain stylish but on a (very small) budget, what’s your advice? How do you will yourself away from fast fashion? And honestly, how do you shop vintage? (The experience is just stressful to me.)

Spend More, Buy Less

Note: This was written at the beginning of July and queued. Since then I have done more research and I have further posts coming up detailing my findings.

The concept of “spend more, buy less” is fairly buzzy at the moment. Fast fashion is the devil whereas ethical fashion is king. I cannot pretend that I don’t shop in fast fashion stores. In fact, I buy clothes from Zara, one of the worst offenders, almost every single month. However, I have noticed myself making more of an effort to buy less and buy better. I have to admit that this is less from an ethical standpoint (I still haven’t seen The True Cost yet, but I do plan to watch it in a couple of weeks) and more from a future-planning stance. I need to buy a wardrobe full of staples and basics that will last me the next few years of college, and the one-season trend pieces can be bought cheaply when the time comes.

Spending smartly is key for me at the moment. I’m going from having a full time job and a decent amount of disposable income to spend on whatever I want to being a student in a country that I cannot legally work in. Pocket money will be less than I’ve gotten used to and I won’t actually have my own income. It seems crazy. In preparation for this I have been upgrading items in my wardrobe to better quality items that will hopefully last me for years. I’m buying good leather, silk, and suede whilst I still can. I’m buying cotton instead of polyester. I’m avoiding the fabric that is labelled as “slinky” on every e-boutique that is usually flattering but clearly a fire hazard. Light a match near me in a two-piece slinky co-ord set and I’ll go up in flames.

Initially I found spending more than £100 on anything terrifying. However, I have realised that although I am spending more than I normally would on the initial output, the cost per wear is probably lower over time than it is with less expensive items I am buying. Cost per wear sounds like a cop-out excuse to justify your spending but I have actually found it an effective measure of if my purchase was worthwhile or not. Take a pair of black leather ankle boots as an example. This winter I bought a pair from Hobbs. They are a classic style made from soft leather and they have a small but manageable heel. From January to April I wore them 5 days a week and since then I’ve worn them at least once. Believe it or not, they look as good as new. All I need to do is polish them literally once a month and the marks are gone. I plan to get them reheeled if they ever need done instead of just buying new boots every year. Before I bought these ones, say from October to December, I actually bought 3 pairs of cheap boots that I thought could tide me over in the meantime. 2 were from Missguided, another from Primark. I probably spent around £65/70 altogether on these boots which were disposable to me. They didn’t last more than a month each and I knew they wouldn’t be a good investment when I bought them. That was stupid spending and it’s the type that I’m trying to stop, or at least limit.

Inside & Other Stories on Broadway, New York

I have now taken to shopping in the stores that are between straight-up fast fashion and designer. Just now I really love & Other Stories, a brand from the H&M group that makes a lot of cool pieces out of great materials. Their stores are an experience in themselves too. I really enjoy going there. I also visited Aritzia when I was in New York last month and liked the selection in there. They had a lot of brands with prices starting around $100 and going way up. I have never heard much about Aritzia which made me wonder why. Is there a reason that this store is not hyped online or am I just missing it? From what I know, they are a Canadian company who have a few stores across North America. They don’t yet ship internationally so that may be a factor. I also really like the Boutique range in Topshop, the more minimalist big sister of the main line. Elevated basics is what I into really. Rather boring but I find it better to buy interesting basics rather than fussy, trend pieces that will look dated very quickly.

The next few items on my list of things to invest in are a good leather backpack (I like the Alexander Wang Prisma range and I also seen a Gucci one that I liked but realistically I’ll be way to broke to save up for either), a heavy coat that will last a few New York winters (hopefully not a parka but maybe it’ll come to that), black leather pumps, and a silk shirt.

I think I’ll probably revisit this topic in a few months after I have watched The True Cost and also done some further research on fast fashion. I understand the basics of why it is bad, from various standpoints (humans, environment, businesses), but I do not have enough knowledge of the ins and outs to discuss it very well. I sometimes feel that the people who condemn fast fashion speak from a point of privilege. Lots of people don’t have enough money spare to shop ethically, which is always more expensive than just going to Primark to pick up some clothes. If you’re struggling to make ends meet or if you’ve got kids who are the priority I feel like you’re less likely to be able to make this change. And really, it may be low on your list of concerns. I don’t know where I stand. I feel it would be far too hypocritical to act as if I thought fast fashion was the worst thing ever because I shop it and I benefit from it in many ways (I used to be employed by a fast fashion company). As I said, I will revisit this topic at a later date when I’ve hopefully formed a more sophisticated opinion that I can articulate a little bit better.