Fast fashion is a highly profitable industry that churns out cheap and trendy clothing at an alarming rate. But this trend-focused industry comes at a high cost to the environment and the people involved in making the clothes. The good news is that more and more people are waking up to the problems caused by fast fashion and are seeking alternatives. If you're one of those people looking to quit fast fashion and build a more sustainable wardrobe, here are 18 tips to help you get started.
KEY BIG STEP
1. Admit you have a problem.
Why is admitting you have a problem the first step? Many addiction specialists suggest that this step indicates the person struggling is aware or becoming aware of their problematic behaviour. Taking this first step is therefore the start of your journey of change.
Journalling is considered to be a significant part of one’s therapy toolkit: write down your reasons for quitting! They will be important references when times become challenging. If the money and time you’ve spent on fast fashion form part of your rationale, put some estimates in your journal if you can’t get exact numbers.
2. Delete all fast fashion apps.
Once you’re on this journey, you want to get some quick wins under your belt. These quick wins are no more than a small number of phone taps away. The goal here is to remove as many triggers as you possibly can. Having fast fashion ecommerce apps on your phone is a sure-fire trigger for casual browsing that you want to remove. Just delete them. If that's too hard to do on the first day, start by turning off notifications. That’s your absolute bare minimum. You can do it!
3. Unsubscribe from fast fashion newsletters.
The next step is to remove the fast fashion newsletters that lure you in with new ranges and offers designed to encourage impulse buys. Scroll down to the bottom of each email and look for the “Unsubscribe” link. Are you sure? Yes.
4. Unfollow social media influencers promoting fast fashion.
We’ve all been there where we are hooked on some social media account and we can’t get enough of the dopamine hits that each post or video generates. We’re not just talking about Insta here but also YouTuber #haul culture. Breaking habits is hard and so we have to go cold turkey on these influencers who unhelpfully reinforce bad habits.
5. Follow #slowfashion and #sustainablefashion accounts.
Unfollowing certain accounts that you love on social media is indeed difficult, and it can be helpful to find substitutes. Go find slow fashion influencers on Instagram and YouTube. You'll find plenty of inspiration for building a sustainable wardrobe without the pressure of needing to do it straightaway.
A few suggestions:
6. Build a support network.
If you have friends who have also been wondering how to quit fast fashion, it can be helpful to form a support group. Each of you can act as a mentor to another during moments of weakness when temptation strikes to build better habits. It can help to befriend someone already into slow and sustainable fashion – they will be happy to help! A friend in need is a friend indeed.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of documenting your own journey and teaching others how to quit fast fashion.
7. Educate yourself on the problems that fast fashion causes.
If all you see is information from fast fashion brands, it is likely that you will not have the full picture. We all know fast fashion is generally bad, but often we need a deeper understanding to be convinced of how bad it is. Sometimes, information that directly contradicts what we’ve held as a key belief can be difficult to absorb. So take the time to educate yourself. This won’t be something where you read or watch one thing and that’s it. It will likely take time.
Start by watching "The True Cost," the #1 documentary on the truth behind fast fashion, available for free on YouTube.
8. Learn about sustainable fashion.
Many influencers, activists, and sustainable fashion brands are interested in educating potential customers who are seeking to quit fast fashion. We have a range of articles on this to try to help people switch to sustainable fashion, from the best recycled clothing brands to how sustainable fashion can be affordable. We’re far from the only ones that do this but we’re probably in a minority that are making YouTube videos.
9. Do a wardrobe audit.
There are some apps that can help you do this but you don’t need technology to be honest. You can just ask yourself what you wear each season to figure out what you wear and what you don’t wear.
- Start making space in your wardrobe by selling or donating the clothes that you haven't worn much and won't be wearing again.
- If you really like some damaged clothes that seem like they may be repairable, hold on to them. They will be useful for later.
- Keep some old items for chores where there is a risk that clothes might get dirty. Obviously, you won’t want to be wearing new clothes for such chores.
10. Develop your personal look-book or vision board for your future wardrobe.
This is probably the most fun of the tips we have so make sure you enjoy it! Take your time to pin/ screenshot the looks you like from sustainable fashion brands and slow fashion influencers. The idea here is not about buying everything at once but rather developing a long-term plan that prioritises your needs (informed by your wardrobe audit) over your wants (although it’s ok to have some of these too). By being clearer about what you want, you’re less likely to get triggered into an impulse purchase which is an incredible power to cultivate with a look-book.
Think about which combinations you’ll wear across the range of casual to smart-casual to smart-formal. Some items may work across the entire spectrum with the right accessory. There is plenty of scope for creativity here!
11. Create a preferred supplier list and a naughty list
When you create your look-book, you may wish to develop some intent about where you will buy from. Sustainable fashion is likely to come from sustainable brands whereas any fast fashion that you may end up buying should be ideally second-hand.
You may consequently develop a list of places you will buy from due to them having shared values and a list of places you will never buy from because their values clash with yours. Remember you’re here to quit fast fashion so it should be quite easy to figure out which companies you don’t want to buy from again. If you’ve ever had an irrational dislike for a brand, you should find it easier to have a rational dislike for others!
12. Develop blocking questions.
New you doesn’t fall into the fast fashion traps of impulse purchases. New you thinks with purpose. However, sometimes a fast fashion trigger may sneak through the defences you’ve set up on your phone. Maybe it’s a WhatsApp message from a friend asking you what you think about an outfit they’re trying on. Maybe you walk past an attractive window display on the High Street. When an urge manifests, you want to be ready with some blocking questions that you always ask yourself before buying something new. For example, "Is this item on my vision board?" If the answer is no, don't buy it. If the item is indeed on your vision board then the next question is ideally: “Should I get it second-hand or from a sustainable store?”
13. Challenge yourself to a no-buy period of 3 months.
It’s time to level up from your fast fashion social media cold turkey approach. Now you are going to challenge yourself to not spend money on fast fashion for 3 months. Tick each day off on your calendar or habit tracking app and enjoy the dopamine from each successful day. Put the money you would spend each month into a Pot on your Monzo account or whichever banking app you use. Only use the money at the end of the challenge on a look-book item. A fitting reward!
14. To help, stay away from fast fashion stores for 3 months.
It’s possible that you may feel like you need to get something for an upcoming event or meeting. When this happens you’ll want to avoid walking into a fast fashion store even for a browse to avoid a naughty purchase. The best way of avoiding that is to have set yourself a target to avoid going into a fast fashion store for 3 months.
Don't let fast fashion sales make you weak! Not buying at all is even cheaper.
Also, if shopping is something you tend to put in your calendar, see if you can replace it with a coffee in an independent café or a walk in the park with your shopping buddy. If you really need to go shopping, consider visiting a charity shop, second-hand store, or vintage store instead. If somehow, you do find yourself in a fast fashion store, one of your blocking questions is likely to be “Will I be able to find this second-hand or in a sustainable store?”
15. Learn how to repair and repurpose your clothes.
On average we tend to wear an item of clothing about 7 times. This may be a function of the poor quality of fast fashion clothing and/or fast fashion changing micro-trends on a weekly basis. Such throwaway culture, however, is not the only way to live. You can learn how to repair or repurpose your clothes from the variety of YouTube channels and Instagram accounts that offer tutorials. This will give new life to clothes you’ve mentally binned. Making the most of your existing resources will help your money go further as you upgrade your wardrobe.
16. Find a local tailor or workshop to get something fixed or repurposed.
Sometimes the value of an item is too great or the nature of the repair is too complex for us to undertake ourselves. In such instances, it is a good idea to be aware of local artisans that can complete the job at hand. Resoling shoes is a classic example of where there is an easy fix for the wear and tear of daily usage: you won’t need to buy a new pair and the money saved increases your pot further for the new items you really need.
17. Vintage values
This is admittedly a tip that is not available to everyone as it’s about asking an older generation for tips. Ideally, if you have your grandparents with you, ask them how they managed their clothes and stayed fashionable. Some of their trends may never have made it on the retro-comeback trail but you can bet that they had to be creative if they were fashionable. You might learn some valuable tips and tricks for making clothes last or find out that your gran can work miracles with a sewing machine. It’s best to learn from those that can.
BUILDING NEW HABITS
18. Buy an item of sustainable clothing
When the time comes for you to buy a new item, consider getting a higher-quality sustainable item from your preferred supplier list instead of a designer label. It may cost more (but not always as some newsletters give discount codes) but the longevity and comfort might make you think twice about buying fast fashion again.
After all, if you can wear an item for a long time because of the quality then it could work out cheaper than repeatedly buying a fast-fashion thing that you need to perpetually replace. This also helps sustainability too, by reducing waste.
By following these tips, you can gradually shift towards a more sustainable wardrobe that reflects your values and respects the planet. Remember, quitting fast fashion isn't about being perfect, but about making small changes that add up over time. Good luck on your sustainable fashion journey!