How to: Break Up with Fast Fashion

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Start reducing your closet's impact on the environment with these fun tips & resources.

By Allegra Pearl

For as long as I can remember, I've never seen something spark more joy in my mom than a local garage sale or church bizarre. “Look how cute this is, I have to get it”, “Can you believe it was only $5.00”, “Come on, I’m supporting local” or even “We can’t just let them throw out their Nona’s painting….” are just a few iconic lines said by mom over the years as she justifies her newfound purchases to my father. This adoration for second hand shopping was definitely passed on to her four daughters as we grew up never longing for a Rideau Center shopping spree, but rather a consignment, vintage or thrift store clothing haul.

So much so, that all of us have and continue to work at a local consignment store called “The Clothes Secret” in Old Ottawa South. As I got older and opened my eyes to the horrors of the fast fashion industry, I cannot express how thankful I am for my mom instilling in us a love for second hand shopping.

Fast fashion is an industry that produces poorly constructed clothes of the latest trends that have planned obsolescence. Humans currently produce 4x more clothing than 20 years ago and we only regularly wear up to 20 to 30 percent of the items overflowing our wardrobes. This industry has detrimental environmental impacts as it produces toxic chemicals that pollute the air and the water. For example, research indicates that textile dyeing is responsible for being the second largest polluter of clean water globally after agriculture.

These articles of clothing are made from fabrics like polyester, nylon and cotton that all pose negative environmental effects. Polyester takes up to 200 years to decompose and requires 70 million barrels of oil each year to be produced. Manufacturing Nylon creates nitrous oxide which is a greenhouse gas that is approximately 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Cotton is extremely water intensive and requires 20,000 litres to produce 1 gram. These statistics are just the tip of the iceberg regarding the industry's negative environmental impact. Furthermore, the industry has massive ethical and social implications such as child labor, slave wages and dangerous working conditions. A few fast fashion brands to look out for and avoid include: Zara, UNIQLO, GAP, Primark, Topshop, Zaful, Fashionnova, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Shein, etc.

Moving towards a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe is not as difficult as it may seem with all the amazing second hand stores we have here in Ottawa. We have numerous consignment stores, vintage stores and thrift stores to choose from! As well, depop and instagram accounts of people selling second hand clothes are rapidly gaining popularity. A few of my favourite clothing instagram accounts include: weftandwhorl, kdvintage, ivyvintageclothing, etc. My favourite consignment stores in Ottawa include: The Clothes Secret and The Clothes Tree. The clothing in these stores are provided by local consignors that receive a cut of the profits when their item sells. This results in items having higher price tags than those found at thrift stores that run solely on donations. Keep in mind it’s important to acknowledge your financial situation and shop accordingly. For example, some people can only afford to shop at thrift stores such as Value Village or Salvation Army, so it's important to be mindful when you visit thrift stores and refrain from making unnecessary purchases just because you’re in a financial situation to do so.

If you’d like to learn more check out the documentary “The True Cost” that exposes the horrors of the fast fashion industry. The key to a sustainable wardrobe lies not only in buying your clothes second hand or from ethical brands, but from reducing your shopping in general. We must abandon our programmed urge to keep up with the latest fashion trends and work to do our best to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle when it comes to our wardrobe.

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