the quality of using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully
synonyms: frugality · economy · economizing · thriftiness
My first job (ever) was at Giant Food Stores as a cashier during my senior year of high school. I remember getting my first paycheck, which totaled to a whopping $100.43. You couldn't tell me I wasn't rolling in dough. The first place I went after cashing my check was Charlotte Russe. I couldn't get there fast enough and left with more bags than I should have. Sweaters. Jeans. Heels. You name it! I cleaned them out. I remember shopping at least twice as month to keep my closet up to date with the latest fashion. At the time, I didn't know it, but I was doing myself a major disservice. Looking back, I'm pretty sure everything I purchased lasted less than 10 washes and I'm sure you can guess why.
As I become more aware of the ins and outs of the fashion industry, mainly the fast fashion aspect, I've been trying to do my part and shop consciously. For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term “fast fashion”, it refers to the phenomenon in the fashion industry when production processes are expedited in order to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible. This is why we see well-known fast-fashion retailers (H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Topshop, Old Navy, among many others) introducing new collections multiple times in a single month.
Fast fashion retailers primarily use synthetic fabrics to manufacture clothing. In other words, the quality of the clothing being produced is low and isn’t meant or made to last. To the end consumer, this may not seem like a huge issue because options are everything, but this process comes at a cost. On a very high level, the fast fashion industry is one of the leading contributors to the depletion and pollution of some of the earth’s natural resources and often leverages labor of people in the developing world to pass on a "cheap" cost to the end consumers. In most cases, the people making our clothing in countries like Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, and parts of China can't even afford to purchase what they are making.
Making the transition to shopping consciously hasn't been easy, as I've become so accustomed to shopping in department stores and buying into fast fashion my whole life. But as I learn more about the true cost of fashion, I'm motivated to stay the course. It's never too late to start!
Being thrifty is often confused with being cheap. It's actually the exact opposite and it's one of the easier ways to start shopping consciously. Get started by doing some of the following:
Researching ethical clothing brands
These brands usually are very transparent with the "who, what, and where" details of the production of their clothes and usually follow ad abide by Fair Trade laws. Here's a list of a few well-known eco-friendly clothing brands, but you can check out my Instagram and blog on Fridays (starting in January) as I plan on featuring a different ethical clothing brand every week whose products I like.
Research and experiment with ethical fast fashion brands
Although they are far and few in between, they do exist. H&M offers a conscious clothing section as part of their sustainability goals. The ASOS Green Room offers an even larger selection of sustainably-made clothing from eco-conscious brands. Urban Outfitters has a section called Urban Renewal, which is clothing handcrafted in Philadelphia out of vintage or recycled materials.
Budget and invest in high quality staples.
When buying high quality staples, it’s not impossible to stick with the same clothing budget that you use for fast fashion—but it does require an adjustment to how you shop. Although high quality garments cost more, you are getting a much better bang for your buck in the long run. The investment in higher quality fabrics (organic cotton, linen, wool, silk, etc..) will last much longer.
Start shopping at thrift stores.
One of the best ways you can shop consciously is by purchasing secondhand clothing. Nowadays, I prefer thrift shopping because I've discovered so many new brands and designers this why. I've been able to put my own twist on today's fashion without looking like everyone else. Here's a few of my favorite thrift shops in the tri-state area and online:
- Buffalo Exchange
- 2nd Avenue
- Clothes Mentor
- Plato's Closet
- Rent the Runway (online)
- PostMark (Online)
- OfferUp (App)
- ThredUP (online)
I'm always looking for new places to go thrifting. Comment below with places you like to thrift shop at! Also, if you want to start going thrift shopping and have no idea where to start, check out www.thethriftshopper.com, a site that lets you conveniently search thrift shops in your and beyond by zip code.
Until next time.