One Year of No Fast-Fashion Challenge

"It is the end of April, and so far, I am holding on well with my statement and decision do not shop at fast-fashion brands for one year."


The last time I found myself in a long line full of impatient people at one of ZARA stores, was the end of January when the season of attractive sales was almost over. In my possession, I had an oversized cream shirt, black dress and a pair of jeans. That was the end of my rare shopping at fast-fashion stores, and beginning of the challenge to stay away from those brands for one year. I can think of quite a few reasons that developed such an idea in my mind, and that is what this post should be about. Now, I do not call anyone to stop their shopping habits. I also wish to judge no one for shopping at fast-fashion stores. However, as I developed some kind of experience in the industry, along with a particular point of view on massively produced clothes, I wish to say a few words. Obviously, I do not need to explain what most people talk about nowadays. In essence, the struggle of the environment and the impact mass production has on nature and the way we as consumers are involved in those struggles. Firstly I would suggest researching the topic on your own time because such an act of curiosity brought me to the 'no fast-fashion' challenge. Secondly, another reason that brought me to the change was my experience of working in clothing retail and fashion houses.


The fashion industry that only seventy years ago was focused on quality, in-country production, fairly treated craft masters and the whole design process, collapsed when the idea of fast-fashion was proposed. There are two sides of fast-fashion, and they both are so far from each other that an average consumer sees only the result on a hanger, not the whole process, a harmful process a garment went through. Fast-fashion is full of advantages, one would say. Indeed, the clothes are affordable, and the ability to purchase designer-like but much cheaper is undeniable. More than that, if an individual is tired from wearing the same attire after a couple of weeks, fast-fashion stores are more than willing to offer new, compelling, and something within the latest trends. Then, the circle keeps spinning. In that circle trapped, they all who chaise a bargain, hoping to end up with a simple bite of that glamorous life that is openly shown in advertising of a brand. More than the vanity of chasing the newest trends (that frankly are so repetitive), there is a side that consumers do not see. It is the side of production. To create fast, cheap and deliver newly sewn garments to the stores around the world, brands with big known names need affordable and fast labour. There come developing countries where factory owners simply thrive for orders. One would argue, saying that fast-fashion brands create workplaces, yet no one would deny that those workplaces are filled with child labour, disrespectful behaviour towards women, non-healthy work conditions and so on. Other than the people factor, there is also an environmental factor. Again, returning to my suggestion. Do your research and see how much water, energy and other resources are required to make that pair of jeans that in the store on sale cost $15.99. After I did my research, something simply shifted in my mind, forced me to wonder, to ask myself questions why, with what clear reasons I needed that many clothes. That was the beginning as the question tracked me wherever I went, and whenever I craved to make another purchase. 


The time of my research started when I was working in one of those fast-fashion brands first at the main office, and later at the retail as a visual merchandiser. Until one starts questioning oneself where all those unsold garments go, where they had been produced, under what circumstances, and what type of labour provides a fast-fashion store with a daily amount of 50 to 100 boxes of new goods, one will remain thinking that it is a normal process. So, that was when the research acquired physical traits. It was as if along with analysis, my eyes were opening, and the continuous process of cheap clothing production and distribution appeared as meaningless. That is the word! It is rather meaningless I thought for a mindful, cleaver human being keep on filling the wardrobe with clothes that, after all, repeat themselves. I've never been a big fast-fashion shopper, even during working at one of those brands. It probably was the developed mentality from the fashion school that taught me that design and quality matter. It also was the mentality that originated in the '90s in Russia when my mama would sew my dresses. Observing my mother sewing, and later studying the design myself, contributed to developing the taste towards a unique style. However, no matter my will power until I researched the process fast-fashion garments take, I allowed myself a few purchases a month. Furthermore, I worked with those garments, and after days of looking at them, I wanted to wear them. 


The clothing industry has interesting consequences on the mind of a human. The image starts with appealing advertising. It begins with triggers as a good sale or promises of brands that a person who wears those particular garments will feel and look as attractive as the model on the picture or a video. More than an appealing image of oneself, it promises a specific lifestyle. Then it goes further, fitting room or online shopping. The belief into the perfect picture still lives in mind and voila; the purchase is made.
Nevertheless, one forgets that hundreds of similar purchases were made in the same state of mind, with the same naive belief to the promise of the brand. Once my closet was full of those promises. Contrarily to the feeling of my expectations, my wardrobe was nothing but overwhelmed. 
Hence, the decision to challenge my shopping habits came to me when I spent a few months working in a small local boutique. Working there involved studying more of slow fashion, mindful shopping, and talking to customers about returning to the old-fashioned ways of designing, producing and wearing clothes. Along with dressing up clients, I was also educating my mind preparing it for the test. My vision that started with empathy for those who suffer to create garments that will be thrown away after a month of wearing it, continued with seeing beauty in mindful clothes purchasing. One shall agree that there is a somewhat of allure in planning, searching, finally finding that desired piece of ready-to-wear. There is something of dignity in wearing quality garments and taking good care of them. There is, after all, a rewarding result of a wardrobe that includes only well-made, ethically made, and loved pieces.


I was standing in the line that January day and looking at rushing through the store people thought it all through. Later on, the conclusion came to me as I no longer wanted to be a part of that circle that spins and spins. The circle that instead of bringing desired satisfaction of self-imagine, brings filled wardrobes with no meaning behind it. 

I still enjoy wearing all my pieces that were bought at fast-fashion stores. (I mean, look at this button-up shirt!)  However, I pay close attention to the way I take care of them. Clothes are not disposable, and my intention is to wear them for years. It has not been hard not to shop since the quarantine started, yet I am thrilled to see myself after all this will be over, and stores will reopen again. I genuinely believe that the last few months already turned me into a person who is disinterested in shopping more, in buying at fast-fashion, and started developing the point of view of being a collector of well-made garments, rather than a mindless, rushing consumer. Another factor was my fancy to see how my wardrobe and I will handle the shopping-less process, where I would think, would search, would savour the process of adding something new to my collection, instead of buying by the first intention.
Let me know if the challenge is something you are interested in as well. I shall be writing more on the topic because I believe that soon the challenge will turn into a lifestyle.



With hugs,

Marie K.