Shoes and skirt are thrifted. Sunglasses are from Tradesy.
Ok, I'm going to nerd out for a hot second.
When I was in business school, we did a case study on Zara about just-in-time inventory management. Their just-in-time inventory strategy means that Zara doesn’t hold excess stock in its warehouses. Instead, they produce clothes just in advance of when they’re needed.
My professor used to work in fashion and she told us how fast fashion companies send designers to the red carpet who sketch designs they see on tablets — so brands like Zara literally receive the trends in real time. As they receive sketches at the offices, they finish designing and send them off to production. The turnaround time is two weeks. It’s insane.
To an American who is obsessed with efficiency, this sounds like a wonderfully innovative process. The problem is we’re treating what should be a durable good like a single-use good. We’re treating clothes like they’re disposable.
Top is a hand-me-down. Pants and shoes are both thrifted.
My great-grandmother ran a boutique a couple decades ago (1940’s into the 60’s.) She’d go up to New York City for fashion shows and tradeshows where she’d buy wholesale for her shop. Back then, there were two seasons: summer and winter. When my parents were my age, there were four: summer, fall, winter, spring. Today, for brands like Zara who have a two week production time, there are twenty-six.
In marketing, we talk a lot about value proposition and customer pain points. Effective marketing shows a customer how a product/service/whatever will address their particular pain point. Even better if you can make the need feel more urgent and nudge them to buy now. Even better if you can show them your brand will address their need better than competitors.
In fast fashion, the main pain point brands target is the need to feel on-trend. And with a turnaround time of two weeks, they create an insatiable appetite. Fast fashion brands want you to feel out of trend a month after you buy something. But it’s cheap so you can just go buy a new one right? That’s the model. The insatiable need they’ve created seems to be working: production of clothing has doubled since 2000. Great for them, because you’re hooked. Bad for the environment and factory workers and breaking the cycle, because you’re hooked. It’s a perfect storm.
Top (Zimmerman) and pants are both from Tradesy.
I think its comical (do I have a really dark sense of humor? sorry.) that the definition of just-in-time inventory has the words “decrease waste” in it. (Full definition: a strategy to increase efficiency and decrease waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process) because fast fashion is the culprit of so much landfill waste.
Americans throw away an average of 80 pounds of clothing per person per year. Depending on who you talk to, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, after oil. Other sources say it’s a bit further down in the list but it’s consistently in the top ten.
Fast fashion is a key contributor to modern slavery — including child labor and trafficking. 70-80% (depending on the source) of modern slaves are in the labor industry and most are women of color.
Okay so now that I’m gotten myself fired up (sitting here at my laptop literally fuming) let me share some actual steps you can take to help.
When I first started learning about the injustices in fast fashion I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem and the amount of information out there. It’s daunting. It’s hard to find action steps when you’re overwhelmed, which is why I wanted to create this checklist. Three simple steps to stop inadvertently feeding injustice and start shopping ethically.
Tees from Reformation. Jeans are thrifted. Sunglasses are MiuMiu from Tradesy and shoes and hand-me-downs.
Here are my 3 tips.
3. Call it what it is.
I am a big fan of being honest. Let’s call things what they are. There is no fashion vs. ethical fashion. It is unethical fashion vs. ethical fashion. No neutral. This is important to remember because we’re so far removed from the production process. We don’t see the injustice because it’s covered up by shiny, glossy advertising. So we have to stop with the euphemisms. It’s a lot harder to bring yourself to shop child labor and sweatshops when you call fast fashion by its name.
2. Quit fast fashion cold.
I talked about the insatiable appetite fast fashion has created earlier. The best way to break the habit is to quit cold. Every single purchase is a choice. I remember being in Topshop shortly after I began my ethical fashion journey and I tried on a really cute dress. I was tempted to buy it. I looked at the tag and saw it was made in Mexico. I started wondering if Topshop was really that bad. So I pulled out my phone in the dressing room and a quick search uncovered child labor allegations against Topshop. No stupid dress is worth that. So I made a rule for myself — I don’t shop fast fashion at all. It’s much easier to break the habit that way.
1. Thrift and shop sustainable brands.
Buy second hand and from ethical brands! (be careful about “greenwashing” from big brands — looking at you, H&M) My favorite way to shop is to invest in quality staple pieces from ethical brands, and to buy trendy things second hand. Thrifting has become such a fun part of my life. It’s like a treasure hunt! And I can shop in peace knowing I’m not hurting our earth or propping up modern slavery.
Did these tips help? I hope so. If you’re feeling like commenting, let me know any other tips you have or ethical brands I should check out! Love y’all. Have a great weekend.
I wanna show you some of my favorite sustainable brands and thrift finds! And lots of pictures of me attempting to model - ha! Hope you enjoy!!!