3 Easy Sustainable Shopping Practices to Beat Fast Fashion

This blog was originally written by Madeleine Villa.

As the world is in collective lockdown and the Earth has a bit of breathing room, we’re all reflecting on how things have changed, and how things may need to change for us to embrace sustainable shopping, and live healthy, productive lives on our beautiful planet. Bearing in mind the fast fashion environmental impact, a big question mark is how can the fashion industry be more sustainable? For instance, did you know that the fashion industry alone is responsible for 10% of our carbon emissions? That’s more than maritime shipping and international flights alone. People around the world are purchasing more than 60% more clothing compared to two decades ago and its lifespan is only lasting half as long.

Clothing is being produced at an astonishing rate and in less than ethical and sustainable ways. Textile waste is the last un-sustainable process in a garment’s short-lived life. Textile dying uses two million Olympic-sized pools worth of freshwater a year and is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution globally. While simply washing our clothes results in the release of 500,000 tons of microfibers into our oceans each year, about the equivalent of 50 billion water bottles. Trust us these numbers scare us too but there is hope!

So what is fast fashion?

“Fast fashion: is a contemporary term used by fashion retailers for designs that flow from the catwalk quickly to capture current fashion trends. Fast fashion clothing collections are based on the most recent fashion trends presented at Fashion Week in both the spring and autumn of every year.” (wikipedia.com)

Supporting the local economy through sustainable shopping: Henkaa convertible and multiway dresses are made designed and made in Canada as seen on our tags.

Henkaa is designed and made in Canada.

Fast fashion exploits overseas workers and the most vulnerable to offer products at incredibly low prices so that consumers purchase bigger quantities and shop more often. Small businesses that produce high-quality goods made locally are negatively affected by fast fashion because similar lower quality products are offered at much cheaper prices. As a consumer your dollar is your vote, it is more important now than ever to purchase from companies who avoid fast-fashion and promote sustainability.

Check out these three simple solutions to start shopping more ethically!

Solution 1: Think Before You Buy to Reduce the Fast Fashion Impact on The Environment

We are bombarded all day with the constant stream of advertisements encouraging us to spend our hard-earned money, whether you’re browsing your favourite online publications, scrolling on Facebook or trying to squeeze a quick workout in on YouTube, we are consuming endorsements and ads at an astonishing rate. Given the fashion industry’s global market value of a whopping 1.5 trillion dollars, much of ad space is dedicated to fast fashion.

Henkaa dresses worn by models on the Canada's Bridal Show runway, left to right: Iris Lace Wrap Style Wedding Dress, Dusty Blue Sakura Maxi Convertible Dress, Mauve Taupe Sakura Maxi Convertible Dress.

Henkaa convertible dresses showcased at Canada’s Bridal Show 2020. Photo by DCN Images

 

This coupled with the mass manufacturing of clothing makes impulse-buying almost inevitable. Did you know that 20 years ago luxury fashion houses were only creating two collections a year? Now most are carrying five, and more affordable brands like H&M and Zara are carrying 12-24 collections a year, that’s a lot of clothing and trends to keep on top of. With all this ad exposure and constant flow of new trends, it’s pretty easy to get swept up in impulse buying and purchasing clothing that you may not have bought with more thought.

Next time you find yourself about to purchase something impulsively think through these questions first:

Do I need this item? Example: My last white tank top has ripped and can not be repaired, this one could replace it.

Do I have something similar already in my wardrobe? Example: I currently really love my dark wash jeans, I don’t need a second pair.

Is this item something I’ve had my eyes on? Example: I have been researching these convertible dresses for some time and now they are on sale.

Why do I feel the need to purchase this right now? Example: I just watched an influencer tell me how great these cardigans are so I’m feeling inclined to purchase one, however, on second thought I don’t need another cardigan because I have three others I really love.

By stopping and thinking through these questions you should be able to make a more precise, sustainable shopping decision, and if you choose to purchase the item you know it was something you really wanted or needed.

Solution 2: Purchase Items Based on Their Longevity

As mentioned above, the impact of fast fashion is terrible for our environment due to the immense amount of water needed to create fabrics such as cotton, the pollution of chemicals in the dying process, and the release of micro-fibres during its washing lifespan. What’s worse is that garments made via fast fashion are made not to last, you heard that right. Since the premise is to make clothing as inexpensively as possible most garments are made with cheap and low-quality fabrics and put together in the quickest possible ways...shout out to fast fashion for the hems that have unravelled on us! 

This is done to lower costs, quicken the production timeline and inevitably to get you to re-purchase items. This is why 85% of fabric waste ends up in landfills per year.

Instead of buying items based on how inexpensive they are, try thinking about how long they might last in your wardrobe or their cost per wear. 

So what is cost per wear? Cost per wear is a way to justify the cost of an item. Here’s the math:

Cost per wear = total $ cost of an item / estimated number of times you will wear it

Kate is wearing the Henkaa Dusty Rose Sakura Midi Convertible Dress in 3 different ways, as a dress with a button-up shirt worn over top, as a dress, and as a skirt with a tank top!

Kate is wearing the Henkaa Dusty Rose Sakura Midi Convertible Dress in three different ways.

So for example, if you purchase a Henkaa Sakura Midi Convertible Dress for $149 as a bridesmaid you may be able to wear it for years to come at events like weddings, galas and birthdays or more casually for running errands, grabbing lunch with your friends, or enjoying a book in the park! So let’s be modest, if you wear your convertible dress just eight times each year for two years, your cost per wear is $9.30. So this purchase is a sustainable shopping option and a much better investment than a traditional bridesmaid dress would be because you can wear a convertible dress for many different occasions for years to come because of its size flexibility and classic design.

By purchasing items based on their wearability and quality you are saying no to fast fashion and saving fabric from entering the landfill.

Solution 3: Sustainable Shopping: Shop Local, Shop Small

While fast fashion is terrible for our environment, it’s also incredibly inhumane, as it exploits vulnerable communities to work under terrible conditions for unlivable wages. Most brands choose to outsource labour to other countries with more relaxed labour laws to save money, but at what cost?

One of the most prominent and horrific results of inhumane working conditions of overseas workers was the Rana Plaza building collapse in 2013. The workers at the Dhaka, Bangladesh factory reported cracks in the building foundation, it is noted that at one point the managers were given evacuation notice that was ignored and later resulted in the death of 1,129 workers and injured countless others. This factory was producing clothing for Children’s Place, Joe Fresh and Walmart.

Sam is Henkaa's product design & development lead and makes sure that all of our products are made with high quality fabrics and put together in ethical ways.

Sam is our product design & development lead - she makes sure all of our products are made with top quality fabrics.

To avoid enabling this type of inhumane labour practices it is best to shop sustainably, i.e. shop local and shop from small businesses. When you purchase something from a small business you are supporting the ethical treatment of workers and when you shop local you are helping your local economy.

Did you know Henkaa is run by a small team of just six women?! We manufacture all our dresses here in Toronto, Canada which means that we can keep our small business as Canadian designed and Canadian manufactured. Canada is not a huge manufacturer of goods but is one of the top consumers which is why it is important for us to be a more sustainable and eco-friendly option for consumers!

Final Thoughts

The last thing that should be noted is a common misconception, many people say you should only donate clothing that is undamaged and in good condition. While this is said in consideration of employees at secondhand locations, you should actually donate all items of clothing regardless of their condition. Most thrift stores source ways to ethically get rid of textile waste, often so that it can be re-used for stuffing, insulation or the like. Many municipalities also have their own textile recycling program for non-sellable textiles so it is definitely worth checking out!

It is better for everyone to shop more sustainably in ways they can than for a select group of people to shop 100% sustainably. So do your best and encourage others to as well!

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