How I Learned to Say No to Fast Fashion
Plus, five ethical clothing lines you'll love.
Here’s an inconvenient truth: Fashion is the second dirtiest industry in the world, right behind big oil. The effects might not be so obvious while you’re shopping for a shiny new wardrobe (or even in the clothes hanging in your closet) but if you take a step back, fashion’s negative impact becomes clear. Particularly in the case of fast-fashion retailers—aka anywhere you can buy jeans for less than $15—where production harms both the environment and the people who make our clothes.
Textile mills use one-fifth of the world’s water supply and 20 thousand chemicals to make the tees and jeans we wear every day. Most of these mills are in developing countries like India and Indonesia, where the communities suffer from polluted air and horrible, chemical-infused water (which can lead to serious physical disabilities). It’s easy to forget that there are real, live people—men and women and, yes, kids!—who make our clothes.
But these humans do exist, and they’re likely working in seriously unsafe conditions for extremely low wages. In Bangladesh, this means about $100 a month, in factories that are totally unstable (the country’s Rana factory collapse in 2013 killed 1,135 people). Needless to say, this is a huge, daunting problem—but there are very real ways to fix it.
The first one is obvious: Buy less stuff. Special investment pieces are better than disposable Forever21 hauls any day (and they reduce the demand, which is a big step toward solving the issues). But when youdo need a new outfit, here are some brands you can feel good about…and feel good in.
1. Reformation: The L.A.-based label’s printed dresses, two-pieces, and redone vintage Levi’s aren’t cheap by any means, but these are clothes you’ll wear over and over, which is exactly the point. The fact that they have minimal environmental impact is just a bonus. T.Swift and Karlie Kloss are fans, and you will be too.
2. People Tree: Founded more than 20 years ago, this U.K. brand is a true “slow fashion” pioneer. The shirtdresses, jumpsuits, and everyday staples aren’t only sourced from eco-friendly materials, but they’re made with fair labor practices. Plus, Emma Watson loves ‘em (and even designed a line!).
3. Mayamiko: If you like wild prints and bright colors, you need this label in your closet. Everything’s ethically made in Malawi, Africa, with plenty of pieces less than $100. It’s our favorite new fashion discovery.
4. Zady: After realizing that the disposable fashion cycle is broken, this U.S. company created its own, more sustainable cycle. Rather than following flash-in-the-pan trends, Zady works with farmers and garment workers to create pieces that’ll last.
5. Vintage: No matter where you go, buying secondhand is better for the environment than buying new. However, if we had to pick our faves, it’d be The Vintage Twin, Fox and Fawn and Mercy Vintage. Even better: You can shop them on Instagram. BTW, $15 jeans are totally OK if they're secondhand.
Want to learn more? Watch The True Cost on Netflix, and reply to this email with your thoughts! (No, but seriously, we're curious to hear 'em.)