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How to Deal with Fast Fashion Guilt

by Lara Parry

With endless hauls, unboxings and other influencer videos popular on social platforms like TikTok and Youtube, fast fashion has us in a chokehold. Unsurprisingly Shein is the largest fashion retailer in the world, being valued at 100 billion dollars in 2022. This statistic paired with their social media presence makes the idea of purchasing ethical fashion feel impossible, and sometimes even like our shopping habits wouldn’t have an impact anyway. 

We all know fast fashion is bad - with high levels of co2 emissions, labour rights violations, cheap fabrics used, and allegations of Greenwashing rife throughout the industry it can seem impossible to know where to shop. Of course, it would be great if everyone cut down, with Berlin’s Hot Or Cool Institute proposing the question: Could or would you only buy 5 new pieces of clothing a year? 

They have suggested that for fashion to be in line with staying in Paris’ Climate Agreement targets, we all need to severely limit our purchases. But is this realistic? 

As a recovering fast fashion addict myself, lets delve into ways of alleviating fast fashion guilt:

Purposeful Purchasing 

I have stood by this advice for years. Only buy something if you need it: if the item is a replacement, a basic garment, or if you truly love it and it goes with your current wardrobe meaning you’ll get wears out of it, then I think its justified. However, if you’re prone to impulse splurges then make sure to take a step and see if you’re still thinking about it a week later.

Take better care of your clothes 

Always read the care labels on your clothes. Don’t overwash items such as Jeans and hand wash wool and delicates. Always wash at 30 degrees too!

Limit Yourself 

If you're in the habit of getting your ASOS hit weekly or monthly this can be a hard habit to kick. An easy way to do this is to limit what you can buy, whether that's by designating a specific amount of money towards your shopping habit or limiting yourself to a certain number of items - or both! By setting limits you’re not only helping the environment, but it keeps your savings account happy too. 

Remember: You’re trying 

Whilst ‘Ethical consumption’ may not exist under capitalism, there is no harm in trying. Every little does help so there’s no point feeling guilty when the 1% hoards wealth of an obscene amount. It’s the effort that makes the difference. 

A post by @thesustainablefashionforum on Instagram stated: “Shame forces us into defence mode, and choosing the green alternative doesn’t dismantle our consumerist ideologies, leaving the deeply buried roots of our fast-fashion crisis to remain. If we subtract shame and swap it for empowerment, we might just find we’ve cracked sustainability.” 

And I agree, if we empower ourselves and do it for the greater good we can change this. 

Controversially, I think the odd fast-fashion purchase is warranted. It can be really difficult to find items such as Jeans, shoes, and underwear second-hand or at a reasonable price from an ethical brand. If these purchases are thoughtful and necessary then there’s a drastically reduced impact. 

That said, shopping the sales at Ethical brands such as Thought can be an affordable way to shop too. These days, Vinted also boasts affordability, with an array of new fast-fashion items regularly. Often items listed have tags on, so, if you can wait a few more days for shipping, it is the way forward!

Remember, start small. And being an imperfect activist is better than ignorance. 


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