If you’re a part of the fashion world, you’ve probably heard of fast fashion by now. It is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.” This seemingly harmless business practice has fostered many arguments over sustainability, accessibility and unnecessary consumption.
Fast fashion on its own doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea. With the rate at which trends are cycling right now, wouldn’t it make sense for business to want to keep up without losing profit? I mean, that sounds pretty logical to me. The problem with fast fashion lies in how businesses keep their profits, even while producing more items. Fast fashion brands supply clothing made out of cheap materials, held together with stitching that quickly falls apart. And who’s making these articles of clothing? If you guessed underpaid, overworked employees, you’d be correct!
Fast fashion is something that many people have decided that they simply don’t feel comfortable supporting. Some argue that under no circumstances should anyone buy clothing made by a fast fashion brand. Instead, the only way to buy clothing is through small businesses that make their clothing sustainably. There are a few gray areas, however, that seem to get left out of the conversation.
First, many people are blinded by a price point. They assume that because clothing costs more, that it is higher quality, when this really isn’t always the case. Beyond the hard to read signs in some brands, some people simply cannot afford to spend $50-$100 on one article of clothing. And what about people who don’t wear straight sizes? Sometimes, fast fashion brands are the only places to find plus-size, trendy items.
Enter: the secondhand store, the perfect place to find cheap, trendy items without directly supporting a controversial brand. The difference between buying used clothing from a thrift, resale or consignment store and buying new clothing online or at a store is the way that they handle inventory. Regular stores operate on a supply and demand system, where if the fast-fashion brands sell out, the store has to buy more from their suppliers. This way, your money ends up directly contributing to the profit of those fast fashion companies.
When buying from a thrift store, however, they do not operate on that same system. Instead, they fill their inventory with what they can get from their customers. If Customer A buys a shirt from a fast fashion brand, their money lands directly into that brand’s pockets. If they decide that maybe they don’t really like that shirt anymore, they can go to a thrift store and donate – or sometimes sell – that shirt to the store. The store then turns around and sells that shirt to Customer B, whose money lands in the pockets of the store. This way, two customers get use out of one shirt, and the fast fashion brand only gets paid once.
There are, however, still some problems with buying second hand. Buying second hand doesn’t allow for many options when it comes to sizes and styles, which again can inhibit people who wear plus sizes. Then, there is the topic of if thrift and resale stores are good businesses to support.
Buying secondhand clothing isn’t the end-all, be-all when it comes to shopping sustainably, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. Besides, as a member of the broke college student club, I can definitively say that we don’t have upwards of $50 to spend on one piece of clothing. And as a member of the midsize girly club, I can say that there has been more than one time that I’ve tried sustainable brands, only to be met with disappointment because the brand refuses to carry my size. Fast fashion brands, which I choose to not support, are often the only ones that do.
Plus, it’s getting cold(ish) outside, someone has to sell size 16 jeans to me. If I have to choose, that someone will most likely be a second hand store.