Fast Fashion: Beware

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California Closets has reported that most people only wear 20% of the items in their closet.  This seems about right in regard to my own closet. I would love to change that and make my wardrobe work harder and smarter, but how?  And how much will it cost?

In my dreams, I want a carefully curated, streamlined wardrobe with high-quality staples. Pieces would mix-and-match perfectly, and they would move from season to season seamlessly.  Nothing would ever go out of style, and everything fits me perfectly, every time. I wouldn’t have to spend time and money shopping, because my closet staples will keep me perfectly attired until the infinity, and beyond.

Reality check!  This is a dream that is hard to achieve.  If you live in a climate with four defined seasons, the material of your pieces will vary drastically from season to season, making it impossible for them work across all seasons.  Even if a piece is well made and cut in a classic style, chances are that the cut will look dated after a year or three.  And, let’s face it: shopping online or in person can be kinda fun!

I guess in a more realistic dream, I would like my closet to be anchored by high-quality staple pieces, with a *SMALL* smattering of “fast fashion”  pieces to update and enrich the staples.  Examples of fast fashion retailers include Zara, H&M, Forever21, Old Navy, Target,   The beauty of fast fashion is that everything is completely on trend, the price tags are usually quite appealing, and a 40% off sale is usually around every corner.  (For example, I would never pay full price for anything at J. Crew, Banana Republic, Gap).  This is where fast fashion can get dangerous, especially if you subscribe to said retailers website: it is easy to fall into the trap of overshopping these bi-monthly 40% off sales, and before you know it, your closet is busting at the seams and your wallet is empty with low priced, low quality items that you will likely only wear twice.

The practices behind fast fashion are pretty horrifying.  These retailers use the cheapest materials, the cheapest labor, and virtually nothing is made outside of the third world.  The cotton used to produce many of these pieces is grown using ungodly amounts of water and dangerous pesticides.  13 TRILLION tons of discarded fast fashion clothing make it to US landfills – EVERY YEAR.  This apparel sits in that landfill for 200 years, expelling its artificial dyes and pesticides into the earth.  If you think your clothes don’t end up in the landfill, guess again: only 10% of donated items are resold or repurposed.  The bottom line: proceed with serious caution when shopping fast fashion.

It’s interesting to juxtapose fast fashion with designer, high end luxury labels such as Valentino, Gucci, Prada, and Dior.  Here, consumers are paying flabbergasting markups for the label and the quality, but mostly for the marketing it takes to keep these designers afloat.  A splurge on a timeless staple from one of these designers is not a terrible idea, but it’s unrealistic for most everyone to be able to stock their closets with this type of clothing.

The sweet spot in this conversation is in a retailer-tier known as “premium brands.”  This group includes designers like Tory Burch, Coach, Kate Spade, Rag & Bone, Stella McCartney, Isabel Marant, and Lilly Pulitzer. These brands use higher end materials and practice more sustainable material sourcing measures, which result in less “throwaway” apparel clogging our landfills as well as higher quality, better fitting clothes.

images via corktowncycles, pinterest, japantimes, h&m, toryburch

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