Fast fashion – Know Before You Buy, Advice from an Indianapolis Fashion Stylist

Reader alert: This blog about “fast fashion” contains heavier content than my usual posts. So if you’re not feeling that, I understand; you might want to skip this one. But as an Indianapolis Fashion Stylist, I think its important to keep up with issues within the fashion community.

I recently read Dana Thomas’ book, Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes. It provides a disturbing look at the human and environmental carnage caused by an industry that produces billions of cheap garments a year, most of which are discarded after only a season or two. She calls it “a complex and epic-sized mess.” A few examples of why she says this:

While about half of the Los Angeles Garment District’s 45,000 workers are paid at least minimum wage, the other half are undocumented workers paid as little as $4 an hour, and they work in badly ventilated, rat-infested sweatshops. Poorly paid garment workers in poverty-stricken countries labor in dirty buildings that are often locked to prevent them from leaving. Workers have died in garment factory fires because they couldn’t escape a locked building.

Americans sent nearly 10 tons of discarded clothing, much of it fast fashion, to landfills each year.

Thomas calls out big-name brands like Zara, H&M, Gap, and others she says perpetuate the problem but says she finds hope from those who take a more responsible approach—like Zero + Maria Cornejo. The socially responsible and environmentally friendly Cornejo produces almost all of her ready-to-wear items within New York City, primarily does business with suppliers in the city’s Garment District, and pays her workers fair, living wages. My advice for my Indianapolis Fashion Stylist clients is to research brands before investing. If your clothes seem more expansive than what you’d pay for at the Gap, here’s the reason why.

Of the 6 billion pairs of jeans produced every year, about a third use denim produced using Jeanologica technology. This is a system that vastly decreases the environmental toll caused by the most common methods of finishing jeans. The company’s chief executive, Enrique Silla, told Thomas, “Our mission from day one was to eliminate contamination, to take care of people and to take care of the ecology.”

Other technologies in development that will improve conditions in the industry are explored in Fashionopolis as well.  As an Indianapolis Fashion Stylist, I predict that 3-D printed clothing on demand will become increasingly common in the near future.

I sometimes find great buys in consignment shops. Buying secondhand is one way to help reduce the load going to landfills and, as designer Stella McCartney says, is a good way for those who can’t afford high-priced designer clothing “the first time around” to instead “get it in the sale of the of the sale of the sale.” Double win: stylish and environmentally responsible!

I’m working at becoming more familiar with how the brands I buy do business; how they source their materials, manufacture their clothing, and treat their workers. Ultimately, I want to, as Thomas says, “fashion a personal style that does more good for the world than ill.”

Keep it Sassy, Indy.
Beth Divine, MA, AICi Certified Image Consultant, Indianapolis Fashion Stylist