a room filled with lots of sewing machines.
a room filled with lots of sewing machines.

The Rise of Ethical Fashion: Why Fast Fashion Alternatives Are Increasing in Popularity

Fast fashion is a booming industry. Thanks to its affordable prices and quick turnaround time, fast fashion has been a go-to shopping option for millennials and Gen Zers who are constantly on the lookout for new trends.

However, as these generations continue to grow older, their interests have expanded beyond the standard sweatpants and t-shirts they’ve become accustomed to seeing in department stores. Millennials, who have shown the tendency to shop more consciously than previous generations, have been instrumental in raising awareness of issues such as fair labor practices, sustainability, and animal rights within the fashion industry.

As a result of this increased scrutiny, there has been an emergence of fast fashion alternatives that are more conscious about ethical production methods and use sustainable materials whenever possible. This article goes over the alternatives to fast fashion that still meet the needs of price, uniqueness, and style while improving quality and labor practices.

Why is Fast Fashion Bad?

Fast fashion retailers like H&M and Zara have been criticized for their low-cost business models that rely heavily on sweatshops and unethical labor practices. When put under the microscope, these garments are shown to have a deeper impact on the people who make them, as well as the environment.

When considering the human health and safety aspects of the fast fashion industry, there are several issues that have been brought to light. In Bangladesh, where much of the fast fashion is manufactured, there have been multiple factory disasters where the majority of the garment workers are female and come from impoverished backgrounds. The garment workers in Bangladesh are not just being exploited, they are being killed. In 2013, there was a factory collapse that resulted in hundreds of deaths, and in 2015, another factory collapsed with over 800 deaths.

The Dangers of Fast Fashion for Human Beings

In addition to the potential for death, fast fashion contributes to poor living conditions for garment workers. According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), 90% of garment workers in the U.S. are employed by contractors that are in the apparel and textiles industry. Contractors generally employ workers on a freelance basis, meaning they are not guaranteed any form of benefits, including health insurance. Because contractors do not provide health insurance, many garment workers are unable to afford proper healthcare. This affects not only the workers but also any consumers who purchase garments made by these workers.

“The consequences of this lack of healthcare are debilitating and costly to the wider public, including the taxpayers who fund the public health infrastructure that is needed to treat these illnesses and injuries,” the AAFA states.

So, Are There Any Good Alternatives to Fast Fashion?

Yes, there are actually quite a few! As the negative aspects of fast fashion become known, many companies have taken steps to improve their business models and shift away from the practices of fast fashion. Some brands have even taken it upon themselves to identify what makes fast fashion different from standard fashion production and provide alternatives to each of those. When considering which alternatives to fast fashion are actually worth your time, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, the product must be made ethically. Second, the product must be made using sustainable practices. And third, the product must be made at a reasonable price.

Alternatives to Fast Fashion

Many brands that have taken notice of the negative issues surrounding fast fashion have also implemented changes in production practices to create more ethical clothing that is also sustainable. When looking for these brands, keep an eye out for the following terms to identify clothing and brands that are conscious about their production practices.

  • Ethical production methods: Ethical production methods focus on the rights and working conditions of garment workers, as well as the environment. Brands that focus on ethical production often use organic or recycled materials, fair wages and safe working conditions, and sustainable fabrics.
  • Sustainable fabrics: Sustainable fabrics are made from materials like organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and recycled polyester and rayon that are biodegradable, eco-friendly, and sustainable.
  • Reasonable price: A reasonable price is one that is accessible and fair to the consumer. You don’t want to be paying full price for something that is sustainably made, but you don’t want to be paying an arm and a leg either.

Resale and Consignment Stores as an Alternative to Fast Fashion While these stores have always existed, many more have popped up in recent years due to the rise in demand for ethical clothing. These stores allow consumers to sell their clothing and receive cash in return, making it an easy way to let go of old garments. These are just a few of the alternatives to fast fashion. No matter what your shopping style, there’s a conscious alternative out there that’s worth your time and money.

Upcycled Fashion as an Alternative to Fast Fashion

Upcycled fashion is the practice of reusing and repurposing materials that would otherwise go to waste or be discarded as trash. This can include anything from repurposing old garments to repurposing materials like water bottles or billboard posters.

Upcycling is, by far, the best alternative to fast fashion because it’s easy to customize styles so they are in fashion and match your own taste, and it is sustainable because it turns trash into treasure.

For upcycled clothing made by small businesses and artisans, you can discover your next favorite style on the online marketplace for upcycled clothing called RE.STATEMENT.

Thrift Shopping as an Alternative to Fast Fashion

This is the oldest and most recognizable alternative to fast fashion. Thrifting is the practice of shopping for secondhand clothing and household items.

This option is best for those who are okay with not knowing exactly what they will find. Because you are purchasing used garments, you have no control over what you will find. Some may be brand new, while others could be stained or have torn seams. It all depends on the items you find. If you’re okay with that, then thrift shopping is a great way to shop ethically and save money on clothing and household items. When opting for this alternative, ensure you check the garment care tag to ensure it has been laundered properly.

Resale and Consignment Stores as an Alternative to Fast Fashion

While thrifting is a great option for purchasing used garments and household items, it’s not your best bet if you’re looking for new garments that fit your exact size. However, resale and consignment stores offer a great alternative to fast fashion that allows you to purchase used garments that are brand new to you. These stores allow you to sell your used garments and receive cash in return. You can then use that money to purchase new garments that fit your exact size and style.

Sustainable Fabrics as an Alternative to Fast Fashion

Sustainable fabrics are made from materials like organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and recycled polyester and rayon that are biodegradable, eco-friendly, and sustainable. When considering which fabrics are worth your time, look for organic cotton and bamboo fabrics. These fabrics are made from renewable resources and biodegradable materials, making them a better option for your health and the planet. These fabrics are often more expensive, but the benefits far outweigh the cost. Not only will you be purchasing more ethically made garments, but you’ll also be wearing garments that last longer and feel softer.


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