Fast fashion, ethical shopping, and Covid-19

LogoJustine Leconte is a French fashion and jewelry designer who lives and works in Berlin. On her YouTube channel, Justine Leconte officiel, she shares her creative process as well as fashion tips about how to create and enjoy your own wardrobe. Her weekly videos often include information on how to shop for good quality, dress for your body shape, create a capsule wardrobe, or choose colours that work for you.

Sometimes, however, Justine Leconte deals with more serious fashion related topics. She is strongly opposed to fast fashion. When she designs a piece of clothing or jewelry, it is produced in Europe using materials that are sourced within Europe. She oversees the process and checks production samples herself. She refuses to work with factories that don’t pay their workers a fair wage. Clearly, she practices what she preaches!

Unfortunately, fast fashion brands have been taking advantage of the present Covid-19 pandemic in ways that are seriously disturbing. In one of her most recent videos, Justine addresses this topic and tells us how we, as consumers, can make a difference. If you are even the least bit concerned with being an ethical fashion shopper, I urge you to take thirteen minutes to watch this video!

Environmentally conscious shopping

LogoIncreasing interest in sustainability, climate concerns, and other environmental issues is having a significant impact on the fashion industry which is said to be responsible for 8 to 10 percent of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined! It’s also a huge consumer of water. It takes approximately 1800 gallons to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of blue jeans!

The industry has been increasingly coming under attack for what is known as fast fashion. Fast fashion, or disposable clothing as I like to call it, refers to a phenomenon that sees retailers introducing new products as often as multiple times a week. Garments are manufactured quickly and inexpensively allowing consumers to fill their wardrobes with trendy styles without spending a great deal to do so. These clothes are usually characterized by shoddy workmanship and low quality fabrics and quickly end up in the landfill.

Fast fashion’s target market, young, style-conscious shoppers on a budget, are also among those most concerned about the health of the planet. As environmental consciousness increases, their buying habits are changing. Dwindling sales forced fast fashion chain Forever 21 into bankruptcy at the end of September and is resulting in the closure of up to 350 stores internationally including all 44 locations across Canada. Some see this as signalling the end of an era in shopping.

One of the noticeable effects of this shift is a change in attitude toward second-hand clothing. The stigma that was once associated with wearing someone else’s hand-me-downs is rapidly disappearing. Now it’s the environmentally conscious thing to do!

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that I’ve been an avid thrift store shopper for years. I much prefer smaller not-for-profit stores to ones like Value Village where the prices are higher and very little of the revenue goes to charity. Most of my second-hand clothing comes from two small volunteer run shops, one in the town where I live and the other just a few kilometres away. Here I’m wearing a couple of recent purchases.

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When I put my tall winter boots away last spring, I knew that they were nearing the end of their life, but I was hoping to get one more season out of them. The first time I wore them this winter, however, my feet got wet! Clearly they needed to be replaced, but the closest shoe store is an hour away. I decided to check out our local thrift store and luck was with me! I snagged this like-new pair for just four dollars! They’re even dark brown, one of this seasons most popular colours. I bought the cardigan for three dollars.

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I’m wearing the two thrifted items with the comfy corduroy pants that have been a workhorse in my wardrobe for several years, a sleeveless V-neck top recently purchased at Cleo, and a black pearl necklace from a previous cabi season. No fast fashion for this frugal fashionista!

For 18 tips on successful thrift store shopping, check out this post.

Fast fashion is not frugal!

logoI almost never buy “fast fashion”, or disposable clothing as I like to call it. Fast fashion refers to a phenomenon in the fashion industry that sees retailers introducing new products as often as multiple times a week. Garments are manufactured quickly and inexpensively allowing consumers to fill their wardrobes with trendy styles without spending a great deal to do so. These clothes are usually characterized by shoddy workmanship and low quality fabrics.

I seldom enter retailers like Forever 21, H&M and Zara that specialize in fast fashion, but I made a rare exception about three months ago. Walking through the mall, I spotted the cardigan that you’ve seen before here on a rack at the entrance to one of these stores.

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On a dreary February day, it was the blush pink colour that caught my eye and made me think of spring. At $15, it was definitely an impulse buy and one that I knew wouldn’t last long, but after just a handful of wearings, look at the way the fabric is pilling!

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Fast fashion has also come under criticism for contributing to poor working conditions in developing countries where these garments are churned out, not to mention the garment factory disasters that have claimed the lives of many workers. It also has a very negative impact on the environment. Producing the staggering number of fast fashion garments that are sold worldwide requires tremendous amounts of energy and releases enormous quantities of harmful bi-products into the environment. In addition there’s the problem of disposing of the used garments which, like my cardigan, don’t last long and aren’t worth passing on to the second hand market. Instead, they end up in the landfill where the mostly synthetic fibres take hundreds of years to break down.

I’m proud to refer to myself as a frugal fashionista, but frugal is not buying cheap, poorly made garments; frugal is buying quality items at bargain prices. Buying fast fashion is definitely not frugal!