On January 4th, 2017 I made a solemn vow not to buy anything that possessed the following characteristics:
–majority of fabric composition being synthetic (synthetics are virtually impossible to avoid when buying fast fashion)
–questionable origins (for better or for worse, I will accept the general public’s opinion on which brands/sources employ questionable labor and manufacturing processes)
–any brand that someone who is semi informed on the current fashion landscape would deem “fast fashion”
You have probably come across some form of fast fashion commentary in the last few years as sustainability and fair labor practices rise to the forefront in people’s minds.
There are countless opinions out there. Some people wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole, some people are indifferent, some are taking a conscious break, and some make a living photographing themselves wearing it.
However, this vow didn’t come while laying on my bed browsing Net-a-Porter.com with a glass of red in my hand.
Four days into 2017, I was in a well known department store for the purpose of buying a glass pitcher to make lemon water in. I was hoping would aid in my new year’s resolution to drink more water. (I still haven’t used it, but I am drinking more water — Smartwater from the gas station. Good thing buying soy lattes/overpriced Kombucha/water while running errands wasn’t on my resolution list).
While heading to the checkout, looking straight ahead, I stumbled upon a not-quite-coffee, not-quite-caramel-colored raglan knit cardigan. I was pleased to note the neutral color, minimalist silhouette and easy knit fabric fell in line with my day to day style.
As a dress designer and maker, I’m constantly confronted with decisions, whether it be refining a skirt hemline or drafting patterns for an upcoming dress — a neutral wardrobe means one less decision that has to be made.
One of the best parts of what I do is spending my days with silks that feel like liquid, crisp organza, soft cottons, and perfectly sueded wool. My discernment regarding fabric and its unique nuances is probably higher than most as I spend lots of time with it. To the trained eye, there is no comparison between more luxurious textiles like silk and its “economical” counterpart, polyester. (Although one could argue just how uneconomical polyester really is when it comes to its production and our planet, but that’s a whole other post).
While I do believe that every fabric has its place and its purpose, (including polyester) I try to minimize synthetics’ place in my life and wardrobe, purely due to how uncomfortable it feels against my skin.
However, this sweater was surprisingly deceiving, given its fabric properties and construction methods. I began to suspect that this was the allure of fast fashion. Looking good and not having to spend too much (or think too much — if you change your mind, it was only $30).
I’ll be totally honest. When I tried it on, it was hard to walk away from. If I’m completely exposing my soul here, I will say that I even went as far as considering starting this fast fashion fast after I purchased this sweater. No one would know. Except my conscious.
The thing I have noticed with cheap clothing is that while the whole look can come together smoothly, there are always going to be those telltale signs that quality is lacking. For example, this sweater’s color gave it away. It wasn’t quite brown, wasn’t quite khaki, but wouldn’t fall into the beige category either. The biggest offender was its buttons. Upon closer inspection, they appeared to be hollow plastic. However, the cute cowl neckline distracted from this, and I can see the price tag making up for this detail.
Quick disclaimer: I live in an oceanside resort town that’s more beaches and surfing than buildings and subway stations, so the temptation to grab coffee and a new trench coat on my lunch break isn’t there. But the website is never far…
The first month went by with few encounters beyond the sweater situation, and I am not ignorant to the strong appeal of creating a whole new look for less than your weekly grocery bill. There are many style bloggers whose aesthetic I admire that make mixing high and low pieces appear effortless.
I will never draw conclusions about anyone’s choice to shop where they do, but my personal decision to take a break from fast fashion is simply a piece of a bigger puzzle on the road to being a more mindful consumer.
If you’d like to join me, comment below! Then pat yourself on the back.