How To Get Out Of Fast Fashion: “Sometimes We Don’t Need Retail Therapy, We Need Real Therapy” | fashion | Bot To News


FFashion brands have sold the promise of shiny new clothes that result in happiness for over two decades, which is long enough for most of us to recognize that happiness isn’t really what fast fashion offers. But given how easy and cheap it is to shop, and how a cocktail dress or pair of shoes can follow us around the internet, breaking fast fashion can be difficult, even for the most conscientious consumer.

According to psychologist Chris Cheers, sometimes the first step to changing your behavior is noticing the beliefs that are going on underneath it. He says that since, psychologically, fashion can be based on comparison or fulfilling expectations, your brain can understand clothes as a space where it has to avoid the threat of not dressing the way you are meant to. In other words: fit.

“So maybe your belief is, ‘If I don’t buy this, I can’t go to that party.’ Or, ‘If I don’t buy this, people won’t think I’m attractive or people won’t want to date me,'” she says. key to addressing and changing this behavior is to notice the thought and understand that you don’t necessarily have to believe it.

Cheers says a useful exercise is to follow the thought. If your brain suggests that you will be more popular or desirable in the new purchase, think about what happens in reality. Is a new top really going to get you the meaningful life you want? “Sometimes we don’t need retail therapy, we need real therapy,” he says.

In the meantime, there are some strategies you can put in place to change your shopping habits. Here, people who have successfully stopped buying fast fashion explain how they did it and stuck with it.

The rule of three

Woman wearing a blue knitted sweater and blonde hair holds a pile of clothes in front of her
Lauren Bravo, author of How to Break up with Fast Fashion. Photograph: Phil Fisk/The Observer

In 2019 Lauren Bravo, the author of How To Break Up With Fast Fashion, set herself a challenge: to go the whole year without buying anything “new-new”. On the last day of 2018, she bought five dresses from a fast-fashion store (and sent four back). “Realizing that none of those dresses satisfied my desire was a pivotal point,” she says. This helped to revise their buying habits.

Now he never buys anything new “without thinking about it for a few weeks or months beforehand.” This gives you time to research the brand’s ethics: only buy from brands that pay their workers a living wage.

Waiting also means you can consider how the item will fit into your existing wardrobe. To do this, he uses a rule from his mother: before buying anything, indicate at least three items from your wardrobe that you would wear it with and three (real) places or occasions where you will wear it.

He also believes in the joy of saving for something. “Remember how it felt when you were a kid, to really want something and save your pocket for months and months to finally buy it?”

“Taking the time to invest in something really cool, with a story you love behind it, feels so much better than a hundred impulse buys.”

The non-follower

A woman wearing a black top and gray pants with a colorful bag on her arm is standing outside a cream colored building
Maggie Zhou has unsubscribed from all sales emails and does not follow fast fashion brands on Instagram. Photography: Maggie Zhou

Writer and podcaster Maggie Zhou says she avoids fast fashion by adhering to several principles. “One of them is the rule of 30 uses, where the ideal is to wear a piece of clothing at least 30 times.”

He also made a conscious effort to get fast fashion brands out of sight and out of mind by changing his digital activity: unfollowing fast fashion brands and influencers on social media and unsubscribing from email lists.

But the ultimate change was realizing that “style actually comes from re-wearing and reshaping clothes in various ways.” She notes that anyone can make something look good once, but “being able to reimagine it for different aesthetics and occasions is where the skill comes in.”

The browser without purchase

Profile picture of Wendy Syfret.  Wendy says browsing and shopping is something she's set up for, but she curbs the urge by filling Pinterest boards, rather than shopping carts.
Wendy Syfret says browsing and shopping is something she’s set up for, but she curbs the urge by filling Pinterest boards instead of shopping carts. Photography: Wendy Syfret

“I know myself and I know I’m not going to stop shopping,” says Wendy Syfret, author of The Sunny Nihilist. I want to be that person, but unfortunately it is very embedded in my life. It’s emotional, it’s common. I can lessen those urges but I can’t get rid of them.”

One way it replicates the fun of online shopping is by putting that curatorial energy into non-shopping platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. “I make boards and keep folders of looks I like or brands I’m interested in,” she says.

“My interest usually wanes pretty quickly. But I’m left with an abandoned Pinterest board, or a bunch of stuff in the mail that I bought at 2 in the morning and don’t want anymore. When you see something you like, instead of buying it, it’s mailed to you.” email the link so you can consider it later on your desktop.

Ultimately, she’s trying to ask herself bigger questions when it comes to style, so it’s not about championing “fresh” and “new” as an aspirational aesthetic. Instead, try to focus on the person you want to be and the vibe you want to project. “The reality is, if you’re really trying to project an authentic version of yourself, it’s probably not going to be with something that alone bought.”

The polite shifter

“It’s not so much that I have a strategy to avoid fast fashion,” says Nico Idour, “I just don’t commit anymore.” The owner of Jawbreaker the Baker used to buy a lot of fast fashion, but has completely changed her shopping habits since meeting her husband, designer Jason Hewitt.

Two men in smart clothes pose in a rural setting
Nico Idour (left) with his partner Jason Hewitt, a designer who convinced him to stop buying fast fashion. Photography: Nico Idour

Hewitt changed Idour’s shopping habits by explaining the “realities of fast fashion” and the huge environmental costs of mass production and international shipping.

“Reducing my environmental impact has always been very important to me, so for me to immediately leave fast fashion once I understood that the damage was not a difficult choice to make,” says Idour.

Instead, buy exclusively second-hand. It also has a rule that you have to try something on before you buy it, which prevents you from making impulse purchases online. It also helps that she likes to wear the clothes she loves and feels good over and over again.



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