How to look at fast fashion, sustainability and quality of life

Alaskan blogger in mom jeans, leggings, sweater, blazer, ducks, pearls, bangle, belt
In this post
    1. What is fast fashion?
    2. Is fast fashion worth it’s price
      • Avoid the cheap trap
    3. Are all trends fast fashion
    4. Is buying slow-fashion best
      • How to pick Mc Fashion trends
    5. Why the babyboomer fell off the radar of the fast-fashion industry
    6. What about the sustainability?
    7. Final, or not so final remarks
    8. References

What is fast fashion?

One can define fast fashion as clothing produced to have a fast-turnover. Mass consumption is the goal. Thus, the trends in the color of the year, the trends in sleeve cut, embellishment, etc. and the most extreme trends fall in the fast fashion sector. In-house designers come up with ever new styles to cheer the desire for the new, especially in young – insecure people. These young consumers believe to have notable “disposable” income, credit or allowance.

How does fast fashion work

To make profit, the items are produced at high speed and in high numbers. This means the producer can negotiate lower prices by buying a huge square footage of the same fabric. The advantage for the fabric producer is that they have reduced costs as compared making the same square-footage with various different prints.

Seamstresses are paid by the amount of pieces. This leaves no time to match a plaid pattern or stripe. However, matching may be even impossible, as the machine cutting is optimized to cut as much as possible pieces from the fabric. On the positive side, the job allows the seamstresses to have an income and raise a family.

To keep customers coming back, retailers routinely promote new products on social media, in ads, email marketing and on their online store page. Who doesn’t click the New Arrivals button “to be informed.” Especially, in high-school, peer-pressure is high to have the latest It whatever or to wear what the It persons wear. Not having it may mean being bullied – becoming an outsider.

Point-systems to redeem on the next purchase and the illusion that an item is on sale (50% or more off) are just other ways to keep the money stream up. Some retailers never offered a piece at the “former” price to begin with.

To maximize profit the production is outsourced into countries with less tight production control, labor laws, environmental protection laws and/or countries where the currency exchange rates permit great profit margins. All despite of additional shipping costs!

Facit: It’s all about quantity, not quality.

fashion blogger in ripped mom jeans over printed leggings with sweater and blazer accessorized with pearls and a smoky quartz belt buckle

style blogger in jeans, plaid balzer, ducks

back view of stylist on the phone in plaid blazer and jeans with barrette updo

stylist posing in sweater, blazer, jeans, heel and various accessories
Outfit details: Orvis Irish blazer, GNW Luxe cashmere sweater, smoky quartz flower belt, silver barrette, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Festina sports watch, Ampbell heeled ducks (all own), sunflower print leggings c/o Red Bubble, baroque multi-color pearl necklace c/o Pearl Clasp, and midwash ripped mom jeans c/o Femme Luxe

Is fast fashion worth it’s price

Like many woman I like to try a trend. But a piece that’s just $20 or less just can’t be high quality in general. Obviously, under the above described circumstances quality is as low as is the price, at best. In other words, the clothing can only be “good quality” for its price.

Often you can’t even judge, whether it’s worth it’s price, before you wash the garnment the first time. I had a beautiful pair of athleisure pants a couple of years ago that didn’t even survive the first laundry! A ripped pair of jeans, ripped to unwearable when I kneed down when I wore it the second time. Consequently, these pants were expensive with regard to the cost-per-wear.

However, some young customers may not even care about the low quality. When you are young, your skin is firm and glows, your hair shines, you can wear a potato bag and a rope for shape and still look stunning. And if that outfit were In, the owner would proudly post the look on Instagram.

Avoid the cheap trap

Many consumers are much more likely to buy something that isn’t a perfect for their personal style, color palette, body shape or even fit, when it is “cheap” or on sale. Unfortunately, the cost-per-wear of these pieces rarely gets below a dollar. Often they end up in the category of beautiful clothes you never wear.

Interestingly, people are more comfortable donating apparel that had a low price tag, when preparing and/or overhauling their closet for the next. In my post on tips on scoring high in consignment stores, I already pointed out that you can often find pieces with even the original price tag attached. The same also applies when shopping on eBay.

Facit: Cheap garments can be much more expensive than up front more expensive ones. My Sanchez boots, for instance, were 400 DM ($200 at that time), in Germany in 2001. I have worn them at least every second week or so in winter since coming to Alaska. Let’s say 20 weeks, 19 years. Cost-per-wear so far approximately $0.53!

Sure, doing so fails to work with a trendy pair. It becomes dated. Cheap fails to last long also from a durability point of view.

Are all trends fast fashion

Not at all. There are perennial trends like black-white, military style, blue-and-white, snake-print just to mention a few. These trends are typically available in both the fast and slow fashion sector. Also the perennials tend to have some longer turnaround than other trends.

Stylist’s tip: When a perennial trend has a moment, invest in a classic (read timeless) cut in the highest quality you can afford.

This year, blue-and-white, leopard as well as snake prints have a moment. See this guide for great snake print outfit ideas. Thus, buying quality attire in this category can slow fashion down. Pre-assumed, your body doesn’t change.

Unfortunately, in menopause, even when you keep your weight, the flesh seems to move around. Don’t let menopause control your life. Pre-caution: Go for body-friendly classic cuts like shirt dresses, semi-fitted blouses or knit-wear like sweaters, twinsets, cardigans.

Is buying slow-fashion best

There is no clear yes or no answer. A high-quality cashmere or wool sweater, for instance, is made from virgin wool. Goats and sheep graze. To increase the production of the wool, one needs more animals. Overgrazing may occur and the wind may carry away fertile soils from the bare pastures. Increasing the grazing area by turning fields into pastures drives the prices of food up. Deforestation to increase the grazing areas may lead to flash-floods (including loss of soil), decreases in water quality and water availability in the soil.

Undoubtedly, durability, quality, and style are perceived as materially interpenetrate with luxury brands. Owning a Gucci bag comes along with a sense of personal achievement. However, just buying buying exclusively designer clothes makes you look expensive, not stylish!

Never wear one designer head-to-toe. #agelessstyle Click To Tweet

The attire would be over-the-top. No one goes to a BBQ or dinner party in a Chanel jacket, right? At work, you might outdress your boss price-wise. Not good for your career! Even the FLOTUS or Duchesses adjust their dressing to their respective work situation. A fast-fashion dress when visiting the poor, expensive designer (best from their home country) when it’s a state affair.

Artisan crafted clothing requires highly skilled workers. Thus, collections are limited. When the price is fair, these beauties are only accessible to a select clientele. Consequently, they may be inadequate lifestyle or not affordable for your credit card. When the price is low, you only want them when you directly buy from the artist when being in the respective country.

Buying bridge or designer brands at thrift or consignment stores or on eBay is a good way to slow fashion down. You can find a list of which designer brands to look for at thrift shops at this link.

How to pick Mc Fashion trends

When our younger colleagues show up in the new latest Must-have every three weeks or so, we may rapidly be considered as Old Lady. When our style is classic, as conservative or old fashioned at best. Worst, refusing to run in the fashion wheel is associated with not being up-to-date also job-wise. 🙁

So makeover your wardrobe for fit, trends, and style is a must. Typically, knits are a save bet. Up-dating your costume jewelry on an annual basis freshens up your look too. However, your strongest weapon to look young-and-hip is to strive to achieve your personal style and own it.

Why the baby-boomer fell off the radar of the fast-fashion industry

Most professional women our age have a decent income they could spend to invest into their wardrobe. However, the baby-boomer generation boycotted the mainstream, wore ripped jeans that got in that state all by themselves by wear-and-tear. The flower-power movement picked crafts from different ethnic background in the respective country itself. Bohemian Style was still poverty driven, when we were young.

Our attitude is to repair what’s broken or doesn’t function anymore. Consequently,

When the knee cap fails, we get a replacement. #babyboomer #lifestyle Click To Tweet

Due to this attitude, we are not an interesting (easy) target. Therefore, manufacturing Mc Fashion with the menopausal body in mind is not a way to make great profit fast.

Don’t let the right outfit be a random thing. Wear the right look in every situation by looking up what to wear when in How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy my book now.

What about the sustainability?

Like at all times in history, today there are also subcultures of young people who are opposed to certain lifestyles of the masses. There are groups that look for sustainable fashion. Others look for vegan or eco-fashion. While others look for environmentally friendly. Some, Steam Punk, for instance, make their own attire or buy their sub-cultures style in special stores that make them in limited numbers. Read it’s expensive.

In all these cases, there is also a marketing interest involved; and the consumer and/or worker, i.e. the society at-large, pays for it.

The big question with sustainability is always at what costs and in which numbers something is sustainable. Wool is from a sustainable resource, but increasing production might make wool unsustainable. Vegan fashion means no animal products (leather, wool, fur). But cotton needs a lot of fertilizer. Environmentally friendly may mean no fertilizers, no pesticides. But it might come at the price of more land needed to satisfy the demand for cotton, linen, bamboo and other natural fibers. This land is no longer available for food production.

Interestingly, ever since luxury brands banned fur from their collections, consumers make no association to environmental impacts. There seems to be a human attitude that if it is luxury, it is excellent. May be Mademoiselle is right

The best things in life are free. The second best things are very expensive. - Coco Chanel #quote Click To Tweet

Final, or not so final remarks

Between the need to look up-to-date at work, dressing for insulation, comfort, pleasure and self-confidence, and feeling good about your actions, fashion seems to be like trying to square the circle.

Thus, the best you can do is to create your own personal style with attire from the sources you feel the most comfortable with. Herein, make sure your decisions are let by your self-identity, not by the morality exposed on you by others. You are in control of what you do. Thus, when you avoid impulse purchases when browsing the sales, you do already a lot! Also always buy for the body you have, not the body you want to have (after you finally get to the latest diet), so you wear what you bought.

Last but not least, remember this. We all know that wine is bad for our liver, but we drink it anyway; because it tastes good and means a quality of life. We only live once, let’s do it right. Then once is enough. Live the life you want and feel good about, not the life anyone else thinks you should live. #lifestyle Click To Tweet

You know the joke about the man who turned 100 years old, do you? A young reporter asked him for the secret to reaching this age. The old man responded “No alcohol, no women, never smoked.” Then the young reporter asked “Then, why did you want to live to a 100?”

What do you think? What’s you comfort level? Just curious.

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References

Research article on fast fashion and sustainability 

This post was featured on Links à la Mode fashion roundup by Independent Fashion Bloggers.

Photos of me: G. Kramm

© 2013-2020 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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3 thoughts on “How to look at fast fashion, sustainability and quality of life

  1. Only experience and wisdom speak these words to heed about fashion. Well delivered, Nicole, and correct in all aspects. Yes, there is accountability on our parts to be mindful of marketing and it’s tentacles of ‘want’. However, those ‘wants’, after some time, have been beneficial because life has taught the lesson that ‘cheap’ doesn’t pay when it comes to clothes; some of those expensive ‘wants’ have been incredibly durable and dependable (like Mountain Hardware clothes, Columbia outer shells, Ecco boots, and Eddie Bauer 800 down jackets). BTW, those Ampbell heeled ducks look amazing on you! Fashion pays when it is reliable and timeless, and it is good to read the logical argument for it! Thank you, Nicole!

  2. A well-written, insightful post. So true. Too easy to fall into the fast fashion ‘trap’, but we can break the cycle with education and will power. xox

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