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Empowering Fashion

How to Ditch Fast Fashion and Embrace Sustainability

If you’ve been interested in fashion recently, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “shop sustainable” going around. More and more people are learning about the shortcomings of the fashion industry. The fast fashion industry, as it’s called, produces nearly 100 billion garments a year– and in doing so, is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions, 20% of industrial water pollution, and 92 million tons of textile waste. Most of these garments are eventually doomed to the dumpsters.

The fast fashion business model relies on rapid trend cycles and low prices to remain competitive. New styles are pumped out at alarming rates. But brands are only able to get $8 graphic tees to customers thanks to cheap materials, poor garment quality, and abysmally low wages for workers. Workers in the fast fashion industry– many of them women and children in developing countries– labor long hours in unsafe sweatshop conditions for very little pay. Despite poor conditions and environmental exploitation, fast fashion production continues to grow. The industry has more than doubled in size since just 2000.

To “shop sustainable” means to avoid buying clothing directly from these fast fashion retailers– H&M, Zara, Shein, UNIQLO, Forever 21, and many, many others. But in a world dominated by these brands, how can you avoid fast fashion?

1. Shop sustainable, “slow fashion” brands.

If you have the time to do your research and the money to purchase high-quality, ethically-made garments, this is a great option to get amazing clothes that you can wear time and time again!

But many of us (myself included) don’t have the means to shop for these kinds of clothes. But fear not! Maybe try…

2. Shopping second hand!

Thrifting has become quite trendy as of late, thanks to increased awareness around sustainable fashion. Second hand stores like Goodwill, consignment shops, or your local thrift store are frequented by people from all walks of life. Or, if you’d rather stay at home, try buying from online resale platforms like Depop, ThredUp, or Poshmark. Proceeds from second-hand clothes directly support the place you bought them from– not the fast fashion brands that manufactured them. Plus, second hand is cheaper than new!

Suited for Change has its own Poshmark closet! Oftentimes, we will resell quality donations we receive that don’t fit a professional setting. We use the proceeds from Poshmark to purchase clothes we need the most: larger sizes.

You can check out our Poshmark closet here!

3. Value the clothes you have!

Today, the average garment is only worn ten times before it’s discarded. If you’ve fallen out of love with a garment, consider donating it to a thrift shop, reselling it online, or maybe just giving it to someone you know. Think before you purchase– do you need that garment? Will it bring something brand new to your wardrobe? Many times, the answer is no! Give yourself a few days to think about purchasing that new item that caught your eye. Do you still want it after a week?

Here at Suited for Change, most of our boutique is second hand! We rely on the generous clothing donations of our supporters. Donating to Suited for Change will give your professional clothing a second life in the wardrobe of a woman ready to take on the world! You can also shop at our monthly boutique sales to get your hands on high-quality, second-hand professional wear. You’ll not only be shopping sustainable, but your proceeds help us to provide even more career services for women in the DMV!

Next time you’re looking to buy clothes, ask yourself: where does it come from? Do I need this? Being mindful of our purchases goes a long way towards preserving the environment and preventing exploitative labor.

I have been fast fashion free for nearly two years now. It has been a challenge, and sometimes, a test of willpower. But limiting myself has helped me appreciate the garments I have, and allowed me to get more creative with my fashion choices outside the trend cycle. If you’re feeling invigorated after reading this– I challenge you to quit fast fashion entirely too!

Interested in reading more about the fashion industry’s effects on the environment? Check out this article!


Emma Hill

About Emma Hill:

Emma grew up right outside of Washington, DC, in Northern Virginia. She is a class of 2024 student at William and Mary, with a primary major in political science and a secondary major in studio art. She’s passionate about empowering the underserved, and knows her time at Suited for Change will equip her to do that once she graduates! Emma loves to create, and is often found outside painting in the park, or working away in her basement on quilting projects.


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