Remember mail?? I mean the kind used for personal communication. (Bills and glossy postcard ads for plastic surgeons don’t count.) This week I’ve been reorganizing and sorting through some files and…
Sustainability is the new luxury. And when something is the new something, that something can become expensive. This has happened to sustainable fashion.
Secondhand clothes have become increasingly pricey in recent years since recycling, reuse, and sustainability are now the new cool. Even used high street fashion items are often so expensive that they would have likely been cheaper to buy as new when they were on sale.
Before sustainability became mainstream, used items were often seen as something shameful. Presumably, they were interpreted as signals of poverty. Now they are more likely to be used for virtue signaling. But there is a huge divide between how poor people and wealthy people have been viewed as consumers of used things.
While sustainability has become trendy, fast fashion is still alive and well. Better than ever, in fact. It has shifted into a new gear with an ultra-fast fashion company Shein. Shein is an online fashion store with extremely low prices and new items pouring in constantly.
Tiktokers and Youtubers now have a thing called a Shein haul. That’s when vloggers order a massive amount of clothes from Shein at once and then film themselves unboxing them, trying things on, and reviewing them. Haul orders can be enormous, and the vloggers doing them sometimes spend thousands on them.
These are the type of situations where it might become reasonable to blame the consumer — at least a little bit. Anyone ordering Shein hauls could clearly afford something sustainable instead.
But assuming that people as consumers are generally aware and caring is a common faulty presumption. Have you met people? A good portion of consumers couldn’t care less about things like sustainability. And many of those who do think that sustainability is important don’t have the time or resources to consume sustainably.
And who could blame them? Shaming someone for using fast fashion is likely to get them defensive and won’t do anything to make things better.
But what about people who wear fast fashion because they can’t afford anything else? That one is a bit of a double-edged sword. Fast fashion clothes are made by exploited workers, but is there any sense in pitting poor people against poorer people? How about we punch up and follow the money? Aren’t those who rake in the profits the ones to point the finger at?
First of all, let’s leave poor people out of this. Let’s leave people as consumers out of it altogether. The idea that every consumer, or even most consumers, would ever become aware of the sustainability of their consuming habits is impossible. It won’t happen. Ever.
But for those who want to put careful thought into responsible consumption, are there situations where fast fashion can be a sustainable choice? There is if you buy it secondhand.
For consumers who rely on sustainable fashion, there might be a high threshold to wear fast fashion and high street brands, even when they are secondhand, for reasons like image and ideology.
But when you buy used fast fashion, you’re not giving any money to those who produce it. That ship has already sailed. The most sustainable thing to do with clothes is to give them as long of a lifespan as possible and to avoid buying new ones.
Fashion has generally been seen as something frivolous. Most likely because it’s coded as feminine and girly. Although Shein and Shein hauls are the worst things to happen to the sustainability of fashion, ever since offshore production of clothing began, there has been a tone of misogyny when all the blame for fast fashion is put on women and girls.
Vloggers doing the hauls tend to be pretty and present as feminine. All things girly and pretty are highly susceptible to getting deemed annoying and unserious. At the same time, girls get constantly scrutinized, judged, and commented on over their looks and how they present themselves.
Maybe it would be a good change of perspective to take the attention away from the girls and start wondering what those who benefit financially from fast fashion look like.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of…