Fast Fashion vs Vintage Clothing: Why is Fast Fashion So Bad?

You may have heard the term “fast fashion” before, especially in regards to “fashion haul” videos that feature hauls from companies like Shein. However, Shein and companies like it are only one part of what defines “fast fashion.” The truth is, fast fashion is more complex than just saying something like “X company is fast fashion.”

For better or worse, fast fashion and fast consumption is a huge part of the American way of life. You probably participate in it yourself, consciously or unconsciously. As the owner of a local vintage clothing store in the Spokane, Washington, area, I’m very familiar with fast fashion and the concept of sustainability.

If you’ve been wondering how you can get off the fast fashion train but still stay stylish, I’ve got you! Below, I’ll break down quickly what fast fashion is, how we can avoid it, and what the future holds for fashion and sustainability. 

What is Fast Fashion? Fast Fashion vs Vintage

Fashion is defined as a popular trend while fast fashion is when large-scale clothing manufacturers saturate the marketplace with excessive clothing in order to fulfill these fashion trends. As The Good Trade describes it, “Fast fashion garment production leverages trend replication and low-quality materials (like synthetic fabrics) in order to bring inexpensive styles to the end consumer.”

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Fast fashion really took off and has been on the rise for the past 15 years. Think of brands like Charlotte Ruse, Forever 21, Shein, etc. With the birth of social media and the increase in social media influencers, the push to keep up with trends and “fashion hauls” has factories pumping out insane amounts of clothing.

Vintage fashion is considered clothing made before 2001. If you cringed a bit, I feel you! Y2K fashion, which was the early 2000’s, has made a big comeback, but that doesn’t mean we all have to go buy low-waisted, Britney Spears pants or fluttery Paris Hilton tops. 

Vintage fashion is for everyone. 

Classic and timeless styles will always be relevant, and trends will always come and go. So don’t worry; we got you!

Fast Fashion is Everywhere

Fast fashion is everywhere. It’s on our Facebook ads, on tv, social media and beyond.

fast fashion vs vintage

In the past seven years, I personally have been learning about fast fashion. It’s been a long journey that included research by reading books, watching videos and following social media advocates. 

The first thing to think about is how to get to the root of the problem. 

Workers in developing countries made a lot of our clothing overseas. Multi-billion dollar companies do not pay these workers, who are largely female, a fair wage, and working conditions can be terrible.  

If a company has thousands and thousands of different clothing listings on its website, it’s more than likely they are a fast-fashion company.

Most fast fashion is made very cheaply and quickly, and with fabrics that do more harm to the environment than we realize. 

Did you know that it takes 700 gallons of water to make one cotton T-shirt? Plus, the clothing is not meant to last; it falls apart quickly so we will buy more and more, causing more and more over-consumption.

Here’s something else that I hope shocks you: Every year, 1.5 billion pounds of clothing is shipped out of the country. It ends up in places like Africa and is sold in their markets. You may think that this could be a good thing, but if you look at photographs and see the impact this has on their environment, you will quickly change your mind. 

What Can We Do?

One of the hardest things to do when making the transition to slow fashion (thrifting or vintage) is realizing that companies have created this imaginary world where we, the consumer, need to purchase as much clothing as possible to keep up with fashion trends. 

fast fashion vs vintage

So, what can we do? How can we move forward and start the transition into becoming a sustainable fashion advocate?

One of the first things we can do is think about buying vintage, thrifting, buying used, secondhand or from online clothing platforms. 

Also, there is a way to buy more sustainable clothing by supporting small business owners that pay their workers a fair wage, use material or fabrics that are eco-friendly, and concentrate on making smaller batches of clothing. 

If you look at the clothing that is made today by fast-fashion businesses, and compare it to vintage or small-batch clothing, you will notice a huge difference in the quality and know the clothing is sustainable. 

My purpose is not to convince you to not buy clothing from your favorite local modern-clothing shop, it’s an effort to help educate and provide an understanding of clothing and its effects on our environmental footprint.  

The journey on why we need to change our ways, on how we think about clothing and the future, is long, but I know we can learn together. 

The Future: Fashion and Sustainability

So, what does the future hold? Do I think that the future will be more sustainable? I do! The more people who become aware of the waste and destruction that mass-produced textiles have on the planet, the more there will be a push for designers and clothing manufacturers to become more sustainable. 

Make better clothing that lasts! Pay workers! The change is already starting. It’s a fashion revolution!

I would like to end this article with a challenge to read the book “Consumed” by Aja Barber. It’s a great place to start your fast-fashion education to a slow-fashion lifestyle!

Had you heard of fast fashion before? How do you avoid fast fashion and where are your favorite vintage places to shop?

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Fay Ripley

Hi everyone my name is Fay and I own Red Leaf Vintage. I have been buying and selling vintage clothing for seven years and have three locations in Spokane and Coeur d’ Alene where I sell. I love vintage clothing and learning about sustainable fashion, so I hope you will join my journey in learning new things and getting excited about vintage fashion! 


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