How To Avoid Fast Fashion: 10 Actionable Ways to go Sustainable

How to avoid fast fashion

If you constantly feel like you “never have anything to wear”, you might be a victim of fast fashion. Buying clothing that is trendy only stays in style for a short period of time. Before you know it, your entire wardrobe is “last season” and you need to hit the racks again to replenish your outdated closet. Not only that, constantly purchasing fast fashion garments means clothes easily break down and lose their shape, causing you to consistently replace them. It’s a drain on your wallet, not to mention the environment.

There’s a way to break the cycle! This blog will cover everything you need to know about fast fashion and how to avoid it including:

  • What is fast fashion?
  • Why should I avoid fast fashion?
  • How to spot fast fashion brands
  • What can I do instead of buying fast fashion?
assorted colors of threads on a spool

What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion refers to inexpensive clothing that is produced quickly and cheaply by mass-market retailers in response to consumer demand for inexpensive, trendy clothes. Fast fashion designs will often steal or copy ideas from independent, well-established artists and brands and use cheap labor to manufacture their goods quickly, selling them at a much lower price.

In order to afford low prices for consumers, fast fashion manufacturers use cheap labor in factories that often have unsafe working conditions, low wages, and long hours. The garments produced are of low quality using cheap materials that do not last long and have negative environmental impacts.

Mass-market stores will replace their old stock with different items in different styles instead of replenishing it with what sold well. This constant turnover of new styles helps render the older items out of style or “last season”, which keeps turnover and demand for new styles high.

Why should I avoid fast fashion?

There are many reasons to avoid fast fashion including long-term financial loss, cookie-cutter style, the negative environmental impact, and ethical and moral implications.

On the extreme end, many fast fashion brands will even burn their old stock and returned items instead of donating or reselling them, because they say donating their clothes to those in need is bad for their image or it costs less to dispose of the garment instead of getting it ready for reselling.

Let’s take a closer look at why you should avoid fast fashion:

Personal reasons


Over time, if you invest your clothing budget into fast fashion, you will have a wardrobe full of low-quality garments that do not last. Fast fashion clothing often shrinks after the first wash, does not hold its shape or color, and gets damaged after only a few wears. You will be forced to replace these cheap items with more cheap new clothes and you will be stuck in an endless cycle.



Your personal style is compromised when you purchase fast fashion clothing. These styles are not timeless and when you try to follow the latest trends, you end up looking like everyone else. The clothes almost always look cheap as well.


Environmental reasons

water rushing onto a beach

Global greenhouse gas emissions

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter on the planet after the oil industry and is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions—that’s more than all international flights combined!

Harmful chemicals

Over 8,000 harmful chemicals are used in the fast fashion industry to make synthetic clothing and many are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors. There is no guarantee that these completely wash out before they reach the consumer, putting garment workers and the consumer at risk.

Water pollution

In countries where fast fashion garments are produced, the toxic wastewaters from textile factories are left untreated and dumped directly into the rivers. Textile wastewater contains toxins such as lead and mercury and harms the aquatic life and the health of the millions of people living near those rivers. These contaminated waters eventually reach the sea and spread globally.

Water usage

A great deal of water is required to manufacture clothing. To produce just one cotton shirt requires approximately 3000 liters of water.


Microplastics in our drinking water

When synthetic clothing is washed, they release tiny microplastics called microfibres that make their way into the ocean and our drinking water.

Waste accumulation

The average person throws away 81 pounds of textiles every year. The growing accumulation of clothing waste in landfills is a global crisis considering the rate of manufacturing far outweighs the rate of decomposition.


Ethical reasons 

a person cutting thread on their workstation

Labor standards

The fashion industry is one of the most labor-dependent industries on the planet. It requires manual labor from garment workers, which can be sourced cheaply overseas. They are required to work long hours for low wages in poor working conditions—in fact, garment factories have some of the worst working conditions in our modern age.

In 2013, an eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,132 people and leaving more than 2,500 injured. To this day, fast fashion factories are still incredibly unsafe—both structurally and in their manufacturing processes.


Human rights

Fast fashion has been called modern slavery due to its unfair wages and use of child labor. When children are forced to work, they are often unable to go to school and get an education—thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty and poor job opportunities.

Not only that, the harsh chemicals used to make the clothes are incredibly harmful to workers and can enter their bodies through the skin. And even in these harsh working conditions, the minimum wage paid to garment workers is, on average, two to five times less than a living wage in their home country.


How to spot fast fashion brands

textiles hanging on a rack

The most obvious signs of a fast-fashion brand are as follows:

  • Made from cheap materials like polyester, polyurethane, rayon, spandex, and nylon
  • Offer a large volume of clothing with frequent new arrivals that focus on the latest trends and styles
  • Always have a limited quantity

Fast fashion brands are relatively easy to spot. Most are incredibly obvious while others require some research. For example, H&M is a fast fashion brand that uses cheap materials, brings in regular new arrivals, and has a supply chain that is not certified by labor standards.

Having said this, H&M has taken some positive steps in the right direction to be more environmentally friendly with their clothing recycling program and Conscious collection that uses organic and recycled materials. For stores like these, you have to be careful which items you purchase if you want to avoid fast fashion, as well as understand the content of conscious materials used in a garment.

Good On You is a fashion brand rating site that measures brand sustainability and ethics. This is a great resource for anyone who wants to know whether a brand falls into the fast fashion category or not.

Popular fast fashion brands

  • Nike
  • Adidas
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Free People
  • GAP
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Zara
  • H&M
  • Forever 21
  • Uniqlo
  • Topshop
  • Guess
  • Old Navy
  • Hollister
  • Abercombie & Fitch
  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • Brandy Melville
  • Nasty Gal
  • Shein
  • ASOS
  • Wish
  • Target
  • Walmart


What can I do instead of buying fast fashion?

There are many alternative options to buying fast fashion including shopping at second-hand stores, organizing a clothing swap, renting clothes, and adopting new habits to help you resist the urge to buy fast fashion items.

Here is a complete list of the top tips for avoiding fast fashion:

  1. Buy second-hand
  2. Organize a clothing swap
  3. Rent clothesGo shopping in your own closet
  4. Shop local
  5. Invest in timeless pieces
  6. Change your habits
  7. Look for sustainable materials
  8. Opt for ethically made clothing
  9. Do your research

1. Buy second-hand from thrift stores and charity shops

Shop for second-hand clothes at thrift stores or charity shops to give clothing new life. If you can’t get to the physical stores, many will post their stock for purchase on their website for easy online shopping.

Sites like Poshmark and thredUP are also fantastic resources for buying and selling used clothes.

2. Organize a clothing swap

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” And in this scenario, the men are actually your friends! You might have an item in your closet that you’ve grown out of or grown less fond of. That doesn’t make the item worthy of the landfill.

Organizing a clothing swap is one of the best ways to give clothing a second chance at fulfilling their destiny: being worn.

Make a night of it! Get some tasty food and good tunes involved and swap clothes with your friends or family members. Consider donating whatever doesn’t get claimed to a local shelter.

3. Rent clothes

Remember that wedding you went to three years ago? The outfit you bought specifically for the big day and never wore again? Wouldn’t it have been better to rent a chic outfit for the event and return it after the weekend is over?

Renting clothes is one of the smartest approaches to sustainable fashion available to us today—especially for special occasions! Renting clothes allows you to try new trends without taking up space in your closet or creating waste in landfills.

Clothing rental shops like Rent The Runway, dresst, and MY WARDROBE HQ are just some of the online rental stores available today. Some of them even carry maternity clothes!

4. Go shopping in your own closet

If you own more than 50 articles of clothing, you might forget about each item you own. Purchasing the same or similar items is a common problem with fast fashion victims. There is so much turnaround with clothes, victims often wind up with multiples of the same cheap item.

Go through your closet monthly or seasonally and take a mental tally of what’s in there so you do not risk item duplication.

5. Shop local

97% of fashion items are made overseas. If you can find goods that are made and sold nearby, you are winning the war against fast fashion!

Look for local shops that follow ethical and sustainable practices. Buying items that are made locally reduces emissions because the items don’t have to travel as far to get from the manufacturer to the consumer.

Check to see if the items are manufactured in your country. If so, this might be the most ethical and environmentally-friendly option for you!

6. Invest in timeless pieces

There is a common misconception that sustainable fashion is expensive. In fact, slow fashion items end up saving you money in the long run. Well-made and timeless items will last for years (even decades) and never go out of style.

Think of it like this: divide the cost by the number of times you will use or wear the item and that is its true cost. For example, if you buy a pair of good quality jeans that cost $150, and you wear them at least once a week for a year, divide $150 by 52 and the true cost of your jeans is actually around $2 per wear in an entire year.

Consider stocking your closet with quality pieces that will stand the test of time and always be in style.

These are some of the staples you should have in your personal collection:

  • Crisp white t-shirt
  • Flannel button up
  • White button up
  • Chunky sweater
  • Turtle neck
  • Blazer
  • Denim jacket
  • Leather jacket
  • Shearling jacket
  • Trench coat
  • Good pair of jeans
  • Little black dress
  • Aviator sunglasses
  • Riding boots
  • Loafers

7. Change your habits

Changing your clothing habits begins by adopting The Five R’s of Responsible Style:

  1. Refuse: Challenge yourself to say ‘no’ to impulse purchases. The less your act on impulse, the less you will feel impulsed.
  2. Reduce: Cut down on how much you buy and the size of our closets. Capsule wardrobes or minimalist closets are a great example of how to reduce.
  3. Reuse: Wear each article of clothing until the bitter end. Once they are unwearable, instead of donating them, turn them into something useful like rags, dog toys, or reusable tote bags.
  4. Repair: Sew that rip. Patch that elbow. Alter and upcycle your old garments into something else. Those old pants? Now shorts! That old t-shirt? Now a crop top! Let your inner designer out and get creative.
  5. Recycle: Sell your old clothes online or give them to a friend before offering them to a consignment store or shelter.


8. Look for sustainable materials

A worker pressing buttons into denim

Sustainable fabrics are biodegradable and do not require chemicals to be produced. These fabrics can naturally be returned to the ecosystem in a reasonable timeframe. For example, organic linen takes two weeks to decompose where polyester takes 20 to 200 years to decompose!

Sustainable fabrics to look for:

  • Recycled and organic cotton
  • Organic hemp
  • Organic linen
  • Organic bamboo (bamboo linen)
  • Wool (merino, cashmere, etc.)
  • Modal
  • Silk
  • Cork
  • Piñatex
  • Econyl (recycled nylon)
  • Qmonos
  • 100% recycled plastic

Unsustainable fabrics to avoid:

  • Polyester
  • Polyamide
  • Polyurethane
  • Acrylic
  • Elastane (Spandex or Lycra)
  • Nylon
  • Rayon
  • Conventional cotton

9. Opt for ethically made clothing

If you can’t shop second-hand or buy locally, opting for ethically made clothing is one of the best approaches to avoiding fast fashion—especially when it comes to items that cannot be purchased at a second-hand shop (like undergarments, for example).

Know which brands care about human rights and follow labor standards as part of their supply chain. Manufacturing details should be listed on brand websites—if they aren’t, it’s probably because their clothing is not ethically made.

Also, look for certifications such as Certified B Corporation and Fairtrade on products when you shop. It’s important to note that not every ethical brand will have a certification. Some of the smaller sustainable clothing brands will not have the funding or resources to afford these certifications so it’s best to dig a little deeper to stay truly sustainable and support the little guys.


10. Do your research

Before making any transactions, do your research! Know which brands follow sustainable practices, what materials are bad for the environment, and which companies have stricter manufacturing guidelines.

Keep a list or bookmark these sustainable brands in your browser. It will help you stay organized when it comes to future buying decisions.

Ethically made jeans

DUER jeans stacked on top of each other

Denim should be no exception when it comes to conscious fashion. DUER is proud to offer ethically made jeans for men and women. The manufacturing of our pants follows ethical production practices as a non-negotiable for our company!

We have partnered closely with denim and textile experts in Pakistan and China to ensure our product follows ethical fashion guidelines and manufactures quality goods for your conscious wardrobe.

DUER facilities offer a safe working environment, salaries and insurance for workers, and environmentally-friendly fabric treatments that comply with the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI).

Join us in the slow fashion revolution! You’ll feel good about your jeans while you feel good in them.