how do you get out of fast fashion when you’re broke?

On a Sunday when we had nothing better to do, we went to Primark with my colleague. For the bargains and the glasses we saw at another colleague. In the departments we already came face to face with a pair of 1 euro slippers at very affordable prices. And they didn’t seem to be for sale.

Okay, it’s plastic. But still, there must be costs for production, labor and shipping. Who pays for the broken pots so that we have sandals for 1 euro? Unfortunately, we don’t have to look far for the answer. They are the most precarious and the poorest, whether in Asia, Portugal or England. Employees do tedious work on the assembly line, have to make tops and dresses in a few hours and get ridiculous rewards.

In Leicester, a city in the center of England that is known as one of the first producers of European fast fashion, workers confirm on the microphone of the RTBF that they earn no more than 3 euros a day.

Why make people work at breakneck speed and in conditions often comparable to modern slavery? Always sell more, always have more margin (if you only sell crop tops for 3 euros, you have to make a profit somewhere) and increase the consumer’s need for clothing. Because the more new clothes there are, the more we want to buy.

According to an Arte documentary, major brands like Zara produce more than 65,000 new products a year. At about 5,000 for so-called “ethical” brands. The dream of compulsive buyers. Every time you go to a Bershka, an H&M, or a site like Boohoo or PrettyLittleThing, there are new things. This forces the buyer to come more often than in other stores that only renew their collection a few times a year.

Worse (or better) is that most of these cheap brands copy and paste almost trendy clothes from luxury houses, Ersatz Dior, Balenciaga, Gucci or Jacquemus. Fast fashion is the promise of being fashionable or dressed like the celebrity or influencer you like, at a lower cost. But only for consumers. Because, in addition to the “human cost”, it is devastating to the planet.

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. We produce too much and very poorly. We buy a lot and we produce too much waste. A study published by Teenage Lab indicates that Chinese giant Shein is responsible for 22% of French teenage girls’ carbon emissions, more than their other activities. To this we must add the other brands that appeal to these buyers.

We all agree it’s terrible. Terrible for human conditions, terrible for our planet. But how do you get out of fast fashion when our wallets force us to be careful with all our spending?

There are a few alternatives. If you’re into second-hand, there are thrift stores and sites, such as Vinted, that offer the resale of already worn or purchased clothing. But the vintage is more and more coveted, so prices are rising.

On the other hand, sites like Good on You rank ethical brands and help you navigate your way around them. Because, of course, some are more ethical than others. These brands try to be as diverse and affordable as possible, but doing things right and paying employees correctly has a price that is logically felt in the price of the garment. So less attractive.

The measure remains. Fat women and fat men will tell you: it’s hard to find brands that make beautiful, good quality clothes in extra large sizes. It’s like bras. The larger the cup, the duller and more shapeless the design becomes. Which is incomprehensible, because not all fat people want to dress big and brown.

Some fast fashion brands, such as Fashion Nova with its Fashion Nova Curve range, have understood this well. These brands have started making the same clothes, the same cut, the same sexy side for all body types, from 34 to 58. And it pays off.

So, how do you encourage consumers to choose more ethical brands? The price, the choice and the size.

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