Like any fashion-forward girl on a budget, I'm always grateful for the cheap dresses and tops I find at H&M and Target's Go International lines to satisfy my fashion fix and keep me up to trend. Only recently did I begin to consider the effect that the fast-fashion industry—made up of megaretailers like H&M, Steve & Barry's, and Forever 21—has on the environment with its cheaply made, throwaway chic.
Fast-fashion purveyors make their millions by knocking off runway designs and marketing them to the masses. Because they're so successful in copying styles and shipping them off to Middle America, the now escalated trend cycle forces designers and retailers to churn out more clothing than ever: Those who can afford the designer versions of a shoe or purse won't wear them once middle-schoolers in Ohio can buy them at the mall, and the knockoffs are made cheaply and won't last more than a season or two. So, the companies churn out new lines, and women wear them and dispose of them.
The ecofriendly solution to this is, of course, to buy less clothing. Liz Jones of the U.K.'s Daily Mail, however, thinks the answer is to buy more expensive clothing, and she has a point. If we all spent a little more on clothing that wouldn't fall apart in the wash after one season, we'd find ourselves returning to the mall less frequently, decreasing the demand for and shipping of clothing.
Jones's argument is moot, though, when some of her purchases are revealed: a pair of Les Chiffoniers silver leggings that cost £585 ($1,151) or some £542 ($1,066) Roberto Cavalli silver snakeskin pumps. Trendy items, all—especially the leggings, since most women know that leggings-loving Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan are where fashion trends go to die. Jones will be lucky to squeeze another season out of them before they get stashed in a closet forever or go on to a landfill in a massive closet-cleaning spree two years from now.
No, if we want to be ecofriendly with our fashion purchases, we should put our money toward well-made items that are, unlike Jones's clothes, seasonless and trendproof—a classic sweater, these jeans made from organic cotton, or a really great suit that never goes out of style. Sure, they're not the most exciting purchases, but if they last decades, they'll survive any fashion whims.
Fill in the rest with cheaper items (after all, most of us can afford only the knockoff of the latest "it" bag), and try to buy goods made in America. It's a label that's hard to find in fast-fashion places—a quick inspection of my closet revealed that my Forever 21 purchases have come from China and my favorite H&M sundresses have traveled from Turkey and Romania. Of course, when you're done with your clothes, you can donate them to charity or sell them to a consignment store rather than throw them away.
Is fast fashion not your style? Do you think about your impact on the environment when you shop? Our friends at Betty Confidential want to know.