Can I buy fast fashion without feeling guilty?

In 2015 came out one of the first documentaries on the impact of fast fashion on the planet. Directed by Andrew Morgan, it was titled “The True Cost”. The implication was, of course, that this would reveal the true price the earth is paying for our embrace of overconsumption when it comes to clothing. It did that.

But what he didn’t discuss (which is rarely discussed when it comes to dealing with fashion and the climate crisis) is the literal cost to individual budgets of system change and our own behavior. It’s because one of the biggest problems with buying better and more responsibly is the fact that, as you pointed out, it’s a luxury for many consumers.

Responsibly produced products cost more. Sometimes a lot more.

That’s partly because when you come across such a cheap piece of clothing, you think to yourself, “How is this possible? product have been squeezed out of their margins.

And that’s partly because materials that have a low impact on the planet aren’t usually produced with economies of scale. At least not yet.

So what should a consumer who wants to act responsibly but also face cost limitations do?

First of all, not all cheap fashion items are created equal. The rise of companies like Shein, Fashion Nova and PLT made H&M and Zara look like card-carrying greenies. Although it seems impossible that the business model (doing more things quickly!) will ever be compatible with responsible production, H&M and Zara are at least trying.

And there’s a difference between fast fashion and what you might call factory fashion: the outlet stores of brands like Ralph Lauren, J. Crew and Brooks Brothers, which tend to be less trends but often use more durable materials.

Second, wherever you buy, your solution — carrying more of your products — is absolutely essential.

According to Maxine Bédat, founder of the New Standard Institute and architect of New York’s Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act, currently pending in the state legislature, “extending the working life of a garment (using the garment in its original form twice as much as the average), will reduce the impact on the climate by 49%. »

It’s unclear how long is considered “medium”, but a 2015 survey only estimated seven times.

Seven times.

Changing this number is something everyone can and should do, regardless of their budget. Buy for the long term, not the weekend. It will also change the way you think about spending.

If you buy a t-shirt for $50 but wear it once a week for a year, the price per garment is less than $1. Which is actually cheaper than if you buy a t-shirt for $10 and wear it twice before it starts to come apart at the seams or lose its shape. Then the price per wear is $5. It’s not a robbery. (Note: Part of extending a garment’s first life is also learning how to care for it properly.)

So when you want to make a purchase, run the numbers. Then figure out how badly you want a piece and how many ways you could wear it with what’s already in your wardrobe. Fashion math! Sometimes it adds up.

Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion question, which you can send her anytime via E-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.

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