Fast Fashion: If you’re on a modest wage, why should you shop sustainably?

Not all fast fashion is poor quality. In fact, it’s usually reasonable or decent-enough quality.


I love vintage clothes! Not that I’ve been able to afford them in years gone by –

I live in Sheffield and we have so, so many vintage stores here but since forever, they’ve been out of my price range.

Most the items I own are “fast fashion”, and most of them are actually older or even plenty older than one year.

I certainly don’t treat my clothes as dispensable and most of them have been relatively long lasting, especially my #Primani jeans and chinos.

So, I’ll start this post by stating that Not all fast fashion is poor quality. In fact, it’s usually reasonable or decent-enough quality.

Sometimes, fast fashion is even decent quality.

With this in mind, sustainable fashion vendors and retailers won’t easily connect with new customers by telling them that cheap clothes are all cr*p.

Secondly, eco-friendly retailers will all do well to remember that sustainable shopping is a privilege.

No matter how environmentally damaging, unethical and unsustainable the fast fashion industry is, many customers only want to buy what they can reasonably afford.

Just like a meat-eater regretting the animal abuses involved in producing their favourite foods, fast fashion shoppers may regret the working conditions of garment workers in foreign lands.

But what should they do?

Spend £55 on one, nice top sourced sustainably. Or spend £50 on two pairs of jeans, four shirts and a jumper sourced through exploitation.

To someone on a tight budget, only one of those options is reasonable, and justifiable.

And even though a higher price tag on sustainable clothes pays for decent wages and working conditions for workers, and more eco-friendly textiles and manufacturing, ultimately, why will your average consumer be concerned over such things?

If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes, then why shouldn’t you invest in what is best value for money –

“Value for money”, this usually means how much you can get for as little spends as possible.

And as I’ve said, longevity isn’t only a characteristic of ethical, sustainable clothing.

It’s easy for anyone with plenty of disposable income to declare what is and what is not ethical purchasing, and to make often costly decisions accordingly.

But if fast fashion is reliable, accessible, and affordable, what weight can be put on the fact that it’s not ethical?

It’s legal, isn’t it?

Can consumers be blamed if governments allow such exploitative items to be distributed by retailers?

It’s true that many consumers buy fast fashion and discard it frequently. But this is a behaviour mirrored by consumers of all budgets, whether buying cheap or otherwise – people simply like to shop and have new things.

Textile waste doesn’t only contain fast fashion items.

But can opportunities be made which enable people on modest incomes to buy sustainably, and still get what they consider to be “value for money”?

It seems unlikely. As I’ve acknowledged, high or higher price ranges for sustainably and ethically sourced goods are justified – fair sourcing of materials, fair pay and working conditions are all reflected by a higher garment price.

But we’re simply not used to paying fair prices – many people in our own countries are not paid fairly and are therefore at an immediate disadvantage before they even enter a clothing retailer.

We live in separated worlds – the privileged and the poor. But really, I’m not talking about those who can shop at Gucci and those who can’t –

I’m talking about the poverty-stricken, exploited and exhausted factory worker in Bangladesh, and the privileged person in Primark with a basket full of new, cheap garments.

So, sustainable clothing vendors and retailers…

How are you adapting your unique selling point to appeal to fast fashion loyalists who can:

  • Already get decent quality clothing for a fraction of the price, and –
  • Have many other things to worry about besides the unethical, non-environmentally friendly reality of fast fashion?

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