So you’re here — whether for sustainability reasons, worker rights’ concerns, financial reasons, the desire to slow down, or otherwise — because you’ve decided to quit fast fashion.
That’s an amazing first step and should be celebrated! But now you’re probably wondering exactly how to quit fashion fashion.
Well, that’s what this guide is for! It’s not easy to give up fast fashion. It’s cheap and it’s enticing — some may even call it an addiction. Fashion brands spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns through magazines, billboards, TV ads, search ads, social media ads, influencer and celebrity partnerships, email blasts, and even video games. They do this to inundate you with messages convincing you that you need the latest new styles.
We also understand that it may not even be accessible for everyone to quit fast fashion completely due to price, size ranges, or a number of other reasons. There is no shame in this — the sustainable fashion space still has much room to improve in offering inclusive options.
But these steps outlined here are not necessarily about quitting cold turkey or giving up fast fashion 100% if you are unable to do so. It’s about doing better, not being perfect!
We are going for millions of people making small steps towards leaving fast fashion, not a few hundred people never falling into a single temptation or ever needing a single piece from a fast fashion brand.
Now that this stage is set, let’s dive into the five-step process!
1. Understand What Drives Consumption
Self-reflection is essential when thinking about habits. It can be a little uncomfortable to get honest about our own consumption habits and the drivers behind them, but there’s just no getting around it! Here are some questions to ask.
Think about when you usually browse online or purchase fast fashion.
Is it after a stressful day at when you need some retail therapy?
Do you buy new outfits because you feel a boost of self-esteem when you dress in something new and trendy?
Do you crave “newness” and the rush you get when you purchase new clothes?
Are you afraid to repeat outfits? To wear something that’s not trendy out of fear of not fitting in?
For me, I was shopping fast fashion mostly as a way to fit in with friends or feel that dopamine rush when I checked out in-store or online. Over time, I realized that I didn’t really want to be friends with the girls in school who preferred to shop than have genuine conversations and who placed such value on wearing a few brand names. These were not the type of friendships that left me feeling fulfilled.
Once you get to the drivers behind your own consumption, it may be easier to acknowledge that shopping fast fashion is not really a solution to any of the deeper problems.
As Mindless Mag points out “Shopping may seem like an accessible way to cope with negative feelings (such as anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and boredom), strive for the ‘ideal’ body image, or as a means of ‘keeping up with the Jones’. The sense of anaesthetization, or gaining of control, is only temporary, as the negative feelings return, and so too the urge to shop.”
Once we get to the root of what drives us to shop fast fashion and we accept that consumerism isn’t a solution to any of these problems, it opens up the space to think about more productive and long-term solutions.
A more healing way to handle short-term stress might be going outside on a walk, doing some light stretching, or doing meditation or breathwork. A better “treat” for yourself might be taking a bath or giving yourself permission to simply relax with a good book.
If you struggle with self-esteem, look into other confidence-boosting activities like getting moving, starting a journal, or dedicating some time for daily affirmations.
If there are significant stressors in your life — whether a job, a partner, a family member, or something else — consider what you can do to address the problem itself.
And if you need additional support on any of the above, seek out a therapist that can help.
You may also feel that your fast fashion habit is coming mostly from pressure from your social group to follow the latest trends and avoid outfit repeating.
In this case, perhaps you can talk about your slow fashion journey, share why you actually aren’t afraid to repeat outfits, suggest watching the documentary The True Cost together or heading to a local thrift store, share some sustainable fashion influencers or social media accounts you like following.
2. Remove Temptation
I used to go to the mall every weekend. I browsed fast fashion shops online whenever I had a spare moment. I counted shopping as one of my favorite hobbies.
When I first learned about the dark truth of the fashion industry, I tried a shopping “ban” going sans fashion for as many months as I could. A few months in, though, I did a shopping binge and bought a huge haul of questionably low-priced clothing — which arrived without the slightest bit of information about where it came from. The clothing didn’t even have tags when it arrived.
Needless to say, trying to do a shopping ban while keeping all other things equal was just not that effective without addressing the temptation driving these shopping habits.
So, I quit my subscriptions to fashion and celebrity magazines, unsubscribed from many brand emails, removed browser bookmarks to fast fashion retailer sites, and unfollowed most influencer accounts (fashion influencers, travel influencers who would promote fast fashion, and even some celebrities who participated in fast fashion campaigns).
I began to realize that much of my desire to shop was coming from external sources. And the more time I spent away from this world of constant trends and consumption, the less appealing that world was.
Moral of the story? The temptation to shop fast fashion is everywhere and quitting fast fashion is a whole lot easy when you remove as many triggers as possible.
If nothing else, change who you’re following on social media! The average person spends nearly 2 hours per day on various social networks. That’s over 700 hours in just one year — which means that who and what you follow matters a lot. Even if you aren’t buying exactly what these influencers promote, they still have to power to influence our subconscious minds and potentially drive us to buy more than we would have otherwise.
I can’t tell you how much better I felt when I decided to unfollow a whole set of mega-influencers wearing new outfits every day and promoting thoughtless brands on the regular!
The positive impacts go beyond saving money on buying clothes. You may notice a sense of relief, lightness, and even more satisfaction with your life when you’re not constantly bombarded with influencers wearing things you don’t have sending subtle messages that your current wardrobe — and life — is not enough.
3. Get Educated and Surround Yourself With Positive Influences
Just as there may be influences tempting you towards fast fashion, there are many individuals and organizations with emails, social media accounts, and blogs that can encourage you towards a more sustainable fashion approach.
Some accounts to follow are @fash_rev, @remakeourworld, @ajabarber, @venetialamanna, @aditimayer, @ssustainably_, or the Conscious Life & Style’s own Instagram account, @consciousstyle.
You can also check out @consciousfashion on Instagram where I highlight many creatives, organizations, and brands in the sustainable fashion space!
Once you start following a few accounts, you’ll naturally come across others either tagged in these accounts’ stories/posts or through Instagram’s suggestions. You can also search or follow hashtags like #ecofashion #sustainablestyle #ethicalfashion or #slowfashionmovement.
The accounts listed above are all educational and you’ll certainly learn a lot from them! If you want to dive deeper, check out this guide to free sustainable fashion educational resources. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter, the Conscious Edit, which shares articles, videos, podcasts, brands, and other resources for your journey!
4. Get Clear On Your Purpose and Goals
Even with a fast fashion influencer detox and feed full of inspirational sustainable fashion advocates, temptation will still creep in from time to time.
What will help you long-term on your journey is getting clear on your deeper purpose for why you are quitting fast fashion.
Are you quitting because you want to lead a more low waste or sustainable lifestyle?
Because you are concerned about fast fashion’s poor social justice record with their exploitation of women garment workers and racist, sexist cultures?
Do you want to leave fast fashion behind to save money or step away from consumption? Are you trying to live more minimally?
Are you quitting because you want to find your own style and not be swept up with trends?
There are a number of reasons why you might want to quit fast fashion! Perhaps you resonated with all of the above.
Reflect on why you want to quit fast fashion and understand your deeper purpose. If you’d find it helpful, write down this purpose in your journal or notes app on your phone so you have it visible when you need to look back at it!
5. Press Pause or Stop on Buying New
Engaging with sustainable fashion is not about simply replacing weekly fast fashion purchases with slow fashion ones. It’s about a mindset shift of slowing down and appreciating each piece a bit more.
Here are some tips for getting started with sustainable fashion.
- Wear what you have more. The most sustainable garment is the one already hanging in your closet! See if you can wear what you own 30, 40… 100 times.
- Love and take care of your clothes. Inevitably, wearing our clothes more means we also have to care for them a bit more. Wash less, handwash delicate items, wash on the cold setting, air-dry whenever possible, and don’t be afraid to try some simple mending if there is a tear or hole.
- Swap, borrow, rent. Think about alternative ways to access clothing that don’t involve purchasing anything. Consider swapping with or borrowing from friends, roommates, or family members that have a similar size. Rent if you only need a specific outfit or special occasion dress you’ll only wear once.
- Shop secondhand first. Browse your local thrift shop and/or check out marketplaces like Poshmark, Tradesy, and eBay for pre-loved clothing.
For more tips, check out the post What is Sustainable Fashion?
6. Buy Better and With Intention
Giving up fast fashion doesn’t mean giving up buying clothes forever (unless you want to, of course)! It’s about being more thoughtful with each purchase and putting more value into each item.
It’s about only buying what you love and what can actually see yourself wearing 100+ times! Here are more questions to ask:
- Would the item work well with your existing pieces to create an outfit or is it likely to sit in the back of your closet?
- Is the garment (or are the shoes) comfortable and will you actually want to wear that item?
- Is this a color you really like and that you feel good wearing?
- Is it high quality? Is it made with durable materials? (Check out these tips for finding high-quality garments.)
- Does the piece fit well?
- Do you feel good about where your money is going with this brand? Who owns the brand? Is it a small, independent label or is the brand part of a conglomerate owned by billionaires?
- What are the brand’s sustainability practices? Do they use renewable energy? What are their sourcing practices?
- What materials is the piece made from? Look for upcycled, organic, and low-impact fibers (like linen and hemp).
Feel free to add more questions to this list for your own “pre-buy” checklist!
If you’re looking for a head-start on finding some more conscious fashion brands, check out all of our guides — on everything from underwear to formal dresses — here.
And here are some guides for brands with more accessible options, size and price-wise:
- Affordable Conscious Fashion Brands
- Plus Size Conscious Fashion Brands
- Petite Conscious Fashion Brands
- Tall Conscious Fashion Brands
7. Engage, Advocate, and Spread the Word
Engaging in sustainable and ethical fashion is about much more than consumption! It’s about pushing for a better industry.
You can find plenty of ways to do this in What is Ethical Fashion?. Here are some highlights:
- Get curious and stay educated with the resources shared above and in this guide.
- Discuss these topics with your social spheres of influence (friends, family, coworkers). Suggest books and documentaries, share posts on social media, talk about the issues of fast fashion together. When your loved ones want to shop as an activity together, suggest meeting for coffee or lunch instead!
- Start a community event. Host a swap party (can be virtual!), a film screening, or have a booth at an event at a university, farmer’s market, or other existing events.
- Join a community. See if there’s an existing club to join at your university or school (or start one!), join one of Fashion Revolution’s country teams, or apply to Remake’s Ambassador program if you’re looking to get engaged at a deeper level!
- Demand better from brands. Email, direct message, and tag brands on social media asking them questions about their production and supply chain. Ask for transparency and push them to do better. Fashion Revolution has some helpful resources.
This is just a starter list! Once you get plugged into a community, subscribe to newsletters from advocacy organizations, and start following accounts on social media, you’ll discover more and more ways to get involved with the fashion revolution.
Quitting fast fashion isn’t about seeking perfection and it’s not just about consumption. (And it’s certainly not about shaming anyone!)
It’s about a shift of awareness. It’s about starting a journey towards being more thoughtful with our consumption. It’s about putting value back into what we wear.
It’s about participating in the broader movement towards a more sustainable and equitable future for fashion.
30 Affordable Conscious Fashion Brands
7 Online Secondhand Clothing Sites