The impacts of fast fashion have been well documented — awareness of the industry’s destruction of the environment and exploitation of people around the world has never been higher.
Yet, we are continuing to see a rise in fast fashion consumption. In fact, when you look at ultra fast fashion brands like Shein, fast fashion has only gotten cheaper, faster, and bigger.
We’re in the midst of a climate crisis. So why can’t we stop buying so many cheap clothes?
Well, with today’s guest, we’re going to be exploring just how fast fashion brands are “using every trick in the book to get us addicted”…
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Read the Transcript From This Interview:
Hey there everyone and welcome or welcome back to the show. As you may know, this season of the podcast is all about slowing down fashion.
Which feels like quite a big task when we consider the pace of the broader fashion industry. Brands like Zara and H&M were once the fastest on the block, releasing new styles every week or every 2 weeks. But now, we have brands like SHEIN that are releasing thousands of new arrivals every single day. And with SHEIN now worth $100 billion dollars — 5x what H&M is valued at — it unfortunately looks like that’s the direction the industry is headed
But how did this happen? Why is fast fashion so successful? We’re in a climate emergency, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the IPCC — was clear that all industries must cut emissions in half by 2030. That’s in 8 years. Fashion corporations need to be taking action rapidly. But it seems like the only thing moving fast is the pace of production.
And what about fast fashion shoppers?
ThredUP’s 2022 Resale Report showed that 74% (so three-fourths almost) of fast fashion shoppers believe their individual consumption habits have a significant impact on the environment and half of fast fashion shoppers believe that fast fashion is harmful to the environment. And 43% of fast fashion shoppers surveyed said they feel guilty purchasing fast fashion.
However, just 17% of consumers surveyed had plans to spend less money on fast fashion in the next 5 years. Now quitting fast fashion entirely is a privilege of course — which we’ll talk about later in this episode — but that question was just asking if shoppers had plans to buy less, not even giving it up completely or shop exclusively secondhand or anything drastic at all.
So why is fast fashion proving so hard to beat? Well, in that same thredUP Resale Report, 72% of survey respondents said they shopped fast fashion because it’s “good value for the money”, 53% said because “it saves them time” and 59% of respondents said that fast fashion is a “habit that’s hard to stop”.
Fast fashion is addictive. Nearly half — 48% — of fast fashion shoppers surveyed say they try to avoid purchasing fast fashion when they can and 62% of fast fashion shoppers even admitted that fast fashion brands “encourage people to buy things they don’t need.”
But what makes this fast-fashion habit so particularly hard to break? Well, that is what we’re going to be talking about today with our guest: Zainab.
In this episode, she’ll be breaking down:
- What ultra-fast fashion exactly is
- Why it’s so addictive, especially for young people
- How fast fashion’s marketing tactics keep people hooked on their drug
- The role that influencers play in overconsumption
- And how we can start to challenge and change these fast fashion systems.
Alright, we’re covering a lot in today’s episode so let’s get into it. Zainab is starting us off with a bit of an introduction and her slow fashion story…
I’m Zainab, I’m a green fashion editor of Climate Change Magazine. It’s Freezing in LA. And I’m also a journalist focusing on garment worker rights and the intersections between capitalism and climate, racial and gender justice. I’ve been interested in fashion ever since I can remember.
But I became interested in slow ethical and sustainable fashion about six years ago, when I was doing my undergrad, and started learning a lot more just about the world in general, and the oppressive systems that underpin our society.
When I started looking into how the fashion industry negatively impacts people and the environment, I started to use fashion as a lens to look at power structures and interlinking systems of injustice. And I’ve been talking about these themes on social media and in publications like Gal-Dem and The Guardian for the past two and a half years.
Yeah. Well, I love your work — so I’m excited to talk about one of your recent articles later in our conversation today.
But something that we were talking about before, that I’d like to talk about first was how on your slow fashion journey, you know you’ve given up fast fashion, but you also recognize the privileges associated with being able to 100% completely stop shopping from fast fashion brands.
So can you share your take on quitting fast fashion and what privileges come with that that we should be thinking about in the slow fashion community?
So I quit, because I wanted to take a stand. And it was relatively easy, I’m not sure how my approach would have been different if I found it really difficult when I first tried. But the way that everybody shops, even without any ethical or environmental considerations is different, whether it’s your budget or your preference for shopping in person over online.
And then when you add that element of researching the ethics of a brand, or hunting down a specific item you’re looking for secondhand, there are even more variables at play, you probably need more time. And if you live in an area where there aren’t secondhand shops, your approach to shopping ethically is going to be drastically different to someone like myself, who is street sized.
And I live in a London suburb, which has a lot of charity shops, and I can get to central London easily. Where there are loads more options, even ethical fashion boutiques and sustainable fashion events going on. And I see all of that as a massive privilege and recognize that even not living near a city makes a huge difference to your shopping habits and your ability to shop in a lower impact way.
Totally. Yeah and it’s really interesting how you’re bringing in some additional considerations there that I think that we don’t always think about.
You know we know affordability and sizing are definitely barriers. Fast fashion might be a person’s only option to find their size or to find a garment they can afford.
But location is also a privilege. And I remember readers asking me: I don’t have any sustainable fashion stores where I live or any good secondhand stores near me… and the online options aren’t good in my country, so what should I do? And I didn’t even know how to answer those questions, because it’s something I had taken for granted before…so definitely something to consider.
I mean now I might suggest, well just wear what you have, keep rewearing, mending, repairing, tailoring, maybe swapping with friends, family, and all that good stuff but, yeah, at the time I didn’t really know what to say!
But shifting over to what will be our main topic for this conversation. I really can’t wait to talk with you about your piece for The Guardian, titled ‘Ultra-Fast Fashion is Taking Over and Using Every Trick in the Book to Get Us Addicted’.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of that article, could you first clarify what ultra-fast fashion is?
Ultra fast fashion is fast fashion but faster production, faster trend cycles, and faster disposal, which also means lower quality clothing, and even worse labor practices. So none of ultra-fast fashion brands Shein, Fashion Nova, Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, or one I hadn’t heard of before, Cider, disclose any information about their labor.
And then to give you an idea of the scale of production at the time I wrote the article for The Guardian, so in April, H&M, which most of us would consider a fast-fashion brand, had added 4,414 styles to its US website, in 2022, leading up to, I think like the beginning or middle of April, versus 315,000 styles added to the Shein website.
H&M is already known to be overproducing and to exploit garment workers. But then when you look at that difference in the volume of product that’s being sold, in comparison to Shein it’s absolutely mind boggling.
Yeah, it truly is. And I know exactly what you are referencing — those charts published by Business of Fashion showing the number of new styles that H&M, and Zara, and Boohoo have released versus the number of new styles Shein has released. And the chart truly was shocking. I mean it’s overwhelming to see what Zara and Boohoo are putting out there, but then Shein is just taking it to an entirely different level. And that chart really put it in perspective so I’ll make sure it’s linked in the show notes.
I mean of course, it’s hard to know the exact production volumes that Shein is producing because they don’t actually publish those numbers — like how many garments they make. But based on the number of new arrivals that they are releasing, it has to be a lot, it has to be a lot, of course.
And what do you think it is about fast fashion, and especially ultra-fast fashion as we’re talking about, do you think that makes it so addictive, especially for young people?
I think mainly the illusion that it’s cheap, and that you’re getting a good deal, when in reality, you end up buying more clothing of poor quality. And also, I think the rate at which the ultra-fast fashion brands pump out new clothing, kind of indoctrinates shoppers into thinking that they need to keep up and turn around the items in their personal wardrobes at the same rate. So in some ways, it feels like the brands kind of set the pace. And then consumers follow.
And also, from my perspective, I love having variety in my wardrobe, I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever been addicted to fashion. But I like to have a lot of different styles of clothing. So when people talk about having a capsule wardrobe, I just know that’s never going to be me.
So I do relate to the idea that you want to have different styles of clothing, and want to follow trends. So I can see when a brand is really giving you all of those options. And yeah, adding new styles on a daily basis, even how that can be really appealing if you do want to experiment with your style.
Yeah. So this idea of keeping up is something that I’d like to explore a little bit deeper. Like these brands, the way they advertise, the way they market, it makes you feel like you have to be constantly checking the new arrivals to “keep up”.
They’re sending you those notifications, they’re sending you these emails, you feel like you’re missing out, you know as our previous guest fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell talked about, there’s this FOMO or fear of missing out that brands sort of prey on.
Is this fear of missing out or this desire to keep up something that any of your interviewees for your article spoke about?
One of my interviewees was from Australia was talking about going to parties on a weekly basis. And so she spoke about keeping up in terms of like, keeping up appearances and making sure that you’ve got something new and interesting to wear to each party every week. Yeah, she definitely spoke about that for more of a peer pressure, kind of clicky you know, like high school teenager perspective, but not so much from a brand perspective.
And I do feel a lot of people who are addicted to shopping, interested in shopping and buying and wearing clothes and not so much interested in fashion. And I think those kinds of people are more influenced by brands who can actually sell them the clothing that they can wear rather than what’s going on in the fashion world more broadly. Whether it’s a luxury brand, setting a trend, that they might not be able to buy or participate in, or watching what people are wearing at the Met Gala or equivalent red carpet, which won’t necessarily be something that they can wear.
So I think there’s also this distinction between being interested in being clothes just because you want to buy them and wear them. And then just following the trends that brands are pumping out, versus being really interested in fashion and looking at what different people are wearing, and maybe what indie designers are doing, and looking at really unique styles and people who are trailblazing in the fashion industry.
Yeah, so many interesting points there.
I mean there’s always a new party, a new event that can be an excuse for a new outfit right? And it just surprises me how much I’ll hear from people that they’re literally buying a new dress or a new outfit JUST for this one wedding, this one party, or this one night out, and this culture of single-use fashion is just so prevalent. It’s almost like a cultural norm — and it’s something that we just really, really need to break.
But I think that marketing and advertising plays a huge role here. So what are some of the various advertising and marketing tactics that these fast fashion brands are using to reel people in and normalize overconsumption and single-use fashion?
Yeah, continuing on, from talking about parties and kind of keeping up with social engagements and using that as an excuse to buy. There’s a lot of language relating to newness and low prices, which works really well for brands, but also the way that they market a whole vibe or idea.
So I went on Pretty Little Thing’s Twitter, because I know they always tweet just like bizarre stuff. And they tweeted some pictures of one of their bikinis. And the tweet read, dreamy summer getaways, need the perfect outfits. Get Island-ready with all new in.
And I think it’s this kind of language that gets people thinking about a certain vibe they want to give off or an outfit to go with a certain setting that they’re going to be in.
And I know not so much these days. But back in the day when Vanessa Hudgens was like in her prime at Coachella, every time Coachella would come around, I’d be like, uh, like, I just want to live out my like boho dreams.
So I really do get it when you see a brand kind of pushing a certain aesthetic, and you want to be a part of it. Or you want to feel like you’re part of the setting that you’re actually not part of by dressing the part. I can see how people fall victim to that kind of marketing.
Even sometimes when I have not searched for something online, but I’ve spoken about it, I always tell my family how our phones are listening to us. So even when you talk about something, sometimes you start getting served ads for it. And it’s a bit scary how that happens. But you really just can’t escape it.
Yeah, yeah, that’s a great way of putting it. You really can’t escape it. It feels like it’s sort of coming at you from all ends. I mean, I used to work in marketing. I still do to an extent, you know, my work is sort of running a website, but anyway…
You know what you were saying what the terminology used in the Pretty Little Thing tweets, like that sounds exactly like something I used to write when working in marketing, in social media. And it’s a little bit embarrassing to admit, but it’s true.
And I wanted to mention it because it just when you’re inside of it, you don’t even notice that is there’s anything wrong with it.
It’s just sort of the messaging that’s been trickled down through the company and maybe it’s even part of the marketing guidelines, brand voice document, whatever, and yeah, you really don’t think that you’re doing anything wrong by tweeting stuff like that.
You know, I’m not blaming the person just sitting in their cubicle trying to do their job and get their paycheck, and pay their rent. But yeah I do hope that we can start to get more people to question this messaging and challenge these brands and the messaging they’re promoting, the culture that they’re creating through this messaging.
So on the thread of marketing, we have to talk about influencers. We can’t have a conversation about fast fashion and marketing without talking about influencers.
What role do you think that fast fashion social media influencers play in this culture of overconsumption?
I think these influencers seem like normal shoppers to a lot of their followers and I think that normalizes overconsumption, when in reality, those influencers are probably much wealthier than their followers, and are perhaps even sponsored by the brands whose clothing they’re showing on their Instagram page or in their YouTube videos.
So fast fashion brands are majorly profiting off of marketing through influencers in a personable chatty style that shoppers are more likely to fall for than a billboard or generic ad.
So really, I think it’s quite sneaky on the brand’s part. And I think especially a lot of young people, they think that they know the influencers that they follow, and they begin to trust them.
And there are lots of people who I like following on social media, but if I see them doing something that feels it doesn’t really align with my values, I can give them the benefit of the doubt, but also I don’t know them personally and I understand that they’re essentially running a business. They’re working with brands to provide for themselves, or at least like provide for themselves, and then some, like live quite a luxe lifestyle in a lot of cases.
Yeah, I think it’s that kind of illusion that these influencers are just like us.
Yeah, right. I mean back to your reference with Vanessa Hudgens, these celebrities are people that we want to emulate, but influencers feel even closer to us than celebrities. So instead of just imagining, wishing that we might emulate them, it feels like with influencers, that we could actually emulate them like they’re just close enough.
We’re just one shopping hauls away from being like our favorite influencer and having her style. We just need to buy this and we’ll have that perfect life. And that might be even more dangerous in some ways.
It’s clear that there’s a lot that we’re up against with fast fashion.
But something that I can’t stop wondering about is how Gen Z is the most like climate-conscious, environmentally aware, socially aware generation according to all these research studies and surveys. And, we’ve seen that this generation is very concerned about the climate crisis, they care about sustainability, much more than other generations, statistically speaking.
But then Gen Z is also the largest consumer base of these ultra-fast fashion brands, of these fast fashion brands that are just wreaking the most havoc on the planet and exploiting people. So what do you make of this seeming contradiction?
Young people don’t know anything other than overconsumption. And not only are they more likely to be influenced by external forces, because they simply haven’t developed or experienced as much as their elder counterparts.
But there are so many more forces influencing them than there were, say 10 years ago if you even think about how many more social media platforms there are now. And it’s basically impossible to avoid digital content that celebrates glamor and materialism, both of which encourage consumption.
If Gen Z understands the systems that have laid the foundation for a consumerist society, then they also understand that it’s not their fault. I can see how they’d want to go to a climate protest and get their voices heard. But also buy clothes that make them feel good at least in the moment, in the same breath.
So this is a huge question and I think about it quite a lot. And it is frustrating that there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer. But I think at the end of the day, the onus shouldn’t be on, like the youngest adults in our society, who are figuring out who they are, maybe having financial struggles, even like becoming independent. It’s not really on them to basically dismantle what our society is built on.
Yeah there’s a lot of layers to that to think about.
But this brings up another point that you had mentioned in your article for The Guardian, talking about who you believe is responsible for changing the system. And you write that, those of us with the time, energy, and experience should be holding these fast fashion corporations to account.
So then my question for you is: for those of us who are able to hold the fast fashion brands accountable, what should we start doing to change the system, you know, what can we do?
So you can go to the Oh So Ethical website and use the automatic tweet links to tweet brands about their labor practices. And if you don’t have Twitter, you’ll find email templates on the website. So you can copy and paste those and email them to the brands. These are small, quick actions that can have a big impact, like we’ve seen with the Pay-Up campaign.
And especially if you’re able to do them using a public social media account, others can see that and be inspired to do similar. That’s something super easy that basically anyone can do even if they only have a few minutes, every now and again.
I think if you have a public following if you’re someone like me, who makes some content on Instagram, and maybe has some other online presence, if brands are reaching out to you, or you get offered an opportunity to attend an event or partner with someone, I think, always do your research into the values of that business or that individual.
And if you find that you’re not aligned with that business or that person and that you’re going to reject this opportunity, I think it’s really important to give feedback. Often it takes me a while to get back to people because I want to really think about what I want to say. Often it starts with me asking a lot of questions first, and then kind of deciding what I want to do.
But that’s super important if you are in a position where you can work with brands, asking a lot of questions beforehand is really important. And I also like to share screenshots sometimes of email exchanges, or exchanges on Instagram, DMs that I have with brands on my Instagram stories to just show other people the questions that I ask and the things that I take into account before I decide to work with someone.
Yeah. And could you share a couple of those questions that you ask if you know others listening are in a position where brands are reaching out to them?
Do you pay your workers a living wage is a good one to start with.
If it’s like a fashion brand, and you’ve had a look on their website, and you are unsure about the fabrics or something like that, you could ask a specific question about the fabric. So if you see those polyester, on the website, you could ask about maybe why they’re using polyester or do they have plans to move to natural fibers.
I also often ask about size inclusivity. People don’t often think that that’s a part of sustainability. But I think ethical fashion for me is about justice and equality. And everybody needs to be able to wear clothes and feel good in clothes. So it’s important to me to also ask what brands are doing to expand their size range if it’s not already inclusive.
Yeah, thank you for those question ideas. Those are all great questions to ask. And that sort of brings me to my next question for you, which is about greenwashing.
So greenwashing like this is just one of the biggest topics in the sustainable fashion community because it’s become so prevalent and it’s getting really hard to navigate.
What are some of the greenwashing examples that you’ve seen from fast fashion brands? And what do you think the impact is of this greenwashing?
So first of all, I want to define the term. So in a piece that I wrote not about fashion, but about greenwashing in a different context, I defined it as selective or performative care for the environment.
So when it comes to fashion, one of the ways or yeah, one of the ways in which greenwashing manifests is in recycled collections, which are often recycled plastic, and or include items that have a really small percentage of recycled fibers. So that’s something to look out for not just taking things for face value, and actually looking at fabric and care labels, also organic cotton collections.
And greenwashing by brands is just a vicious cycle basically because average shoppers who aren’t looking into the ethics and sustainability credentials of a brand are just going to accept whatever a brand tells them is “good” about their clothes without questioning it further.
And that then gives the brands even more power to continue overproducing without addressing their inherent unsustainability or taking any kind of accountability for their negative impacts on the environment.
Yeah, I mean as a former fast fashion shopper, who was starting to think about sustainability, I believed these sustainability claims from fast fashion brands, I think partially because I wanted to believe it. Right?
I wanted to keep shopping these fast fashion brands, and I didn’t want to accept that it was at odds with what I was learning about the climate crisis, and sustainability, and social justice.
I mean it’s hard to change our habits; it’s hard to accept that maybe what we’ve been doing is not aligned with our deeper values.
But sort of related to this, I wanted to ask you: do you think it’s possible for fast fashion brands to ever move beyond greenwashing and really be sustainable? Is there anything that they could do to actually ever be sustainable in your point of view?
I don’t think so. I feel like it’s in the name. It’s fast fashion. So unless a brand wants to evolve into a different kind of brand, that functions on a different system.
I don’t see it unless there’s like some major science that I’m not aware of that could make that work. Like I don’t know if circular or regenerative processes could one day enable fast fashion brands to actually not be terrible. So I don’t think so.
Yeah, I agree with that for sure. I had a feeling that you would think that but I was curious to get your take on it.
But yeah a journalist recently reached out to me asking me, you know, if someone is going to shop fast fashion, is it better for them to shop the recycled or conscious or eco collections from these fast fashion brands? And I feel like I genuinely did not know how to answer that — I sort of avoided the question.
And I was like, if a person really wants to help fast fashion brand clean up their act, I think a more effective way is to support campaigns from fashion advocacy organizations, like Remake, Clean Clothes Campaign, Labor Behind The Label, Garment Worker Center, and demand action that way rather than like, thinking that you’re going to be able to vote with your dollars by buying this piece from that conscious or eco collection, but I feel like I didn’t really have a great answer to really addressing that question like yes or no.
I think if someone asked me that, I’d probably say focus on the item that you’re going to wear the most. If you are going to buy from fast fashion because even if you buy from a particular collection, I guess you are voting for the better, like” better collection”. But the money’s all going to the same place. So you’re still yeah, lending legitimacy to that unethical business.
Mm Yeah, those are great points. Your money is still going to this billionaire corporation and enabling them to continue and also it’s a smart idea to buy the – to go for the piece that you’re actually going to wear the most so that you hopefully end up buying less overall.
But beyond individual brands and this fast fashion system, we know that there are much bigger systems at play driving these consumption behaviors that we see. So what are some of the other systems at play that you’ve found help perpetuate this fast fashion cycle?
So I would say colonialism and capitalism lay the foundation for the terrors of the fashion industry. And then the fact that making clothes is seen as women’s work means that it’s easier for brands to get away with exploiting women garment workers and firing them when they get pregnant, and things like that. So there’s sexism.
When it comes to consumers, there’s so much pressure for women to look a certain way. And that’s been the case for centuries. And I think that brands really capitalize off of that by selling us ideals that we ultimately can’t attain simply by purchasing their clothing.
I think the discourse around weight loss, trendy body types, and getting your body ready for summer plays a part in that. To elaborate, I’d like to read an extract from an essay in Jia Tolentino’s book “Trick Mirror” which speaks to this really well:
“When you are a woman the things you like get used against you, or alternatively, the things that get used against you have all been prefigured as things you should like. Sexual availability falls into this category. So does basic kindness and generosity, wanting to look good, taking pleasure and trying to look good does too. I like trying to look good, but it’s hard to say how much you can genuinely independently like what amounts to a mandate.
In 1991, Naomi Wolf wrote in The Beauty Myth about the peculiar fact that beauty requirements have escalated as women subjugation has decreased. It’s as if our culture has mustered an immune system response, to continue breaking the fever of gender equality, as if some deep patriarchal logic has made it that women need to achieve ever higher levels of beauty to make up for the fact that we are no longer economically and legally dependent on men.”
Wow, that was powerful. A lot to think about with that and a lot to sit with.
There’s a lot we’ve talked about these past 30 minutes or so and there’s a lot that we’re up against with changing the fast fashion system, clearly. But what are some ways that we can start to shift this culture and change these systems to enable a slower fashion future?
Definitely. Firstly, I would say spread accurate information about consumerism and the fashion industry and whatever communities you’re a part of. And then one step further would be bringing the conversation into unexpected faura.
So for example, if your job seemingly has nothing to do with fashion, or sustainability, you could suggest doing a clothes swap at your office with a small entry fee that could go towards a garment worker fund.
I find that people are always curious about clothes swaps when they don’t know much about them. And that’s quite a fun way to get people thinking about their consumption habits. And then more broadly, how the fashion industry works.
Also, continue educating yourself and call out brands and the ways that I mentioned earlier, it’s important to call out the corporations that hold the power so that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and on changing your individual consumption habits, when it’s totally not your fault that the fashion industry is unethical.
So I think it’s that combination of learning, sharing, and then acting on your learnings.
Yeah I love that framework. And when you say accurate information, could you just clarify what you mean by that, and how we can ensure that what we are reading is in fact accurate information?
Yeah. Often, you’ll read an Instagram post, like a carousel that has like 10 slides, and they will have some facts on it. There won’t be an organization or other source tagged or mentioned at all. And that’s really difficult when so many people do — I hope they don’t rely — but they do consume a lot of information about different topics on social media.
So I would say always ask if that’s a way that you’re learning about things always ask the people who make those posts where they got that information. If you are reading something that does refer to a link in their bio or a link on their story that has a list of resources, definitely do go and check those out to make sure that the information is accurate.
Also, when you’re reading long form articles, like for example, mine in The Guardian, click on the links to check that the statistic being quoted is correct.
Yeah, if you’re reading an article by someone who you’re not familiar with, you really have no idea what their background is, or what kind of research they’ve done.
And sometimes, it’s easy to assume that when an article has loads of hyperlinks that must be really well researched. And maybe it is, but we all make mistakes. And sometimes you can trip up or a piece of information is out of date. Yeah, it’s good to just not take things at face value, and kind of dig that little bit deeper to make sure that what you’re consuming is accurate.
Yeah, that’s great advice. I like the point about actually clicking through when data or facts are referenced.
And I also know that this is something that I need to and want to be continually aware of as a writer, content creator, podcastor, and editor of a website. I am trying to continually improve upon it because when I started my blog six years ago, I was definitely not properly fact-checking.
So I’m just gonna admit that right out in the open, but just something that I think we can all strive to improve on in this space making sure that what we’re sharing is accurate.
So sort of shifting gears a little bit here. I actually had a question for you that I meant to ask you earlier based on something you said a little bit ago. You mentioned that you don’t necessarily see yourself being like a capsule wardrobe person. I find this so interesting because what I love about podcasting and interviewing people is that everybody has such different vantage points.
And we just had an episode with slow fashion creator Jessica Harumi in episode 47 about like the benefits of a capsule wardrobe and she was saying how capsule wardrobe changed her life but, you know, it’s not for everyone.
So some people might have resonated with that and some people might not have, like some people might be more like you and want a really wide variety of clothing and a lot of choice. Jessica gave her advice for like capsule wardrobes in that episode I was curious if you could give us some advice for people who don’t want to have a capsule wardrobe and they want variety.
How can they still embrace a slow fashion mindset and still be part of like the sustainable fashion movement without something like a capsule wardrobe?
That is a very difficult question. I think it’s the same advice that I would give to anyone who wants to shop more consciously. And that’s just exploring the options outside of the mainstream.
So exploring all the secondhand options that are available to you. Being open to swapping and sharing and renting. Renting isn’t something that I’ve tried yet because it just hasn’t seemed to suit my specific lifestyle and budget. So it’s not been something that I’ve tried.
But I’m very open to just asking a friend or a family member if I can borrow something, or occasionally I post on my Instagram stories about looking for a specific item. Like I’m going to a wedding next month and I really wanted to wear like a blazer trouser suit. And I posted about it on Instagram and one of my friends said that they just bought a yellow suit do I want to borrow it? And then another friend said that they have a blazer that might go with a pair of trousers that I have.
So I think even just like putting it out into the world. Sometimes your friends or if you’re posting about it on the internet, you know someone who you don’t know might message you or something and suggest somewhere to find what you’re looking for. So I think being really open is, yeah, the main thing if you’re looking for unique pieces.
But it is difficult if you like a variety of things, because I still browse secondhand platforms almost every day, which I think a lot of people would say doesn’t really align with the message that I’m putting out there. But I’ve been blessed with willpower. So I purchase very little in comparison to how much I browse.
But yeah, I think just figuring out what you like, and being able to search for those items, on your apps, or wherever you look for secondhand clothing is good like searching specific brands that you like, or styles, etc.
But it definitely is really hard if you like a lot of different colors and a lot of different silhouettes. But yeah, if you can, like share and swap and rent, then that’s obviously great, because you don’t have to hold on to all of those items on a permanent basis and store them in your own wardrobe.
I like how you said that at the beginning: “exploring options outside of the mainstream.” You know thinking about alternative ways of accessing clothing. That’s really interesting.
I also tend to like variety in my closet, but I also don’t want my wardrobe to be super large at any given time, like I don’t want a bunch of clothes in my closet.
So I’ve been loving swapping through Swap Society. So I can send in my unwanted clothes, get points — or they call it SwapCoin — and then I’m able to (with those coins) get new-to-me secondhand clothes that others in the community are swapping out. So that might be an option for anybody who likes variety. Swap Society is only available in the US though at the moment I believe.
But anyway, Zainab, this entire conversation was filled with so many great takeaways, lots to think about, but also action items to act on as well so that was really fantastic and I wanted to thank you for that. Before we get into the final questions, could you tell listeners where they can find you and how to connect with you and learn more from you?
Yeah, you can find me on Instagram @zainab.slow.fashion and on Twitter at @zainab_fash
Perfect and those links will be in the show notes on consciouslifeandstyle.com as well. And finally, the very last question that I have for you that I ask every guest that comes onto the podcast is what would a better future for fashion look like to you?
A better future for fashion looks circular. It looks like fair labor and pay and working conditions for everyone involved. And it looks like black and minoritized women at the forefront preserving and popularizing their heritage through ancient sustainable production techniques and values.
And that’s a wrap for this episode! Thanks for tuning in today — if you found this episode informative, make sure to hit subscribe to get more episodes like this and share this episode with someone else who you think might learn something from it too.
And if you want more sustainable fashion content, you can subscribe to my free weekly newsletter, The Conscious Edit, where I share articles, podcasts, documentaries, advocacy campaigns, brands, and all of that good stuff. You can sign up at consciouslifeandstyle.com/edit.
Alright, that’s all I have for you today. We’ll be back again next Tuesday for another episode.
In the meantime, if you want more episodes like this, I recommend Episode 40: What it’s Really Like Working for Fast Fashion with Amanda of the Clotheshorse podcast, and Episode 21: Social Media, Fast Fashion, and Shifting Overconsumption Culture with Lily of Imperfect Idealist.
Thanks again for listening today! I hope you have a great week and I’ll catch you again next Tuesday — or on Saturday if you’re a newsletter subscriber. Bye for now!
About Zainab Mahmood
Zainab Mahmood is Green Fashion Editor of It’s Freezing in LA! and has written on sustainable fashion for award-winning publications such as gal-dem and The Guardian. She focuses on garment worker rights and the intersections between capitalism and climate, racial and gender justice.