Mindfulness in the Age of Fast Fashion — Don’t we all just want to slow down?
by Brie Roche-Lilliott on Dec 07, 2021
Welcome to our first edition of The Nest’s monthly blog! We’re excited to debut this new online offering, and have so much we’re looking forward to sharing with y’all through this channel. At The Nest, we strive to not only provide sustainably-sourced clothing and homewares to our community, but to be a supportive source of information and education. We believe that one of the first steps to living a more eco-conscious and sustainably-driven life is through awareness. So over the last month, we’ve focused on shedding light on the current fashion industry: our roles as consumers and its effects on the world we live in.
On November 17th, 2021 we proudly hosted our first Sustainable Fashion Forum, centralized on the topic of fast fashion — the business model that has come to dominate the fashion industry for the past thirty years, and seen explosive growth in the last two decades. In a fast fashion market, quantity replaces quality in a variety of factors; in order to stay competitive, fashion brands churn out new styles at an alarming rate for a low price, sacrificing quality of materials, and oftentimes, suitable working conditions. This mass production of cheap garments is sustained by a consumer base driven into a cycle of constant newness, and subsequently, constant waste. Unfortunately, most popular brands we see these days–H&M, Forever21, Shein–utilize fast fashion techniques, and due to their size and accessibility, become the staples for mainstream consumers, particularly lower-income consumers who don’t have the financial freedom to pursue smaller, sustainable (and often more expensive) brands.
During the forum we discussed this trend of unsustainability in regards to Generation Z, who are aging into independent buying power. We had to ask, in a generation so often characterized as being environmentally conscious, politically radical, and intentionally-minded consumers, why does fast fashion still have such a stronghold? And as much as we hate to jump on the bandwagon, the overwhelming consensus was the rise of social media culture. In a new way that even millennials didn’t have access to, social media has been present for the duration of Gen Z’s existence, beginning with their parents posting baby photos on Instagram to TikTok challenges in middle school, social media apps have ingrained themselves as social currency, particularly amongst the younger generations. And while the harmful effects of social media on body image, self-confidence, teen bullying and suicide have been examined at length, it’s worth exploring how it has become a capitalist tool to push young consumers to buy new and buy often. Fast fashion makes trendiness cheap and accessible, preying on an entire generation’s manufactured need to stay cool and relevant, then prove it.
It’s challenging not to feel bleak after looking at the facts. How is it possible to dismantle a system so ingratiated in our cultural and capitalist landscape? At the end of the day many of us still feel entangled in this cycle we don’t wish to be a part of; we still care about our image, how we’re perceived, our social status, and how we dress ourselves is an integral part of that. Fast fashion relies on consumers to be impulsive, buy first, think later.
How Do We Change & Retrain Our Mindset to Buy with Intention?
Well of course, we quickly identified one of our favorite tools–education! Sharing the information we know with friends, peers, and families, many of whom don’t always understand the harmful extent of fast fashion brands. Bringing awareness to the malpractices of these companies, the devastating environmental effects, and the disillusions created and spread through marketing, can enlighten others to investigate where their clothes are coming from, as well as their own spending patterns.
Non-Transparent Fast Fashion - The (Un)Shocking Look Behind The Curtain at Shein
A recent report investigating the production line of online-only brand Shein found extremely hazardous working conditions across numerous factories, with several employees corroborating 75-hour workweeks, and little to no time off. It also cited the brand to release up to 6,000 new items daily, with an average price around $10, nullifying any claims of being low waste almost immediately. And yet still hundreds of influencers have and continue to collaborate with Shein, thereby excusing their actions by promoting them to tens of thousands of followers. Influencers are, after all, paid marketing for these brands and speaking out against them is in direct opposition with their job title.
But there’s only so much that education and awareness can do. Without mindful application, we can find ourselves turning back to this cycle of consumption out of ease. We need to hold these brands, influencers, and politicians accountable for their role in fast fashion, however passive it may be. Despite being The Nest’s first holiday season, we agreed to not participate in Black Friday weekend this year, both to send a message to our community, and hopefully to stand as an example to our peers. Naturally we love small business Saturday and support our fellow small, independent businesses, but Black Friday is a capitalist-created holiday, designed solely to convince consumers to buy things they don’t need and signal the “shopping season.” Studies found that several companies, including Amazon, actually hike prices in the month leading up to Black Friday so that the discount they offer seems greater. So instead, we rested! We spent time with family, stopped thinking about fashion (okay, maybe not completely!), and prioritized quality over quantity.
Discarding Your Excess, While Fueling Your Community
But naturally, there always comes a time for consuming. And hey, we love to shop! But, we just prefer to be a little more intentional when we do. On November 21st we hosted our second Clothing Swap, partnered with our collaborator, Siren & Saint Vintage. These swaps are just as described–attendees bring unwanted clothing items in good condition, we make a big pile of everything, and then dig! It’s inspiring to see folks leaving with arms full of new treasures that someone else no longer needed while intentionally discarding their excess to their peers. There is a lovely and almost instantaneous camaraderie that forms when you see someone else beaming over a piece that was once yours, a validation that lasts longer than any “like.” Plus, all the leftover clothes are given to the Haus of Codec nonprofit, which distributes them to LGBTQIA+ unhoused youth. The swaps are one of our regular events and one that truly promotes a culture of reuse and sustainability that we stand behind. Something about one man’s trash?
Register for our next Clothing Swap on January 15, 2022.
And while sewing and garment-making may not be in the cards for all of us, mending and altering your existing clothing pieces is a fantastic way to extend their life. Whether you find a great tailor (an incredible craft that has unfairly gone out of style!), bring a pile to your mom, or pick up a basic Singer and watch some YouTube videos, there are so many great ways to mend and upcycle your wardrobe instead of throwing it away. We’ve been blessed to partner with Amy Beard, aka Modern Darling, our mending wizard and seamstress extraordinaire! We are constantly finding gorgeous vintage pieces that just have a little hole here or a faulty zipper there and get trashed because of it. Several items in our collection have been repaired and made even better thanks to Amy.
In fact, we’ve been so impressed with her sewing skills that we are partnering with her for our first Upcycle Your Wardrobe event on Wednesday, December 8th. Guests can bring up to 3 pieces from their own closet that need updating, mending, or tailoring and Amy will be there to advise, design, and give you an opportunity to make those alterations come to life.
Feeling Your Best — Courtesy of The Nest
Fast fashion is certainly not an easily resolved issue. In fact it’s a byproduct of several systemic issues that have only grown in severity in recent years. But that’s no reason to give up on it. At The Nest, our core mission isn’t to just provide you with cute and trendy vintage clothing and furniture (believe it or not!). It’s to create a community, a culture, that redefines the way we consume while incubating and elevating sustainable style. One that favors quality over quantity. One that values the old, not just the new. One that could care less if you repeat an outfit (great outfits are meant to be seen by many, on many occasions!). We don’t want to capitalize on your insecurities, we want to help you shine and feel your best in spite of them. We’re here to help make shopping an act of support in a time when so many small businesses and individuals depend on it.