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Unravelling the Thread

Reflecting On the Cost of Fast Fashion Beyond the Price Tag

By Kishan BaskaranPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Unravelling the Thread
Photo by Noor Sethi on Unsplash

Cloaked in thread expertly spun by the robotic movements of calloused hands, I window shop the latest fashion trends through my browser. Obsessing over the articles of clothing and an uncontrollable need for instant gratification has created an environment for fast fashion to thrive… at the cost of the environment.

With a couple clicks, the digital age has removed barriers to admiring and buying clothing. Fashion brands capitalize on this opportunity to blind viewers with bold colours and patterns, pushing the narrative that an individual needs to constantly upgrade and transition their wardrobe. Marketing wizards, social media influencers, and intricately crafted messaging feed on the self-esteem of individuals who are looking for validation and a sense of belonging.

By freestocks on Unsplash

Individually, identity through clothing has always been a balancing act. Wanting to fit in yet exuding enough swag or style to stand out and be recognized. Reputable fashion houses endorsed by celebrities and stars have always been shone in the limelight, creating an ideal to aspire towards. However, the price tag quickly makes one’s stomach feel heavy and the mental gymnastics to justify spending the price ignores the satisfaction of basic needs. This is further complicated when one is aware that fashion trends change so quickly, that investing in fashion is a long-term contract, where one is scrutinized for what you wear and how you wear it.

Recognizing this, fast fashion presents a unique opportunity for the public to catch the wave, wearing apparel that has been popularized. At times more mimicry than inspiration, fast fashion can make individuals feel that they belong to the exclusive club of reputable fashion houses well beyond the capacity of their wallets. And to be fair, there are some clothing prices that I could never fathom, but there is enough supply and demand to make the businesses profitable. Although there is a range of materials, clothing quality, and affordability within the realm of fashion, my gripe with fast fashion is the abundance of waste it creates for the environment.

By Ibrahim Rifath on Unsplash

For fast fashion businesses to be profitable, they are focused on selling quantity over quality due to their low profit margins on individual items. Clothing manufactured wherever the cheapest contract can landed, labour that has gone unrewarded, unsafe working conditions for workers, clothing shipped and flown in bulk across international borders to fill warehouses are all carefully calculated expenses to continuously lower their bottom line. Once again, by feeding on society’s obsession with clothing, fast fashion ignores the environmental damage caused by the use of fuel, abundant packaging, and unsold clothing or clothing that wears down too quickly and ends up in landfills anyways. There requires a societal shift and awareness that clothing can be a source of happiness and allow us to express our identity, but not become our identity. At that point, we get lost in trends and are constantly chasing approval from others at the cost of our individuality.

Now, I recognize that I still fall into the trap of fast fashion. Being constantly bombarded with the latest trends and how they can be styled with my existing wardrobe always has me wanting more, but I’m hesitant to follow through with a purchase. I also recognize that my gripe comes from a place of privilege because I have been able to narrow my fashion sense to have staples that I can wear year-round. This allows me to afford more costly clothing at slightly better quality to reduce the amount of times I have to refresh my wardrobe. Having engaged with fast fashion for most of my life, the convenience it provides is very hard to ignore. However, I am in a place where my social and environmental consciousness can align with my budget allowing me to seek more ethically produced apparel, especially from brands that are sensitive to the real cost of fashion.

By DEVN on Unsplash

During this pandemic year, as I have spent most of my time indoors, I was able to look at my wardrobe and accessories and be intentional with the clothing I wore. Purging pieces, I no longer wore by donating them or repurposing them has been quite therapeutic. No longer overwhelmed by my outfit decisions as I have articles of clothing that mix and match quite well. It has also led me to identify what clothing I want to have in comparison to clothing I would need. What I am most proud of throughout this process of refining my wardrobe is bringing life to pieces. As a creative outlet, I picked up embroidery. This has allowed me combine fashion with creative side so that I am able to engage in self-expression in a much more meaningful way. One of my most recent projects, I embroidered the words “Chasing Shadows” onto the back of a bomber jacket I have. Understanding how recognizable brand names are, I saw an opportunity to advertise a poetry anthology my peers and I wrote. This has only encouraged me to continue repurposing my clothing, being more intentional with how I engage with fashion and self-expression.

Fashion provides an outlet for everyone reveal a bit about themselves. The colours we wear, the trends we follow, the brands we represent are all aspects of our personalities and identities manifested in a visible format. However, as we chase the social approval of fitting in and praise for standing out, we get into an addictive cycle of extrinsic validation maintained by adapting to the costly fashion scene. As fast fashion continues to have an impressionable impact on the public, I can only hope that more awareness can be brought forward to hold businesses accountable and lead the way for a global shift in how we recognize our environmental impacts. Ignoring the damage we as a people have caused can no longer be sustained. The Earth and wildlife will continue to be resilient with or without our presence, but so long as we wish to call this place home, we still have a duty to care for it.


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