Is Fast Fashion Actually Cheaper?

(Spoiler: It’s Not)

Today, we buy over 400% more clothing items that we did just 20 years ago AND we don’t even wear a large portion of it. The majority of these clothes are cheaply made, meant to fall apart after a few washes, made of synthetic and polluting materials, and are often created by women and children who are paid less than living wages and work in dangerous environments with no protections 1
. If you’d like to watch a powerful video on this topic, check out the film The True Cost of Fashion, which can be found on Netflix or rented/bought.

The High Cost of Our Cheap Fashion – Maxine B├ędat

Common Textile Materials and What They Actually Are

Starting with the synthetic materials group, in short, these materials are essentially just plastic.

Synthetic materials are made of plastics, most of which are derived from petrochemicals, they are hard to recycle, and they fill landfills for decades without degrading. 2 Examples include:

  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Acrylic
  • Elastane/Elastic/Spandex
clothes folded on shelves

Regenerated materials are man-made fibers created by reforming raw materials like cellulose (wood pulp and cotton waste). Examples include:

  • Rayon
  • Viscose
  • Modal
  • Cupro
  • Acetate/Triacetate
  • Lyocell
  • Tencel
  • Soya
  • Bamboo

Regenerated materials are a better option compared to synthetic materials as their raw materials are renewable and they biodegrade. However, some are better than others due to the processes involved in turning the raw material into a usable fiber. 3

The final category of materials is natural materials. These are materials that are naturally occurring in nature and require little processing compared to synthetics, regenerated textiles, and blends. Examples include:

  • Silk
  • Peace/Vegetarian Silk (Wild Tussah Silk)
  • Wool
  • Cotton
  • Linen
  • Hemp
  • Bamboo

Essentially, when looking for clothing and textile materials, natural and preferably organic materials are your best option as they are environmentally friendly, sustainable, use less chemicals, and are naturally biodegradable compared to regenerated and especially synthetic materials. 4

What can you do to make a difference?

  • Repurpose, donate, recycle, or swap out your unwanted clothing
  • Avoid fast fashion brands and buy high quality items that are versatile, timeless, and will last for years (this often means saving up and waiting for the perfect item to come around. It’ll often be more expensive than fast fashion companies)
  • Only purchase what you absolutely love, if you have a shred of doubt about it, it’s best to wait on purchasing it
  • Thrift clothing or do a clothing swap with your friends
  • Look for sustainable materials like organic cotton, hemp, linen, wool, etc.
  • Learn to care for your clothing items during washing and storing to help them last longer

Ask Yourself:

  • How often do you buy clothes?
  • What are most of your clothes made of?
  • How much did you pay for your most recent clothing purchase? Do you believe it was made by someone being paid a fair wage?
  • What are some more sustainable ways to purchase clothes and linens? Maybe you could try thrifting?
  • Realistically, how long do you think you will wear your most recent purchase? How long do you think it’ll wear for?