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Sustainable vs. Fast fashion
Photos by @suxmeg, @dillsvintage, @kaniecesade, @emsswardrobe

5 Fast Fashion Items That Can Also Be Bought Sustainably

As an avid shopper, pledging to shop sustainably and turn my nose to fast fashion felt like going vegan cold turkey. A bit of an extreme, I know, but as a 13-year-old girl, my shopping vocabulary consisted solely of fast fashion powerhouses like Zara, H&M, Aeropostale and Old Navy. Still, I found myself roaming aimlessly in Zara in early January, watching as shoppers manhandled the sale section and scrambled once neat piles of shredded jeans. As I brushed my fingers across the fabrics and “counted the clothes,” perusing each item one by one, my stomach turned. 

I lied to myself by walking into that store. I had broken a promise with myself. “I have a gift card,” I said, “I’ll only buy one thing,” but the wretched feeling worsened. Just like any new endeavor, it takes time for your body to adjust.

I made the executive decision to be kind to my body and the planet walking into 2021. 

Below, I have outlined some fast fashion names you can retire and some new, AFFORDABLE sustainable and secondhand labels that have been awaiting your arrival. 

1. Leather jackets


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We can all appreciate a nice Goodwill haul. The sun sets, you strut out the glass doors of Goodwill, two large paper bags in the pockets of your arm after spending $50 on $500 worth of clothing. You grin. One of those finds was a vintage leather trench coat, a timeless piece, that your future kids will one day nag you to borrow. 

2. Bodycon dresses


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The bodycon dresses flaunted in the storefronts of Forever 21 or Fashion Nova can be bought, believe it or not, in a sustainable way. Bodycon dresses are made of plastic-based fibers like polyester, nylon or acrylic (just check the tag), which shape and hug the body. While we may not be able to change the fabric — as of yet — you can redirect your dollar to small businesses found on Depop, a fashion marketplace, and purchase either gently-used or new dresses.

3. Party tops

Pink feathers peekaboo from the brim of an off-white corset. Valentine’s Day, or Galentine’s Day, is just around the corner. Which one are you wearing? I’ll give you a clue; the pink frill one is from a small business, AKA not a fast fashion megamind.

4. Knitwear


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2020 brought the insurgence of knitwear, and I feel like we have Harry Styles, in part, to thank. I’ll have to also pay tribute to quarantine and staying indoors for my new need for knitted sweaters, socks, leg warmers and skullies. Knitwear is traditionally sustainable, but to avoid supporting industries with unsafe and toxic manufacturing conditions, you can purchase handmade sweaters through small local retailers.

5. Activewear


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As the end of the month approaches, we revisit that new year’s resolutions about “exercising more” that you said you would actually stick to this year. As a motivational pep talk, Thred Up, an online second hand clothing retailer, sells brands like The Girlfriend Collective at an affordable price and at a safer alternative to fast fashion — because we all know that cute activewear is a valid reason to work out. That way, you do your wallet and your body a favor.

Related: 8 Style Trends to Look Out For in 2021

In 2020, you had to replace your heels for bedroom slippers and slip dresses for nightgowns — like the one your grandma wears with the small blue daisies — but this year has something new in store. Your decision to fill your wardrobe with sustainable timepieces, while still shopping the same styles you love, is a possible feat. And don’t think it will go unnoticed.

The planet just sent me a message. Check your phone. She says thank you. 

Kalia is currently a journalism major at the University of Florida. She loves getting involved in all things fashion, jamming out to house music beats and traveling to new places. She is currently an active member of the Black Student Union and spends her leisure reading, sketching and working out. You can keep up with all the things she's involved in through Instagram @k.a.li.a.
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