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Fast Fashion Alternatives

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Simply Plastic Free acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We acknowledge that these lands were stolen and sovereignty was never ceded and we join their calls for justice.

The New Wave of Fashion: Ditching Fast Fashion for Sustainable Choices

In the fast-paced world of fashion, the hidden costs of rapid and cheap production are becoming increasingly blatant. This post sheds light on sustainable and ethical alternatives to fast fashion, offering solutions that prioritise environmental care and social responsibility. Join us as we explore how making mindful fashion choices can lead to a more sustainable and ethically conscious wardrobe.

The Shift from Fast Fashion

In recent years, fast fashion has emerged as a dominant force in the global apparel industry, characterized by its rapid production, trendy designs, and affordable prices. Although fast fashion has made stylish clothing accessible and affordable, this phenomenon has come with significant environmental and ethical costs.

The fast fashion model thrives on constant consumption, leading to excessive waste, resource depletion, and often, questionable labour practices. It’s estimated that the fashion industry contributes to around 10% of global carbon emissions and is a major consumer of water resources, while also being responsible for considerable textile waste.

We can’t consume our way out of the fast fashion crisis

This critical situation underscores a vital truth: we cannot simply consume our way out of the fast fashion crisis. The path to a more sustainable and ethical fashion future isn’t just about replacing one type of consumption with another; it’s about fundamentally rethinking our relationship with fashion. This means considering not only what we buy but also how much we buy, and fostering a culture of buying less, but better.

Sustainable fashion invites us to shift our focus from quantity to quality, emphasising the longevity of garments, the ethics behind their production, and the environmental impact of their materials. It’s about making informed choices, embracing the ethos of second-hand and vintage clothing, and recognizing the value of repairing and maintaining what we already own.

In this post, we will delve into these concepts, exploring how each of us can contribute to a significant, positive change in the fashion industry by redefining our consumer habits and supporting practices that prioritize the health of our planet and its inhabitants.

The Problem With Fast Fashion

In this era of fast fashion, the sheer volume of clothing produced is staggering—over 100 billion garments annually. However, this prolific production comes at a cost, fueling a culture where clothing is often treated as disposable. A “wear it once” mentality prevails, leading to an alarming trend where consumers buy 60% more clothing items, but each garment is kept for only half as long.

This immense production volume results in an overwhelming amount of textile waste. It’s estimated that every second, a garbage truck’s worth of textiles is discarded globally. Landfills, in turn, bear the burden of this textile deluge, with some regions facing an overflow that could take decades or even centuries to decompose.

Synthetic fibres, the backbone of many fast fashion items, add another layer to the problem. Fabrics like polyester and nylon shed microplastics during washing, contributing to water pollution and posing a threat to marine life.

Fast fashion’s reliance on chemicals, from dyes to finishes, raises concerns about improper disposal leading to water pollution and soil contamination.

The water footprint of fast fashion is astonishing, with approximately 2,700 litres of water needed to produce a single cotton T-shirt. This water-intensive process places considerable strain on global water resources.

Beyond the environmental impact, the human cost of fast fashion cannot be ignored. The pressure to produce quickly and at low costs often results in exploitative labour practices in supply chains, where workers endure unsafe conditions and meagre wages.

The carbon emissions of fast fashion looms large as well. From manufacturing to transportation, every stage in the lifecycle of a garment contributes to carbon emissions, making the industry a significant player in the climate crisis.

Fast Fashion Is Made Of Plastic

When we think about reducing plastic usage, our minds often turn to single-use items like straws, bags, and packaging. However, a less obvious but equally important source of plastic is lurking in our wardrobes. Surprisingly, much of the clothing we wear is, in essence, made from plastic. Fast fashion, in particular, has a heavy reliance on synthetic fibres which are essentially forms of plastic.

Materials such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon, common staples in fast fashion garments, are all derived from petrochemicals and share the same environmental issues as other forms of plastic. Polyester, for instance, is the most widely used fabric in clothing, and it’s essentially a type of plastic made from petroleum. When we wash these synthetic fabrics, they shed microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic less than five millimetres in length. These microplastics can end up in our oceans, contributing to the larger issue of plastic pollution which is harmful to marine life and can make its way up the food chain.

These plastic-based fabrics also contribute to the fast fashion cycle due to their low cost and high versatility. However, they lack the breathability and durability of natural fibres, often leading to a shorter lifespan and more frequent replacement, which perpetuates the cycle of consumption and waste.

12 Alternatives To Fast Fashion

1. Sustainable Fashion Brands

Seek out sustainable and ethical brands—the real eco-warriors of the fashion world. These are the brands making waves with their commitment to reducing environmental impact and championing fair labour practices.
Boody Racerback Sports Bra

Sports Bra

 79% Bamboo Viscose 15% Nylon 6% Elastane

Boody Racerback Dress Moss


67% Viscose Bamboo 28% Organic Cotton 5% Elastane

Boody Mens Jacket

Men’s Essential Zip-Up Jacket

68% Bamboo Viscose 27% Organic Cotton 5% Elastane

Chic and sustainable, this image showcases an Afends' cream-colored short overalls ensemble, paired with a white tee and black and white sneakers, reflecting eco-friendly fashion.

Lewi Short Overalls

88% Organic Cotton 12% Recycled Cotton

Afends promotes slow fashion with a woman modeling an oversized black corduroy jacket, paired with a cropped top and high-waisted jeans, accessorized with sleek sunglasses.

Oracle Workwear Jacket

55% Hemp 45% Organic Cotton Twill

Genesis Recycled Boxy Fit Tee

50% Recycled Cotton 50% Cotton Jersey

Poplin Shirt

Organic Cotton

The Sweatshirt

Organic Cotton

Rolled Half-Scoop

Organic Cotton

2. Vintage Gems & Second-Hand Heroes

Ever found a vintage gem that tells a story? Explore second-hand markets and thrift shops for items that have already proven their durability. It’s like adopting a piece of history and reducing your fashion footprint.

3. Sustainable Materials

The move towards sustainable materials in fashion marks a key shift in reducing environmental impact. These alternatives, from organic fibres to recycled textiles, directly address the ecological issues of traditional fabrics. Choosing sustainable materials is a practical way for us to make a positive difference through our fashion choices. All materials have an impact so it’s about choosing materials that are the least harmful and reducing the need for new clothing wherever possible.


Bamboo fabric is celebrated for its sustainability and eco-friendliness. This fast-growing plant requires no fertilizers or pesticides and little water, making it a highly renewable resource. Bamboo fabric is known for its softness, breathability, and antibacterial properties, making it a popular choice for eco-conscious consumers. Making fabric from bamboo can use chemicals and a lot of energy so just bamboo fabric is not necessarily sustainable but more how it is made.


Hemp is another highly sustainable material. It grows quickly, requires minimal water, and doesn’t need pesticides or herbicides. Hemp fabric is durable, absorbent, and becomes softer with each wash. It’s ideal for a variety of clothing and can be blended with other fibres to enhance its qualities.


While conventional cotton has environmental drawbacks, organic cotton represents a sustainable alternative. Grown without harmful chemicals and pesticides, organic cotton reduces water and energy consumption. It’s a versatile, breathable, and comfortable material, widely used in sustainable fashion.

Reclaimed Fabric

Reclaimed or upcycled fabrics involve repurposing existing textile waste or unused fabrics into new garments. This process significantly reduces waste, conserves energy and resources, and gives a new life to materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Recycled Materials

Recycled materials, especially recycled plastics, are becoming increasingly popular in sustainable fashion. Turning post-consumer plastic bottles and other plastic waste into fabric not only reduces landfill waste but also cuts down on the use of virgin resources. However, using plastic for fabric has the complication of releasing microplastics.

4. Buy Fashion That Is Made To Last

Investing in fashion that is designed to last is a crucial aspect of sustainable living. Long-lasting garments not only offer better value over time but also help in reducing the cycle of waste and consumption that is synonymous with fast fashion. Quality should be a priority over quantity, focusing on well-crafted pieces that withstand the test of time both in style and durability. This approach encourages a move away from the disposable mindset, fostering a deeper appreciation for each item in our wardrobe.

To identify long-lasting fashion, it’s important to consider factors like the quality of materials, the craftsmanship of the garment, and the timelessness of the design. Every piece of clothing carries an environmental story, from raw material extraction to the manufacturing process. By investing in timeless pieces, you’re curating a wardrobe with fewer pieces but a lower overall environmental impact.

While quality timeless pieces might come with a higher initial cost, the investment pays off over time. The concept of cost-per-wear takes centre stage, emphasizing the value derived from each piece. This approach challenges the throwaway culture of fast fashion, encouraging a more thoughtful and economical mindset.

11 Questions To Ask Yourself When Buying Clothing

  1. Where Was It Made?
  2. Who Made It?
  3. What Material Was Used?
  4. Is The Brand Ethical and Sustainable?
  5. Will I wear it 30 times?
  6. How long will it last?
  7. Is It Easy To Wash & Dry?
  8. Can I borrow it or buy it second-hand?
  9. When will I wear it?
  10. What Will I Wear It With?
  11. Would I Still Buy It If It Wasn’t On Sale?

5. Repairing The Clothing You Already Own

Embracing the practice of repairing the clothing we already own stands as a powerful alternative to fast fashion. In a world where disposable fashion has become the norm, taking the time to mend and maintain our clothes is a revolutionary act. By repairing and caring for our garments, we extend their lifespan, reduce waste, and diminish our contribution to the relentless cycle of buying and discarding that fast fashion promotes.

Learning to repair clothing cultivates a deeper connection with our wardrobe. Each stitch and patch adds a layer of personal history and character to our garments, transforming them into unique expressions of our style and values. This hands-on approach aligns perfectly with the ethos of fast fashion alternatives, which prioritise sustainability, mindful consumption, and a deeper appreciation for what we own. Repairing our clothing not only saves resources but also reinforces the principle that quality and longevity should be at the heart of our fashion choices.

6. Certified Ethical

  1. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): GOTS is one of the leading textile processing standards for organic fibers worldwide, encompassing both ecological and social criteria. Certified products must contain a minimum of 70% organic fibers and meet strict environmental and toxicological criteria throughout the entire supply chain. GOTS certification ensures that textiles are produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
  2. B-Corporation: B-Corporation certification isn’t exclusive to fashion but is highly regarded in the industry. It assesses a company’s overall social and environmental performance. To be certified, companies must demonstrate high standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, offering benefits to both the environment and society.
  3. Fair Trade: This certification focuses on social aspects, ensuring that producers and workers are paid fair wages and work in good conditions. In the fashion industry, Fair Trade certification implies that the brand has met rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards, promoting sustainable livelihoods and safe working conditions.
  4. OEKO-TEX® Standard 100: This certification ensures that textiles are free from harmful substances, making them safer for consumers and those involved in their production.
  5. Cradle to Cradle Certified™: This certification assesses products across five categories of sustainability: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy use, water stewardship, and social fairness.
  6. Bluesign®: Focused on the environmental impact of textile manufacturing, Bluesign® certification means that a product has been manufactured with the lowest possible impact on people and the environment.

7. Buy, sell and trade fashion

Buying, selling, and trading fashion is an excellent way to keep clothing in circulation and out of landfills. This approach to fashion is not just sustainable, but it also allows for refreshing your wardrobe without contributing to fast fashion. Platforms for second-hand clothing have grown, making it easier to find quality pre-loved items or to give your own clothes a second life. This cycle of buying, selling, and trading not only promotes the reuse of garments but also fosters a community-minded approach to fashion.

Trading clothes with friends or through community events can be a fun and eco-friendly way to diversify your wardrobe. It’s a practical application of the saying ‘one person’s trash is another’s treasure.’ By participating in these exchanges, we reduce waste and resource consumption associated with producing new clothes, contributing to a more sustainable fashion ecosystem.

8. Make Your Own Clothing

Making your own clothing is a rewarding way to engage with sustainable fashion. It allows for complete control over materials and designs, ensuring that your clothing aligns with your ethical and environmental values. Whether it’s knitting a sweater, sewing a dress, or upcycling existing garments, creating your own clothes can be a deeply fulfilling experience, fostering a sense of accomplishment and a unique style.

This practice also encourages a deeper appreciation for the time and skill that goes into garment creation, fostering a more mindful approach to consumption. With resources like online tutorials and community workshops, learning to make your own clothing has become more accessible, promoting a hands-on approach to sustainable fashion.

9. Build Your Capsule Wardrobe

An organized capsule wardrobe featuring a selection of neatly hung shirts in various patterns and colors, with folded clothes on shelves above and drawers below, exemplifying fast fashion alternatives for a sustainable and minimalist lifestyle

A capsule wardrobe is a streamlined collection of versatile and timeless pieces that can be mixed and matched to create various looks. The concept focuses on quality over quantity, reducing the need for excessive clothing. By carefully selecting a limited number of pieces that align with your personal style and are made to last, you can minimize waste and decision fatigue.

Building a capsule wardrobe encourages thoughtful purchasing, prioritizing items that offer versatility, durability, and timelessness. This approach is not only sustainable but also helps in creating a personal style that is consistent and refined, moving away from the constant churn of fast fashion trends.

10. Go Minimal

Adopting a minimalist approach to fashion is about simplifying your wardrobe to the essentials. It involves being mindful of purchases and choosing items that serve multiple purposes and complement your existing wardrobe. Going minimal helps in reducing the clutter and environmental impact associated with having an excessive number of clothes.

This practice encourages us to reflect on our actual needs versus wants, focusing on what is essential and functional. A minimalist wardrobe emphasizes the idea that less can be more, offering clarity, ease, and a more sustainable way of engaging with fashion.

11. Borrowing and Sharing Clothes

Borrowing and sharing clothes is a sustainable practice that extends the life of garments and fosters a sense of community. It’s an ideal solution for occasions or needs that don’t require permanent additions to your wardrobe. Sharing clothes among friends and family can significantly reduce the demand for new clothing production and is a testament to the versatility and extended usefulness of garments.

This approach also provides an opportunity to experiment with different styles without the commitment of purchase, encouraging a more exploratory and sustainable approach to fashion. Clothes swapping parties and borrowing initiatives are increasingly popular, highlighting a shift towards communal and sustainable fashion practices.

12. Renting Clothes

Renting clothes, especially for special occasions, is an effective way to enjoy diverse styles without the long-term commitment and environmental impact of purchasing. This model is particularly useful for items that you may only wear once or twice, such as formal wear or specific seasonal items.

Clothing rental services have become increasingly accessible, offering a wide range of options for different styles, sizes, and occasions. By renting, we not only reduce waste but also contribute to a more circular fashion economy, where the lifecycle of a garment is significantly extended through shared use.

FAQs on Fast Fashion Alternatives

What are the most environmentally friendly materials in fashion?

The most environmentally friendly materials in fashion are those that have minimal impact on the planet both in production and throughout their lifecycle. These include organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, linen, and Tencel (lyocell). Recycled materials, such as recycled polyester made from plastic bottles, are also considered sustainable. These materials are renewable, require less water and chemicals to produce, and are biodegradable or recyclable.

How can I ensure the ethical production of my clothes?

To ensure the ethical production of your clothes, look for certifications like Fair Trade, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and B-Corporation. These certifications indicate that the products have been made adhering to strict ethical standards. Additionally, research brands to understand their manufacturing processes, labor policies, and environmental practices. Brands that are transparent about their supply chain are often more likely to follow ethical practices.

Are sustainable fashion brands affordable?

While sustainable fashion brands can sometimes be more expensive due to higher quality materials and fair labor wages, they are increasingly offering affordable options. Many sustainable brands are working to make their products more accessible.

Investing in durable and timeless pieces may lead to savings in the long run, as these items need not be replaced as frequently as fast fashion items.

Can renting clothes really make a difference?

Yes, renting clothes can make a significant difference. It promotes a sharing economy, reducing the need for manufacturing new clothes, which in turn decreases environmental impact. Renting is particularly effective for special occasion wear which might otherwise be bought and only worn once or twice.

What are some tips for maintaining sustainable clothes?

Maintaining sustainable clothes often involves simple steps: washing in cold water, air-drying instead of using a dryer, using eco-friendly detergents, and following the specific care instructions on the label. Repairing clothes instead of discarding them at the first sign of wear and tear also prolongs their life. Proper care ensures that your clothes last longer, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

Should I buy fast fashion brands second-hand?

Buying fast fashion brands second-hand can be a sustainable choice as it helps keep clothes out of landfills and extends the life of the garments. However, it’s important to balance this with the consideration of not perpetuating the demand for fast fashion. Aim to purchase high-quality, long-lasting items, even when shopping second-hand, to ensure a move towards a more sustainable wardrobe.

Concluding Fast Fashion Alternatives

Embracing sustainable and ethical alternatives to fast fashion marks a significant step towards a more responsible fashion industry. By choosing eco-friendly brands, opting for vintage finds, or supporting fair labour practices, we collectively foster a culture of mindfulness in fashion.

As we make these thoughtful choices, we contribute to a movement that values sustainability and ethics, paving the way for a more conscientious and environmentally respectful fashion world.

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