How Do We Break Our “Fast Fashion” Addiction? An Interview With “Overdressed” Author Elizabeth L. Cline

Overdressed, Elizabeth L. Cline, overconsumption, materialism, fast fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Zara, Forever 21, H&M

HIDDEN COSTS

Should the onus to consume more responsibly be on the manufacturers, the government, or the shopper?

I wrote the book with the idea that the consumer has the power. We have to get to a place where we’re frustrated with the options out there, and I think we’re getting there: People like shopping for deals but they’re generally unsatisfied with what’s in their closets.

People like shopping for deals but they’re generally unsatisfied with what’s in their closets.

If people can channel that frustration into pressuring the brands and retailers where they shop, then I think that’s going to be the biggest source of change. In terms of government involvement, I would like to see more municipal textile-recycling programs and more government support for factory resources here. It’s very difficult for factories to stay up and running now, and I think the government should be involved in training and resources to build that industry back up.

Is outsourcing our manufacturing to the third world a key contributor to the problem we have with disposable fashion?

It’s a complicated issue, but I think that cheap fashion is only possible because garment workers across the world are being paid so abysmally. And the reason why we’re overconsuming is because clothes are so cheap. There’s something about human psychology where you see something that’s less than $20, you think “well, why wouldn’t I?” It’s like getting something for nothing.

Cheap fashion is only possible because garment workers across the world are being paid so abysmally.

The problem is that garment workers are not being paid a living wage; their wages are just not sustainable from an economic standpoint. They can subsist but they can’t do much more on those wages, and that’s a real problem. That’s what the book talks about regarding externalized and “hidden” costs in the price of cheap fashion.

Overdressed, Elizabeth L. Cline, overconsumption, materialism, fast fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, Zara, Forever 21, H&M

REAL-WORLD SOLUTIONS

How can consumers break this buy-and-toss cycle we seem to be trapped in?

I think the main takeaway here is that we really need to be more mindful. Right now people buy clothing on impulse a lot of the time. They buy clothing when they weren’t really meaning to; maybe they were just walking into a store on the way home from work and they walk out with something cheap. And of course you’re not going to get a lot of use out of it since you didn’t put a lot of thought into why you were buying it.

Right now people buy clothing on impulse a lot of the time; they buy clothing when they weren’t really meaning to.

I think what’s most important is for people to be strategic and mindful about their clothes. And that could mean sitting down at the beginning of the year and laying out a clothing budget. Americans spend $1,100, on average, on clothes, so you can stick to that.

If you decide “well this is how I want to spend my money; this is what I need in my closet,” then that’s how you’re going to get away from just having impulse purchases you don’t get a lot of use out of.

Has writing the book changed the way you approach clothing today?

There’s been a complete transformation in my life. For instance I never used to look at fabrication labels but now fabric is now the most important thing for me when I buy clothing, and I’m not saying that that’s how everyone needs to be; I’m just saying that it was a personal shift for me. I don’t want to wear polyester; I want to wear silk and Tencel and modal and things that feel really good next to my skin.

I feel like I have a more interactive and meaningful relationship with what I wear.

I have most of my clothes tailored now. I learned how to sew. I certainly don’t make most of what I wear but I refashion a lot of it, so it’s like an old pair of jeans will become shorts. I alter most of my T-shirts, take out my skirts. I feel like I have a more interactive and meaningful relationship with what I wear, whereas before I would just walk into a store, get something off the rack, wear it one or two times and that was it.

+ Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion

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5 Responses to “How Do We Break Our “Fast Fashion” Addiction? An Interview With “Overdressed” Author Elizabeth L. Cline”

  1. taghag says:

    sounds like a great book! however, i’d like to point out that polyester can feel great against the skin and has wonderful recyclability. yes it’s a petroleum-based product, but arguably no worse for the environment than cotton production. a little more love for polyester, please!

  2. Amylea says:

    Ugh! Polyester is that fabric they like to make kids pajamas from. No matter how soft your hands are, they always will snag on polyester as if they were terribly chapped. Ew! I can’t stand that stuff!

  3. cartoonist62 says:

    The problem here is that the more expensive “quality” brands use the same abysmal labour force. So unless you employ a seamstress this seems like a difficult thing to avoid.

  4. nnakpw says:

    I think it’s interesting that she mentions that it is the consumers job to be more mindful. Usually, people feel that they can’t possibly make a difference because they are just one person. However, if we change our spending habits, companies will take notice. People need to stop buying “disposable clothing” and start spending with more responsible companies.
    Personally, I’m a big fan of Reco Jeans. They collect scraps from their jeans factories and reweave them into more fabric to make their jeans. Most companies throw out all their scraps without giving it a second thought. By actually taking the time to do this, Reco Jeans is minimizing water and pesticide use as well as fabric waste.
    If you take the money you would have spent on H&M jeans and spend it at a company like Reco Jeans instead, you’ll be doing the environment a huge favor.
    You can check them out at recojeans.com

  5. selkie305 says:

    Some of my favorite clothes are things I have worn for years, and were not new when I got them. The “disposable fashion” trend is discouraging, but hardly new. And it has now become widely acceptable – even fashionable, in some cicles, to buy your clothing in thrift shops. Or “vintage clothing boutiques”, if you don’t mind being overcharged. And years ago, when skirt lengths changed, they ALL changed. If your personal style was different, it was difficult to find clothes. Now you can go to most stores and find a variety of lengths and styles.

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