Fashion & Shopping

5 Ways To Make A Fashion Mindset Shift 

June 4, 2024

Slow fashion feels like a relatively new concept to many people. And in case you’re wondering, “Slow fashion is an awareness and approach to fashion that carefully considers the processes and resources required to make clothing, and focuses on timeless, high-quality designs over trend-driven pieces destined for the landfill after a few wears,” according to ethical fashion site Good On You. In actuality, fast fashion is what is the newer concept. When Zara came onto the scene in New York in the 1990s, the term fast fashion was heard for the first time. Zara’s goal was to take only 15 days for a garment to go from design to sales floor. The brand was able to react quickly to trends to replicate runway looks for a fraction of the price. This is where things started to shift. We went from saving to buy items, wearing what we had, making due and investing in items we’d wear for years to quick, trend-based fashion that cost significantly less and was of poorer quality. Fast-forward to today, and people worldwide are consuming 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, while a staggering (up to) 40 per cent of clothes produced are never sold. These items are usually sent to landfills or burned. So how do we disrupt the way we think about clothing? How do we change our mindset about fashion and shopping to attain a more sustainable wardrobe? Here are five ways to make the shift.

We need to understand that cheap clothes are not a human right. We all wear clothing, so whether or not you’re “into fashion”, as a wearer of clothing, you are involved in the fashion industry. Over the past few decades we’ve been programmed to believe that new clothing should be available at rock-bottom prices. As the cost of literally everything has increased over the years, clothing has become cheaper. It is not possible for a shirt to cost $5 when you think of what goes into making a shirt. You need to grow the materials to make or manufacture the fabric, there is dying, design, cutting, sewing, shipping, marketing and workers to pay. How can all that cost less than $5 and the shops still make a profit? The answer is exploiting garment workers in the Global South and harmful-to-the-earth practices. We all have the right to wear clothing, just like how garment workers should have the right to be paid a fair, living wage in safe working conditions. We need to slow our consumption, and that very act of buying less will make the clothes we buy more affordable, because we are shopping less often and with more intention. And please note: those who are economically disadvantaged and shop a fast-fashion store out of basic necessity are not the people contributing to making these brands worth billions. It’s those of us who purchase out of want, excessively and/or only wear the garments a couple times in the name of fashion and trends. We have the choice to stop and shop elsewhere.

Having a more sustainable wardrobe does not have to cost you more money. One of the first things people say when it comes to sustainable clothing is, “I can’t afford it.” Many feel this way when they begin their slow fashion journey. The reality is, if you’re doing it right, it should save you money. Sustainable/ethical/slow fashion is not something you buy into. It’s a mind shift. It’s wearing what you already have hanging in your closet for as long as possible. It’s properly caring for your garments. It’s repairing, mending, altering and up-cycling. It’s shopping secondhand at thrift stores, consignment shops and online resale apps. It’s prioritizing finding your own personal style over trends. It’s normalizing saving up for a special piece from a local, sustainable clothing brand and then wearing that garment hundreds of times. It’s about buying less.

Price is not always an indicator of sustainability. Yes, a lot of fast fashion is dirt cheap. Shops like Shein and Temu have proven this. The quality is horrible and their products have been found to contain harmful levels of lead and other toxic chemicals. But what about the brands masquerading as eco-friendly? Brands like Lululemon often depict themselves as a tree-hugging brand. In early February, a non-profit organization (Stand Earth) asked the Canadian Competition Bureau to investigate Lululemon. Why? Their 2020 Impact Agenda outlined Lululemon’s commitment to reducing waste and reducing harm to earth and the environment. Stand Earth claims these statements are “false and misleading”. The allegations include: 

  • They use synthetic and non-biodegradable materials that can be in landfills for 200+ years
  • Their materials contain micro plastics that pollute waterways
  • Their greenhouse gas emissions doubled since 2022

While Lululemon has represented itself as an eco-conscious brand, its coal-powered plants, use of virgin synthetic fabrics and refusal to sign the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry proves this all to be nothing more than greenwashing. According to McMaster University, “Two reports found from 2018-2019 workers at a Lululemon supplier factory had to work two to three nights without being allowed to go home or take necessary breaks.” Yet they are charging their customers $148 for a tiny dress. Their garment workers are being paid minimally, while the company had a gross profit of US $5.61 billion last year. They are not the only ones. A quick Google search of Anthropologie, Aritzia, Free People and countless others will show you similar results. Any garment being produced on a massive international scale deserves our time to see what they are about. Is this really what we want to support and give our money to?

Donating our unwanted clothing is not a solution. A very big contributor to our global, heaping, landfill crisis is clothing—usually cheap fast fashion that has been worn less than seven times and is now considered garbage by the purchaser. So the best thing to do with your unloved clothing once you no longer want or need those items is to donate it. Right? Well, not really. It is estimated that only about 10 per cent of donated items are sold, while the remaining items are packed up and shipped off to Global South communities. You can imagine that clothing from Canada (sweaters, flannels, winter coats) are not needed in the Global South, so our waste becomes their waste. We are consuming fashion at an alarming rate. “American shoppers snap up about five times more clothing now than they did in 1980. In 2018, that averaged 68 garments a year,” the online firm Rent the Runway told the New Yorker. As a whole, the world’s citizens acquire some 80 billion apparel items annually. according to the Wall Street Journal. When we start to do the math and see how much clothing is never even worn and goes straight to landfill, how much is being purchased, how much is excess and the resources needed to make it all, it’s easy to see why change is needed. Once we purchase an item, we are now responsible for what happens to that garment. We need to think about that piece of clothing’s end of life. Are you going to wear this item for years to come? Will you repair the item if/when needed? Once we slow down our excessive shopping, we slow down the donation tap. Our thrift shops are flooded with cheap, synthetic fast fashion. Many items will still have the original tags on them. When we buy less, we have less to donate. When we buy better, we keep our clothes for longer and lower their carbon footprint. 

The brands play a major role in the mess we are currently in, however, we can all be a part of the solution. So, how can we, as individuals, make any kind of impact on this massive problem? Go to the seven Rs:

  • Refuse: Skip purchasing something all together. 
  • Reduce: Buy less and buy better.
  • Re-Gift:  Share your clothes and accessories with friends and family.
  • Resale: There are so many options to sell your items. Try to re-home them yourself.
  • Reuse: Outfit repeating is sustainable fashion 101. 
  • Repair: Mend, hem, dye, sew on the button, get the zipper fixed, get the shoe resoled. 
  • Recycle: Old socks make great dusting cloths. Jean bottoms too frayed to repair? Make cut-offs. 

Understanding that we are all a part of the fashion system, and that our purchases do affect others is key to taking steps to do better. Mindset and education are great first steps to take. Not sure where to look for more information? Check out these previous Vita articles to help you get started. —Jen Pistor


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


get social


get more out of


Want the best, curated headlines and trends on the fly?

get more out of vita

Sign up for one, or sign up for all!