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6 tips to help you break up with fast fashion

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Podcaster, writer and content creator Fionnuala Jay is a pop-culture enthusiast and sustainable style queen. Here, she shares six tips for breaking up with fast fashion.

I’ve always been obsessed with fashion and clothes. However, as I got older, I found the love waning; nothing fit properly, pieces fell apart after a few wears, and trend cycles changed at the blink of an eye.

This, paired with my increasing awareness of the climate crisis, meant a decision had to be made. My shopping habits were having a massive impact on the environment, without the trade off of even enjoying the clothes I was buying.

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With that in mind, I set myself a challenge: no fast fashion purchases for a year. I would try, where possible, to buy secondhand (socks and jocks aside) to see if I could reignite my love for my wardrobe and implement more sustainable habits.

And that I did! For just over a year, I was able to avoid purchasing new clothes. After a short break, I restarted my no fast fashion journey in 2021 and it’s been ongoing ever since.

If you’re looking to break up with fast fashion, here are my top tips:

1. Clear out your wardrobe

The most sustainable wardrobe is the one you already own, and a clear out will remind you of all the pieces you have. Organise what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of.

When it comes to your ‘get rid of’ pile, you’re going to want to consider a few things. Is it of donatable quality? Does it require a repair or alterations? You become responsible for an item’s life cycle when you purchase it.

Ensure that anything sellable or eligible for donation remains in circulation. You can do this through charity shop donations, resale, or even through a clothes swap shop. If your items are no longer in good enough condition to sell, contact animal shelters to see what material donations they take.

After all other options have been exhausted, or your item is not fit for sale or donation, you can throw it out – but be sure to look up textile recycling options in your area.

With your ‘keep’ pile, identify the gaps in your wardrobe that you’d like to fill – are you heading into autumn without a decent coat? That way, you can plan your shopping more efficiently. Similarly, keep an eye for items you have doubles of, e.g. a denim jacket, so you know not to be tempted by any other jackets on sale.

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2. Set yourself a goal

If you’re someone who shops frequently, it’s important to set a realistic goal for reducing your fast fashion consumption so that you don’t fall at the first hurdle.

A year might feel like too lofty a task for for some – feel free to choose a shorter time period or simply reduce the amount you’re shopping. Challenge yourself to shop your own wardrobe before filling your basket with bits.

Check in with yourself and your goal after a month. How do you feel? How much money have you saved? What pieces did you find that you’d forgotten about?

Ultimately, this challenge should be about reducing the amount you shop and having fun with fashion again. Don’t use the goal as the stick to beat yourself with – any reduction will have an impact.

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3. Unsubcribe and unfollow

If you find yourself massively tempted by online sales and influencer hauls, you need to remove the temptation.

Unsubscribe to any fast fashion brands’ newsletters you might be subscribed to. Mute or unfollow fashion influencers that promote fast fashion and overconsumption. This should help stop impulse purchasing.

4. Get to know your local vintage and charity shops

The charity retail sector is booming right now. By purchasing from a charity shop, you’re getting a snazzy second-hand bargain, while supporting the great work of the charity in question.

Occasionally, charity shops might not be as organised as your usual high street store. They also don’t boast the same level of stock. With that, it’s important to go in with the right mindset – are you looking for something specific or simply having a browse?

I love a good peruse, but there’s no point in buying something from a charity shop because it’s cheap, if I’m not going to wear it.

When it comes to vintage, Ireland is home some of the best in store and online vintage sellers, like Jenny Vander, Spice Vintage, Yaaasss Vintage, A Store Is Born, Nine Crows, Loot, Agité Closet … the list goes on!

All of these stores have different ways of selling – familiarise yourself with them and their stock. Another thing to consider is that vintage tends to run smaller size-wise.

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5. Get on the apps

There is a huge secondhand marketplace out there waiting to be explored.

Sites like Thriftify, Depop, Vestiaire, and good old eBay make it accessible to buy, sell and search for secondhand clothes.

Top tip: If there’s a fashion item you’re desperate for, screenshot a picture of it and search for it on Google Lens. That way, you can get label and designer details to aid your search on secondhand sites.

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6. Consider renting for your next big occasion

The rental market is having a moment right now. Gone are the days of buying endless dress options as a wedding guest – now, people are renting amazing designer dresses for a fraction of the cost.

Check out rental places like Happy Days, Rented Threads, Drobey, Rag Revolution, The Rental Reform, Gúna Rentals and Soha, who offer dress and accessory rentals for whatever your big day out is.

Good luck, and happy secondhand shopping!

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