Fast fashion, and the access to trendy clothing at a reasonable price, has creeped up the essentials ladder, and has become a way of life. But sustainability is possible without burning a hole in your pocket. Four people who gave up fast fashion, tell us how.

With a new H&M and Zara opening up in almost every mall, fast fashion has latched onto us in ways we cannot imagine. Trends that are showcased in two seasons: Spring/Summer and Fall/ Winter are now divided into various other seasons. New trends from these shows are introduced in fast fashion stores almost every other week, and we’re all guilty of making impulsive purchases. Most of us may not know, but fashion is considered to be the second most polluting industry in the world. We all love polyester tanks and tees because they are cheap, wrinkle-free, and easily available. But that fabric holds on to bacteria, and will stink so fast that you will have no choice but to throw them away. It can take up to 200 years for that garment to decompose.

Sustainability, as a buzzword or a way of life, started to make even more sense when Covid-19 happened. Sustainable clothing brands and thrift stores were born, but at the end of the day, it depends on the person consuming fast fashion. We spoke to four people who gave up fast fashion, and it’s everything you need to know to start your own slow fashion movement. Anish Shetty, Mumbai-based restaurateur and lawyer, gave up fast fashion a year ago as he became more aware of his purchases. “We had organised a book donation drive where we were donating books for the underprivileged. Most people wanted to donate clothes with an intent of disposing their clothes, and looking at the amount and the type of clothes we received, I realised I had to take a conscious call to move towards sustainable fashion. I started investing in classics even though they were expensive, and making purchases from long-lasting brands.” And how did his choices affect his personal style? “It’s two parts. I buy clothes with an intention of not dumping them quickly after three to four wears. I get them customised instead of random online shopping. It’s a more personal experience for me now. Homegrown brands, thankfully, are evergreen, and trends don’t seem to affect them,” he adds.

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Can people make the shift easily? Shetty feels quality is better than quantity. “Who wouldn’t want clothes that last longer? Also, fast fashion can look weird once you look back at yourself in photos after a few years. Stick to the sustainable classics — I would always say,” he adds. Shikhar Singhal, a 23-year-old architect turned-illustrator-and-graphic designer, gave up fast fashion a while back. “I think growing up, my family didn’t really buy from big brands, and usually did get clothes from stores that used to sell copies of original brands, and sometimes got clothes stitched by tailors. After I shifted to Lucknow for college, the practice didn’t change,” Shikhar recalls. Shikhar feels fast fashion is really tough to catch up with, especially when it comes to people who are not slim. “We never really found good clothes in our sizes in fast fashion, so not following it helped make the decision on giving up,” explains Shikhar. Shikhar feels the conversation on fast fashion in Indian markets contextually varies from city to city. “There are new showrooms and shops that sell big brands, and people do prefer them over local brands, because of the belief that expensive things are better. How can you advise someone to move towards slow fashion? “To anyone who’s trying to shift towards finding more sustainable brands, do your research — a lot of it — because there are brands that will tell you they’re sustainable, when they probably are not? It might not be easy, but after a while you will get a hang of it,” Shikhar says.

Yash Pandit from Mumbai gave up fast fashion when he started college, and discovered thrift shops and export reject shops around the city. He’s more about shopping from these stores than from sustainable brands, as such. “Thrift stores sell pretty good clothes for comparable, if not really affordable clothes, pretty much from the same brands that I buy. I was really apprehensive at first because I didn’t trust the quality, but you get what you pay for, honestly,” he says, and recommends thrift shopping in the city, namely from suburbs like Bandra and Malad, or Churchgate.

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Tanishka Singh gave up fast fashion in the beginning of 2020. “I had been reading up about it for over a year now, and buying fast fashion cast a shadow on my conscience. So, I decided to start buying from local vendors, small artistes, thrift stores, taking clothes my friends no longer needed, stuff like that. I started buying clothes that were more my aesthetic. I mostly buy from online thrift stores or stores that I know support local artists,” explains Singh. Singh feels that in India, small vendors, local businesses have always existed; it is majorly big cities where fast fashion is more prevalent. “That’s the audience that needs to be targeted with sustainability in the context of fashion. I personally feel that thrifting is very cheap, cheaper than fast fashion even, and if done in the right way, it can lead the way to sustainable fashion.” Our early ’00s saw the peak of healthy shopping habits where consumers made wise buying choices and, in the current scheme of things too, taking things slowly is the better route, even for fashion.

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