When we think of the fashion industry, Paris Fashion Week and glossy magazines come to mind. We use fashion to express our individual identities and creativity, or stay up to date with what’s in vogue.
But we often overlook the piles of once-trendy clothes in landfills, the tired hands of children in sweatshops, and the factories that are harming the environment.
From harmful practices to sustainable shopping
In the 1970s, retailers began to produce clothing themselves, allowing fast fashion brands to produce garments quickly and cheaply for affordable mass consumption in an effort to follow the ever-changing trends of luxury brands. The rise of globalization and technological advancement have enabled big brands like Zara, H&M, and Fashion Nova to produce clothes efficiently at low costs and high volumes.
Reduced costs are owed to the outsourcing of labour and the use of increasingly cheap synthetic materials.
These practices are overtly harmful. Labour in fast fashion is often exploitative and dangerous, sometimes involving child labour. In addition, since cheap clothes are not made to last, they are quickly discarded in landfills. Furthermore, fast fashion contributes significantly to global carbon emissions.
Today, younger consumers care about where their jeans come from, who made them and how much they were paid, and the amount of water waste resulting from their production. This has resulted in a thriving community that promotes forthright information to help people make the switch to a more ethical and sustainable way of shopping.
While there has been stigma surrounding the affordability and accessibility of sustainable brands, they can be found anywhere on the internet and in Toronto. Thrift and vintage shops also extend the life of clothing that would otherwise be thrown out.
Final Touch Vintage, an affordable and sustainable Toronto-based shop, offers a variety of curated vintage clothing pieces. They have a store located at Bloor Street and Lansdowne Avenue, as well as an online store to reach customers from afar.
I reached out to co-founder David Cho, who spoke with me about environmental shopping trends and customers.
While he noted that a majority of customers shop vintage for the trend, he has noticed that “there are people actually very, very into… making the earth cleaner.”
“They’re an advocate, and I do believe that they’re genuinely coming from their hearts, and that’s why they’re more shopping at local businesses and especially vintage clothing stores,” said Cho.
“I think a lot of people, even adults, don’t really think that [the climate crisis] is real: global warming, and climate changes, and things like that.”
Cho reflected, “People don’t care sometimes because they don’t see any immediate effect. If I hit someone, they’re gonna feel the pain right away… They’re going to react to my actions, right? So if global warming was like that, of course I think people would be more conscious of recycling clothing, buying recycled clothes, but unfortunately there’s no immediate effect on climate changes.”
Similarly, as consumers, we do not see the inputs and labour that are put into producing our garments. For change to occur, we need to become more aware of the impact of our decisions as consumers. To highlight a few Toronto-based shops, Kotn, Horses Atelier, and OkayOk guarantee that the garments purchased are sustainable and ethically sourced.
Sustainable shopping is not another passing trend. It is integral to the fight for a greener future. It is important to have conversations regarding fast fashion and the role we play as consumers. By supporting thrift stores and sustainable brands, we are advocating for ethical measures in the industry.