By: Amanda Cotler

Do you remember when clothes shopping was an occasional event? Something that happened a few times a year to prepare for the upcoming season?

Want to know what changed? Clothes became cheaper, shopping qualified as cardio, and trends were established ten times more often than you do your laundry.

It almost feels like you are sitting front row of Paris Fashion Week. Purchasing trendy clothes on a budget, wearing them a handful of times, and then throwing them out. Suddenly, everyone can afford to dress like a Hollywood A-Lister. Does it almost feel too good to be true?

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What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion is a business model that takes runway looks and mass produces them for cheap to quickly meet customers’ needs. It’s cheap, it’s dirty, and it’s a step into the dark side of fashion. The idea is to get the newest styles on the market pretty much yesterday.

This dirty cycle of overproduction and consumption has named fashion the second-largest polluting industry in the world. So when did professional women start questioning their purchasing decisions?

In 2013, Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1,000 factory workers. Women started wondering: What is the true cost to make clothes? How does it affect our planet? And what can we do to help?

As women, we have an appetite for trends at an affordable price, but someone, somewhere is paying the price.

  1. It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt. This is enough water for one person to drink for 2.5 years. (World Resources Institute)
  2. Up to 100 billion new garments are made each year. (United Nations Development Programme)
  3. Americans consume nearly 20 billion garments a year, equivalent to 62 garments each. (Overdressed)
  4. Sales of clothing have almost doubled from one trillion dollars in 2002 to 1.8 trillion dollars in 2015. (Greenpeace 2017)
  5. Up to 85% of textiles go into landfills each year. That’s enough to fill the Sydney harbor annually. (World Resources Institute)

Many people are not aware of how brands produce clothes from fiber to finished garment and how that contributes to a larger problem on a global scale.

Many fast fashion brands outsource their production overseas so they do not have to follow the same labor laws present in the United States. The reality of the situation is, these garments are produced in sweatshops with unfair pay and poor work conditions.

[Related: Why Sustainable Fashion Matters]

Sustainable fashion brands are leading the circular economy.

Professional women who support sustainability in all areas of their lives are now first in line for circular fashion. Circular fashion is a system where the production of an item and the end of its life are equally as important.

The focus of this system is longevity and the full life cycle of our purchases. From long-lasting pieces made from recycled materials to providing services that extend the life cycle of your clothes, fashion companies are innovating their business practices.

Tamay Kiper of Sustainable Brands, home for the global community of business innovators who are shaping the future of commerce worldwide, shares:

Circular economy is the biggest solution for the fashion industry.

Professional women play a key role in the implementation of circular fashion. From supporting sustainable business models to joining together to increase demand, below are various ways to buy better.

  1. Take advantage of Good On You to learn more about your favorite brands.
  2. Support sustainable and ethical fashion brands.
  3. Buy less, choose well, and make it last.
  4. Consult your closet before buying more.
  5. Consider sustainable materials when purchasing new garments.
  6. Deep dive into where your clothes are made and who made them.
  7. Swap clothes with your friends.
  8. Utilize in-store recycling programs.

Circular fashion has brought a new wave of customer knowledge, empowerment, and a greener planet. This new framework focuses on being less impactful and more in sync with our people, process, and resources. It’s time to say bye to fast fashion once and for all.

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Amanda Cotler is the Director of Operations for Accel Lifestyle, a revolutionary fitness apparel brand utilizing innovation, empowerment, and sustainability. She is part of the leadership team for Ellevate Houston, where she manages the chapter’s finances. Her passions include turning active wear into evening wear in a matter of minutes.