Rock What You Got, or How To Resist Fast Fashion

Sydney Oliver looks into a young fashion trailblazer making people rethink the way they choose their clothes.

What is Fast Fashion?

It’s a warm spring day, a slight breeze blows through the corridor of the outdoor mall. Brightly arranged mannequins stare happily into the concrete structures, eyes vacant or non existent, as itchy fabric hangs from their cold limbs. The slight smell of chemicals is ignored by the customers as the lack of decimal places on the clothing tags causes them to hum in excitement. The cloying smell is ignored but even the most excited of shoppers can’t help but notice the microscopic thread holding a nearby garment together. The white tile of the store reflects blinds the parcels as they are poked and prodded, in hopes of finding a ‘steal.’

An audio explainer by Sydney Oliver on fast fashion.

While clothes in retail stores may seem like a bargain, it may come at a greater cost. The same garments you may buy at a local H&M or order from Zaful may be at the expense of a starving factory worker. Fast fashion is a multi-layered style of production that takes advantage of low wages and low quality materials in order to efficiently mass produce clothing and other products. It also plagues the lives of many mistreated factory workers and the environment with its lack of ethics and production of waste. While it runs most rampant in less developed countries, even the United States has its own supply of sweatshops.

After growing up in Roseville, California, with her single mother on very little, Ruby Lassila has paved her journey within the fashion industry, and found herself in Los Angeles attending fashion school. Her goal though is to maximize sustainability in the fashion industry and create a brand to promote individual and unity.

“I wear my values because I am conscious of where my clothes are coming from and all my clothes are made from humans and a life is on the line for my clothes,” Lassila said.

“The behavior has really shifted,” Lassila said in terms of being more conscious of the clothes we buy. “Because of that, people want to be more expressing themselves through fashion. So, that is why sustainability is coming through,”

What Can We Do?

“My biggest advice is if you want to start being more sustainable and stop shopping with fast fashion is to ‘rock what you got,’” Lassila said. “That’s the most sustainable option because you’re not spending money, you’re saving money. And also, you’re repurposing your stuff and it’s a way to be more creative. If you really wanna be stylish, then you have to learn to value your clothes. Anybody can buy stuff. How are you going to style it, how are you going to stand out?”

Lassila explains that thrifting is one way to shop, when trying not to contribute to the ‘demand’ of fast fashion. However it has its own setbacks. Depop, a selling application, has grown immensely in recent years and gained a track record for being used for reselling. Thrift stores are moreso intended for those who are in need of affordable clothing, so thrifting in excess and depleting the resources of those in need, is frowned upon by many as well.

Lassila has started her own Instagram platform to pursue her mission.

Emptying Closets Bad for the Environment

“We create so much waste, anything that doesn’t go to the landfill is good. That’s the goal. If you can get it out and repurpose it with these ‘thrift-flips’ with all these excess clothes that nobody wants, that is going to be more sustainable,” Lassila said.

Mass production of fast fashion also plagues the environment. The styles are designed to be low quality and made with the least expensive materials. Therefore, people commonly wear them for a short period of time, until they grow out of style, and then throw them away. This greatly contributes to landfill.

“People want to be wearing this for a season and then they will throw it out and then they will just never think about it. But it impacts everybody,” Lassila said.

What is Slow Fashion?

Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. The clothing is made in a fashion that ensures longevity and maximizes the use of a particular garment. Lassila explained that global production of similar products would not only lower demand for fast fashion items, but also decrease the waste caused by over producing items.

“Make sustainable pieces that will last a long time,” Lassila said. “Like a purple top with cut outs that you feel like your only gonna like wear a few times versus black pants that you can wear all the time for work.”

Slow fashion is a global effort, mostly occurring in the United States, — -, and — — and has slowly been gaining an understanding. However one aspect stands in the way.

Reporting by Sydney Oliver for the Reynolds Sandbox

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Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.