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Dear fast fashion: we’re over

Photography By Unsplash
Published 10.06.21

Despite being in my mid 20s, I’ve only been in one serious relationship.

It was fun while it lasted, but eventually ran its course. As a typical Leo, I had no qualms about severing all ties with this person when it ended. From unfollowing him on Instagram to blocking all modes of contact – I essentially did an entire purge. I try my best not to dwell on the past, because it distracts from the present.

It wasn’t until one night during lockdown last year, when I was ugly crying into a bowl of popcorn while feeding my sappy heart with repeat viewings of The Notebook, that I realised I was subconsciously already in another relationship. Only it wasn’t with a person, but a thing. Or rather, an entire industry.

I’m talking about my relationship with fast fashion, one I had been in for as long as I can remember.

Perhaps it was the red wine and butter popcorn, combined with all of the emotions I was feeling that night, but the realisation was akin to having a quarter-life crisis. And just like a crooked picture frame, once you notice what’s wrong, you can’t unsee it until it’s been fixed.

As I rifled through my wardrobe literally bursting at the seams with clothes, some of which had never been worn, it became abundantly clear my relationship with fast fashion had to end. Not only because this habit was bad for both me and the planet, but also because when I made this decision, my gut did a little celebratory dance. And I always listen to my gut.

Thus began the journey of another breakup.

At the risk of sounding cliché, it wasn’t them, it was me. I had simply changed as a consumer and this breakup highlighted just how significant that change has been, albeit in rather imaginative ways.

To me, fast fashion was the bad boy that you’re attracted to because everything about them is so damn exhilarating. Being around them gives you a temporary high, and when you’re immersed in the euphoria of new garments, bargain buys and compliments on how good you look together, you neglect to see their underlying faults. Swept up in the frenzy of their arrival, you start believing that this is “the one”, the piece that suits you like no other, only to realise in a few weeks’ time this was just a summer fling that barely lasted a full season.

Sustainable fashion is different. They’re the one who has patiently waited for you to notice them, supporting you through all your bad fashion choices with a quiet assurance that they would be there and ready when you finally realised what you truly deserve. This is someone you want to bring home to your parents; eloquent, timeless and caring, they effortlessly impress. Best of all, they brighten up your world and help you flourish. They are honest. They have purpose. They have morals. By their very design, they’re in it for the long haul, for better or for worse. Until death do you part.

Compartmentalising the two like this has definitely made the breakup with the former easier. The second step I took was accepting the breakup for what it was: a lesson. Unlike my previous relationship, I wasn’t cutthroat this time around; this situation is still a work in progress. Many of my clothes hold sweet memories within them, and I think it’s important to acknowledge the impact they’ve made in my life. So, taking a page out of Marie Kondo’s book — I’ve expressed gratitude, given thanks, and released the clothes out of my life.

Indeed, it’s a breakup that may take months, even years, to process. But that’s totally fine. As the famous saying goes, it’s about the journey, not the end result.

Tips to recover from your breakup with fast fashion:

1. Unfollow them on social media

The culmination of any big heartbreak is the moment you decide to unfollow them on social media. If you find yourself feeling tortured (and tempted to reach out) each time they post a new story or picture, looking fine and putting their best foot forward, then it’s time to remove them from your feed. Unfollowing your beloved fast fashion brands will speed up the healing process and help you deny their existence altogether.

2. Don’t dwell – now is the time to move on

It’s the painful post-breakup period that everyone dreads, the feeling that you’ll never find someone who looks as good on you or highlights your best features again. Fast fashion knew what you liked best, right? If you’re feeling like someone new and more sustainable won’t love or understand you, you’re wrong. It’s time to move on and discover how good a fresh fling can feel. With sustainable fashion brands, you’ll find a stability and reliability you never knew before, one that won’t stretch and break after a few weeks of wear.

3. Take a break from hanging out in places where you might bump into your ex

Should you start avoiding all the places you once loved frequenting with your ex-fast fashion brands, like your local shopping centre or favourite online stores? Yes. It’s not a permanent exile, but in the tentative weeks after you’ve called things off, it’s probably best to avoid them. Time to find a new hang out. Your local op shops or vintage markets are a good place to start, and you never know who you might meet when you start treading new paths.

4. Look to your friends for support

They might not admit it right away, but your friends have probably been waiting for this day for a while now, which positions them perfectly to support you through this breakup. They’ll reinforce why fast fashion was never good enough for you (or the environment) in the first place, help you set up a Depop account, talk shit about how tacky they were and help you start putting yourself out there to new brands. The best part of a good friend is that their door – and wardrobe – is always open. If you get desperate for a new fashion fix, ask if there’s something from their closet you can borrow instead.

5. Clean out your closet, set new intentions and embrace the next chapter

Are you familiar with burning rituals that help individuals let go of the past? We’re not exactly suggesting you burn all your fast fashion purchases in the backyard, but now is the time to let go of the garments that no longer serve you (responsibly…to friends, recycling services or charity shops, of course) and make space for new, sustainable fashion purchases. You could start planning and building a capsule wardrobe, or spend some time experimenting with your style to find out what you really like. This is the time for self-discovery and scoring the ethical glow up you’ve always wanted.

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