Everyone at some point in their lives has participated in fast fashion. Fast fashion, if you’re unaware of the term, is a business strategy used by fashion retailers to reduce the time a piece of clothing spends in the concept to consumer cycle. Fast fashion clothes are usually sold at fairly low prices, making them extremely appealing to budget-conscious consumers. Little do most people know, but fast fashion, along with the entire fashion industry, is one of the most damaging to the environment. On top of the environmental strain, the human rights issues that occur with clothing production are still prevalent in society even today.
You might be wondering then, how can I, just one person, make an impact on such a damaging industry? The first step, as with anything, needs to be research and education. Actively seeking out information in order to educate yourself will help you to decide where you stand. One of the best sources about the fashion industry’s impact is the book The Conscious Closet by Elizabeth L. Cline.
Cline is a journalist and author, along with being one of the foremost experts on consumer culture, according to her website. In 2012, she released a book called Overdressed, which is now a critically acclaimed expose on the world of fast fashion. Now, Cline has built upon that idea and in The Conscious Closet, she details exactly what consumers can do to build an ethical and sustainable wardrobe, all while still following the trends.
The Conscious Closet is divided into six parts, all with sub-chapters included. It begins with “Goodbye, Fast Fashion!”, which details how to go about preparing your closet for the inevitable clothing purge that will happen after reading this book. Cline does not encourage people to throw out their clothes, but rather offers alternative solutions where the clothes can have a second life.
The second and third parts are called “The Art of Less” and “The Art of More”, respectively. They focus on everyone’s favorite issue- budget. A lot of times, a sustainable wardrobe might not be the most wallet-conscious. go into how you can start changing your wardrobe for the better. A foundational pillar of fast fashion is that the clothes don’t last for very long, but they are cheap. When the clothing piece reaches the end of its wearable life, the cheap prices convince customers to go back and replace the worn-out piece of clothing with an equally as cheap and low-quality piece. In these parts, Cline raises the argument for splurging on more expensive, but longer-lasting clothes that will give consumers more bang for their buck, along with other wardrobe replacements such as renting or thrifting clothes.
Part four, called “The Sustainable Fashion Handbook” and part five, called “Make It Last”, start zeroing in on the environmental issues that come with the fashion industry. Part four goes into what actually makes up our clothes, including all of the nasty chemicals like antimony trioxide (a building block for the oh-so-versatile polyester). Part five focuses on a chore that no one loves to do- laundry, and how to take care of the clothes you have in a more sustainable way.
Finally, part six, or “The Fashion Revolution” focuses on the social aspects of the fashion industry. While this part is not as comprehensive as Overdressed, Cline still manages to hit important aspects of fashion activism. The current way of the fashion industry will not change, not unless people work to let brands know that they want the change, and that’s exactly what Cline encourages.
The best thing about Cline is the language that she uses in the book is not scathing. More than anything, this book is made to inform rather than criticize consumers. Being style-conscious while also being eco-conscious is not an easy feat, especially when you’re contending with big-name brands like Forever 21 and Zara. However, Cline makes sure to properly educate readers, and hers is not the only opinion readers will be focusing on. Within the book are several Q&As from others who actually work in the industry, including thredUP founder James Reinhart and Kate Sekules, founder of VisibleMending.com, among others.
This book is one that everyone, whether you are a fashion fanatic or not, should read through. Everyone wears clothes, they’re an expression of who we are. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could express ourselves while also being sustainable and conscious about our purchases? Don’t worry, it’s not impossible, and The Conscious Closet makes sure that everyone can benefit from the information.