Most people have clothing items or designs they’d wear “if they could.”
But who says they can’t?
Fashion is an opportunity to wear art, to express yourself without a word. Though this is a common stance, the vast majority of people don’t veer far from the mainstream or an alternative mainstream.
Trends pop up faster than ever today thanks to social media like TikTok and Instagram. Fashion brands count on the desire of young people to have what’s trending and the doubt they cast on themselves when it comes to their individuality. These brands cash in through fast fashion.
Fast fashion refers to a business model that replicates designs recently seen on the runway. Fast fashion companies produce these items at low cost in mass quantities and quickly fill the racks of fast fashion stores as the item begins trending.
Vice News Reports covered ultra-fast fashion in January, discussing the rise of Chinese fashion retailer Shein. The company cheaply replicates items popularized on social media rather than on the runway and can have them delivered in days.
The items fall off trend as swiftly as they hit shelves, with the hype around them shifting to new items. The short lifespan of the trendiest items means they end up in landfills rapidly.
Some have also pointed out that fast fashion brands steal designs from fashion designers, as U.S. copyright law doesn’t protect fashion like it does other forms of art. Advocates have started pushing to expand these laws, wanting protection for small-brand designers and curbing the fast fashion industry’s ability to wreak havoc on the environment.
A move like this would promote more individuality in fashion as well, as millions of people wouldn’t be buying the same shirt because it’s trending in the fast fashion sector.
The most sustainable way to shop will always be to shop secondhand, as it means there’s no need for new resources. Choosing the right thrift store also means items will be significantly cheaper than they would be purchased anywhere else.
Goodwill is always a good bet for cheaper items and they can be found throughout the country and near campus. Places like Dragonfly Thrift Boutique and Miami Twice are near campus as well.
The ultimate way for UM students to have fun and save money with sustainable fashion is UThrift. The student organization is a “thrift swap,” allowing students to donate and trade items.
Students always get one more item than they donate, meaning a student could bring in three items and take home four items.
Anna Coon, UThrift’s president and a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and political science, said, “When you go to a thrift store for the first time, it can be super overwhelming and you’re looking through all these clothes and you might hate them … you have to be really patient.”
She said UThrift is a great way for students to start thrifting because all of the items are coming from other students, so the organization does have a lot of trendy pieces to offer.
The group estimates that it received 3,600 donations and had 630 unique visitors last semester alone. Their pop-up shop is on campus every Wednesday and the organization puts together events throughout the year. Students can easily drop in between classes.
Omari Lewis, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, said, “It’s really a great opportunity to be able to thrift for free.”
He visits UThrift every week and he’s put together entire outfits from pieces he’s found there.
Coon pointed out that fashion itself already has a circular nature.
“You’re looking at a lot of 90s fashion. You’re going to find 90s fashion at the thrift store from people who threw that stuff away in the 90s,” Coon said.
She wants people to realize this trend shows that we don’t always have to make new clothing items. We can use what already exists.
Coon also shared how she had a clothing item in middle school that she eventually decided she hated and got rid of because it wasn’t considered cool anymore. Years later, with the item trending again, she found herself wanting to buy one just like the one she discarded.
Focusing generally on personal style and steering away from trends can make quitting fast fashion easier if it’s a struggle. It can also save you money as you take the time to consider what you love most and what you’ll wear repeatedly for years to come.
Having a more curated wardrobe can make getting ready easier and more exciting as well because you end up with a closet of items you love rather than items you bought on impulse.
So, throw in your headphones and take your time flipping through the clothing racks at a nearby thrift store. Shifting society’s view of fashion from “what’s trending” to “what interests me” will add more art and flair into our lives anyway.