By Michal Goldfein
As individuals, mothers, friends, and neighbors, we are constantly exposed to the opportunity to self-reflect, and to take note of our actions. Anyone around the world has the chance to be introspective and hopefully to take the good with the bad. As a human being one uses this reflection to change one’s attitude or actions. This week I began a small quest to rethink fashion and its imprint on the world. On this note, I acknowledge that some of Coco Chanel’s views, whom I quoted last week, were antisemitic and that I was unfamiliar with her prejudice towards Jews. I value the fashion personalities who have an open and accepting view of all people, and would never want to offend anyone. This path of reflection led me to dig deeper into the world of fast fashion and its impact on the population and our environment.
Let me set one thing straight before we begin: I started this journey from a place of not really knowing the key issues of fast-fashion, which means, “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers” according to the Merriam Webster dictionary. Upon doing some research, I came to the realization that it is an important topic and a topic of current controversy. I started my research by reading articles and watching The True Cost, a documentary detailing the negative effects of fast fashion. While I generally come from the standpoint of taking things with a grain of salt, the documentary was eye opening. Even though I didn’t see the horrors of the fashion industry to the extent of which they were trying to portray, certain elements hit home and this started an introspection within myself.
For example, I’ve always loved brands that offer cheap prices because then I get to explore current trends without causing a deep rift in my wallet. The documentary, however, caused me to think about what cheap prices mean. Somewhere in the world, someone is working in a sweatshop, in a third-world country, making two to three dollars an hour so that customers can get these aforementioned cheap prices. However, on the other hand, one can play the devil’s advocate and say, if these people didn’t work in factories, where would they work? Are the working conditions in these factories worse than in other places or, if these garment factories closed, would the people working there be forced into worse working conditions?
After reading other articles about the environmental cost of fast fashion, I begin to see how the fashion industry is facing a multifaceted issue. Pesticides are sprayed across cotton farms, and as a result children in those areas are developing diseases and cases of mental retardation. On a global scale textile dyeing is a major pollutant of our clean water. Furthermore there is a whole area of study on polyester and how it contributes to the increasing levels of plastic in our oceans. While the use of recycled polyester has been pushed in the fashion industry there are still cons, and ways in which even recycled polyester can be harmful to the environment.
So what can we, as customers, do as conscientious beings, to help? The answer isn’t simple or clear-cut. It can start with being informed, with listening, and with paying attention to those that are not in our daled amos. While one might not be able to spend more on ethical produced fashion, one can think about shopping at thrift or vintage shops. Buying fashionable finds on ThredUp for example, means you are not contributing to the mounds of fashion waste that occurs. You can even purge your closet and sell your clothes on this site. Another website that has a similar concept is Poshmark. Many times, clothes are new and may even have the tags still on them.
If you want to check out ethically produced fashion, there are some more options. Fashion brands such as Krochet Kids and ABLE claim to give impoverished people jobs and economic opportunity. Keep in mind that one should always research these brands, never take someone’s “word for it.” Regardless of the way in which one chooses to help, most importantly, as a community we should be informed. As a former consumer of fashion, I’m going to try to remember that materialism doesn’t make me happier. While my love for clothing has not dissipated, I can make better long-term choices.
Michal Goldfein is a fashion influencer and content creator on Instagram and posts daily modest fashion inspiration @TheFashionDetour. You can listen to her modest fashion podcast on Apple podcast and on Jtriberadio.com. Email your fashion questions to Michal at