Its in-store price may be cheap, but the true cost of fast fashion — for the workers who manufacture it, and for our planet — is huge. And the recent burst of negative press around quickly and cheaply made clothing shows that conscious consumers are turning away from fast fashion, realizing the threat it poses to people and the planet.
But with unsustainable clothing companies so pervasive in our shopping malls and online, how can we begin navigating a more ethical route? Here are four fashion apps paving the way.
Fast fashion isn’t just produced quickly; it’s discarded quickly, too — a staggering 50 trailers’ worth of unwanted clothes are sent to landfills every day in the UK alone. Not only does this have a huge environmental impact, but it’s also a sad waste of clothing which more often than not is perfectly fit for repurposing.
But the team behind the reGAIN app have a brilliant solution to this issue — by rewarding shoppers for recycling not just with a warm and fuzzy feeling, but with real discounts on fashion and food. All you have to do is bring at least 10 unwanted items to your closest drop-off point. Then, you’ll be given access to their in-app discount coupons and can shop with a clear conscience, safe in the knowledge that your old clothing will either be donated or recycled.
In a globalized world, multinational corporations are connected in increasingly complex webs, and brands with seemingly opposing values can actually be closely linked. Buycott is designed to help you untangle these webs. The app presents you with a list of causes — or “campaigns”— and asks you to join the campaigns that you care about, rating how strongly you feel about each one on a sliding scale.
When you see a product you want to investigate (and this works on everything from fashion to fruit), you scan the product’s barcode with your phone, and Buycott will tell you if the brand’s actions — or the actions of any of its brand family — are against your beliefs, as well as any other controversies they might be linked to. Scanning a Primark product, for example, brings up a range of issues connected to the company, from “boycott child labour” to “tell Associated British Foods to stop tax dodging in Zambia.”
Good on You
After the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory in Bangladesh in 2013 — which killed over 1,000 people — the developers of Good on You were inspired to create their app, which advocates for “fashion without harm.” Using data from organizations like Greenpeace and Carbon Trust, the app gives more than 2,000 brands an ethical score on a 1-5 scale, taking into account factors like workers’ labor conditions and use of animal products.
If you discover that your favorite brands are a little less than perfect, Good on You will recommend similar brands with better ethical scores, even offering deals on the highest-rated stores — incentivizing shoppers and brands towards more ethical behavior.
These apps offer brilliant answers to the question of how to shop more ethically, but none of them discourages the buying of new clothes, which is a different problem entirely.
Borrowing clothes, not buying them, is one solution — because borrowing doesn’t just take some of the pressure off the world’s landfills, but it also helps to put the brakes on the mass-manufacturing systems that produce too many clothes in the first place.
There are plenty of platforms, like Rent the Runway, for renting high-end and designer clothing. But for any other kind of clothes, there’s Fat Llama, the app for renting (almost) anything from people nearby, at an accessible cost — saving money through the circular economy.