Traditionally sales start at the beginning of January here in Antwerp. Suddenly the fast fashion high street becomes even more a war zone battling for lowest prices. But like most wars, victory is relative and comes at a high cost. Here's a short slow fashion survival guide to shopping in the sales.
Most people shopping in Antwerp visit the Meir, our largest shopping street. At this time of year, it is filled with major discounts, big chain stores and shoppers. Because sales have started and that means you can shop 'till you drop under the weight of your purchases without even spending a fortune. In the middle of this shopping frenzy it is hard to keep your head cool and make wise decisions. So here are a few tips to get you through your shopping trip and coming out feeling good.
1. Choose your battleground.
Avoid big malls and shopping streets and visit the smaller shops in the surrounding area. If you live a bit further away you can easily come by bus, train or metro. Even during sales, the smaller shopping streets are a lot quieter and more enjoyable for walking and windowshopping. Big plus: even during sales, you still get a great service at smaller shops, helping you choose and without big waiting lines at the fitting rooms and cash register. And isn't it wonderful to skim through clothing still hanging up instead of digging through piles on the ground?
"And isn't it wonderful to skim through clothing still hanging up instead of digging through piles on the ground?"
2. Choose Quality over Quantity.
Yes, shopping sales at big chain stores means you can buy a lot of clothing for very little money. But you and I both know most of these items just land somewhere at the back of the closet only to be get rid of during the next big spring cleaning. Take your time picking out pieces that compliment you and that are made of good quality textile. Instead of spending less money on things you don't wear or clothes that fall apart after 2 or 3 washes, why not pay a bit more for something you will enjoy for years to come?
3. Mindful Materials.
Synthetic fabrics are very durable. Like 200 years durable. That's how long it takes for fabrics like polyester to decompose. Since you're not going to wear your clothes for this long, it might be a bit overkill. Especially when you consider that such fabrics are often also damaging to your skin because they don't let it breathe. Not to mention the toxic dyes used in fast fashion. Ordinary cotton is also filled with pesticides and needs a lot of water to grow. Organic and natural fabrics are not only biodegradable but are also much easier to maintain and they feel so much better on your skin. The environment and your waterbill will thank you.
4. Fast Fashion vs Sustainability.
What do you prefer: a new outfit every week or a capsule wardrobe? Newsflash: the two aren't mutually exclusive. You can invest in some classic and basic pieces and still look like you are wearing something different every day. The key is to choose wise and be on trend with your accessories. We already discussed how most clothes don't get worn so find out what items you do wear. Are you a T-shirt and jeans kind of girl or a dress and pumps type? No use in buying 20 pairs of jeans if you prefer skirts, and vice versa. And guess what: unless you know from experience you will wear all 20 skirts or T-shirts or whatever equally as many times, you're probably going to wear only 2 or 3.
"Once you have figured out your style, you can really profit from sales by searching for a few high quality basic pieces with a nice discount."
So choose some basic colors and a style that compliments you, but also think about fabrics used and the overall quality. Once you have figured out your style, you can really profit from sales by searching for a few high quality basic pieces with a nice discount. Don't get tempted by the cheap mass production of fast fashion and focus on the quality of sustainable and durable clothes.
5. Consider the price you pay.
Does a pair of jeans for only 5 euro sound too good to be true? That's because it is. Imagine the amount of time and the type of labour you need to create one pair of jeans, not to mention the fabric and infrastructure required. Even if you mass produce, how is it possible that this one item costs only 5 euro at the end of the retail line? After all, stores and manufacturers still need to make a profit. That profit comes from cheap labour, bad quality fabrics and no respect for environmental and human conditions. Every year people actually die making these cheap clothes. 5 euro is not the price you pay for your new pair of jean, it's the symbolic price of a human life and the impact on our environment.
"5 euro is not the price you pay for your new pair of jeans, it's the symbolic price of a human life and the impact on our environment."
That is why slow fashion often sells higher priced items: because it guarantees fair wages and good working conditions. Sustainable fashion also focusses on using organic and biodegradable materials, as well as non toxic production. This comes with an actual pricetag and that is also why during sales, slow fashion brands cannot offer the same discounts as high street stores. Because everybody deserves a humane life, from workers and manufacturers to shopkeepers and consumers.
Where do you find these slow fashion brands? More and more brands make a social and environmental engagement to produce at fair prices. But there is still a long way to go. You can find them online or in smaller shops like Carlino Feel Good Store. We know the story behind every item we sell, where it comes from and how it was produced. It is important to us that everybody feels good and that at the end of the sales, everybody comes out victorious.