Fast fashion is like fast food – tempting for the moment, harmful in the long run.

Understanding sustainable fashion and how can it save you money?

Take a minute and think about the number of times you’ve gone shopping for clothes in the last six months. Take another minute and think about the number of times you’ve opened your wardrobe and thought to yourself, “I have nothing to wear!” 

If the answer to each question is ‘more than twice’, you’re not alone! That’s what the fast or unethical fashion industry is all about. It gives you a range of ‘trendy’ clothing options at a low price, so you buy a lot. But they don’t last very long, so you end up buying often. 

The pitfalls of 'fast' fashion

The frequent sales the biggest clothing brands across the world have and the number of new clothing collections they come up with initially seem to benefit customers. You’re spoilt for choice, you get great deals, and you can always come back and get something trendier. 

But let’s see what goes into this:

  • The clothes are made from low-quality materials and have a short lifespan.
  • The labourers are paid minimal wages, made to work in harsh conditions, and are pressured to produce more in short time.
  • According to McKinsey, three-fifths of all garments produced end up in a landfill within one year of manufacture.
  • A report from Pulse of the fashion industry covered by Forbes stated the fashion industry is responsible for about 4% of the world’s water wastage every year – about 92 million tons.
  • According to The World Bank, the industry is also responsible for around 10% of the annual global carbon emissions, and this is expected to increase to 50% by 2030.

So, the cost of fast fashion translates to devastating implications on the environment and the workforce, and it’s only going to get worse. As a consumer, what you can do is be more conscious of the situation and opt for sustainable fashion or slow fashion. 

Related: 9 Items you can save money if you buy them at the right time

What is slow fashion?

Slow fashion or sustainable fashion is the diametric opposite of fast fashion and everything it stands for. It’s about buying clothes made from good-quality materials that will last longer. It’s about being mindful of the processes and resources that go into the manufacture of clothing and a fair treatment of the people involved in the process. 

Sustainable fashion is also about reducing the carbon footprint of the fashion industry and our closets. It recognises the economic and cultural benefits of designing and producing clothes locally. This saves a good amount on marketing, transportation, and logistics, while promoting local and independent designers and artisans. 

Related: The 3 Beauty products you need to buy & The 3 you need to "bye"

Financial benefits of slow fashion

Opting for slow fashion will not only help you save the planet and contribute towards the fair treatment of everyone involved in the supply-chain process, but also save you a lot of money.

Imagine this: You walk into your favourite fashion retail store. You buy four dresses for Rs 1500 each. That’s Rs 6000 for four gorgeous dresses that you love! You wear each about three times a year and start to notice the fabric going dull or not having the same fit as it used to. So, on average, you spend Rs 6000 every year for four new dresses. 

Now picture this: You walk into an independent clothing store and buy two dresses for Rs 2500 each. Yes, it’s costlier compared to the retail store, but these dresses stay with you for three years and you can wear them more than a dozen times. This means the Rs 5000 you spent on two high-quality dresses lasts you three times longer!

If you compare the cost of both of the above over a period of three years, the first scenario costs you Rs 6000 × 3 years, which is Rs 18,000. In the second scenario, you only spend Rs 5000 once and hence end up saving Rs 13000. Imagine! 

So, the sales and discounts that seem like a great deal are actually a trap that make you spend significantly more in the long run.

Related: How to set up a shopping budget this festive season 

How to shop ethically on a budget

  • Research your favourite brands and see whether their processes are sustainable or not.
  • Follow sustainable brands and ethical fashion blogs on social media and sign up for their mailers. They will inform you of any discounts and introduce you to more brands that you’ll love.
  • Swap clothes with your friends! It’s super fun and will give you a range of new clothes for free.
  • Take some basic sewing and stitching lessons. This way you can easily turn your old dress into (say) a new t-shirt.
  • Buy wardrobe essentials that are versatile – blue jeans, white t-shirt, denim jacket, etc. You can pair these up with almost anything in your wardrobe and come up with countless different looks.
  • Consider buying second-hand from garage sales, thrift stores, and online stores. This saves money and ensures that the clothes circulate in the economy for longer and don’t end up in a landfill.
  • If you love shopping, here are 5 credit cards tailored for women shoppers.

Sustainable fashion is good on both ethical and financial counts. Also, the chances that you’ll come across someone who’s wearing the same thing as you – which is highly probable when you buy from popular brand outlets – is practically non-existent! 


How I did it

Praveen Nair

Ever since I retired, I have looked forward to the festive season with added zeal. It is the buzz that I need once in a year in my laidback post-retirement life. I like to celebrate the occasion, get the house painted or renovated, buy gifts for my dear ones or go on a vacation. These things… Read more

Swati Mehra

A couple of years ago I was over the moon after landing my first job. I celebrated regally during the festive season that ensued, only to land in a financial soup for the next few months. With gargantuan credit card bills and barely any cash left, I had no other option but to default the payment… Read more

Rohansh Pathak

It is highly unlikely that all the expenses made during the festive season were worth making in the first place. This is the time of the year when unavoidable expenses are bound to upset your budget plans, and you can do little about it. However, I have made it a point to have a look at the… Read more

Shubhra Banerjee

I am a single mother of one. I lost my husband just 5 years into my marriage. Life has been a struggle for me, but I have managed it and today I have no complaints. 

I was a young widow with a 3 year old son when my husband passed away due to a heart attack. My parents were my rock… Read more