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Sometime last year my friend and wildly talented wardrobe stylist Erica Hanks posted articles damning cheap mass produced clothing and encouraging people to consider the impact this “fast fashion” has on the world. I read it and processed it but rolled my eyes and chose to ignore it. I know who Erica’s clients are and I know the labels she works with and I know I, like most people, can’t afford those things. So give me my cheap Forever21 and TJMaxx and I’ll bank the savings, thank you very much.

But at what cost?

The more I thought about what Erica was preaching the more I realized my fast fashion addiction was at serious odds with my imperfect but earnest attempt to follow a moral compass that steers me towards more ethically produced food and beauty products. So why should my clothes be any different? Because I was focused on price, not value.

In the same way cheap fast food ends up costing us more in the long run–with medical expenses and environmental damage–cheap fast fashion is taking a serious toll on its workforce, on the environment and on the consumers that demand it.

  • In 2011, only 1% of footwear and 2% of clothing was produced in the US. That means we’re shipping products around the world from locations where they can be more cheaply produced. (source)
  • Factory workers in Bangladesh earn $43 a month. Factory workers in China earn $117-$147 a month. (source)
  • The average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing a year. Throws away. (source)
  • In 2013 a factory in Bangladesh collapsed killing more than 1,000 workers inside, and in 2012 a fire erupted in another Bangladesh factory killing 112 workers who couldn’t escape through locked exit doors. (sourcesource)
  • The markups are so low because the volume is so high. A fast fashion giant like H&M can price margins at just 4% because the volume of pieces sold will translate into millions in profits. Higher quality garments that aren’t produced in such massive quantities have significantly higher markup (sometimes 100% or more) because not as many pieces can be produced or sold. This is why smaller indie brands can’t compete with the big guys on price.
  • The styles are produced at a rate that ensures you feel out of style immediately. Higher end fashion has two seasons–spring/summer and fall/winter. Fast fashion giants are cranking out 52 “microseasons” delivering new styles into stores daily to ensure consumers always want what’s next.
  • The products are designed to fall apart. You don’t care if your shirt falls apart because you’ll buy another one because it’s so cheap. The stores don’t care if your shirt falls apart because you’ll buy another one because it’s so cheap. The cycle never ends.

Over the last year I’ve started to shop a lot more at resale and consignment shops. Part of it started after going on the Charlotte Shopping Tour (organized by my talented friend and event planner Jen at J. Leigh Events) where we stopped at a number of consignment shops. I had no idea there were so many in Charlotte or that they had such great pieces. And the rest of it was fueled by Erica’s initial battle cry against fast fashion. If you can’t afford the pricier labels, she said, shop resale.

And so that’s what I’m doing. I’m going to see if I can go through 2015 purchasing no new fashion. It doesn’t mean I won’t be shopping. It just means I’ll be shopping used. It’s not about shopping less but about shopping with more intention.

I love a good treasure hunt. I’ll share finds here and on Instagram/Twitter with hashtag #NONEWFASHION.

Happy new year!

The photo above is at JT Posh, one of the best consignment shops in Charlotte. I geared up for this year’s challenge with three new-old pairs of jeans there last week.


  1. Logan Logan

    Check out They tell you everything about the clothing you are buying; where it’s made,the percentage of the price paid for its construction, etc.

    • Katie Katie

      That’s awesome, thanks!

  2. Kate Kate

    The one time i went to the consignment side of JTPosh (a room downstairs?) the dressing rooms were little closets full of boxes and just…junk. Have they cleaned that up? I went during a huge sale, so I will have to go back on a quieter day!

    • Katie Katie

      Hmmm they must be in a new location because I’m not even aware of a downstairs section…? I’m actually super impressed with how boutique-y JT Posh looks. It doesn’t look used at all the way they organize it. Definitely go check them out again!

  3. Betsy Betsy

    I love this! I started shopping similarly last year. I haven’t stopped buying new clothes entirely, but I did cut F21 and H&M out of my shopping “diet”, while focusing more on thrifted items and locally made clothes (not as easy to find, though). Someone mentioned Everlane and I have to vouch for them too. I know how much you love a good t-shirt, and theirs are excellent. Great quality, and a great price. Definitely check them out!

  4. Becca P. Becca P.

    Have you been to the Goodwill Outlet on Freedom Dr? I will be the first to admit it is SUPER sketch, everything is a hot mess in bins, not even the slightest bit organized, but you pay by the pound, I left there last time with 18 like new mostly designer items for $11. I actually made money off the trip, I found a brand new Lily dress (not my style) and sold it at consignment for much more!

  5. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately too — it’s hard to avoid the temptation of getting something super cheap! I never want to shell out $$ for nice clothing, but then I think, well I’m often happy to spend $$$$ on stuff like almond butter and organic fruit so… it’s the same concept.

    Definitely check out if you haven’t yet. Their mission is basically your entire blog post. I met one of the founders, Maxine, at a conference and covered her presentation and she’s really passionate about this subject.

    Ditto to liketwice and everlane!

  6. Katie Katie

    I only buy shoes new – there’s an ick factor I can’t get over. Good luck on your hunt!

    • Katie Katie

      Oh my god yessss I feel this. Thankfully I’m totally set on winter footwear and I’m hoping my weak summer sandal collection will hold out through the season.

  7. I’m excited to see how this goes for you. I feel like you’re at a major advantage by living in an urban area. I find it really hard to find quality used clothing in my area and I really prefer to try things on before buying. Thanks for the reminder to think about what I’m buying in all facets of my life; I’m going to explore some of the suggestions in the comments!

  8. GOOD FOR YOU, GIRL. I also like as a resource for ethical fashions– you can browse by ethics, which really tickles me (like you can search for all organic products or all products made in the USA or whatever).

    Also, I don’t know if you’re crafty at all but if you can get your hands on a used sewing machine and use a couple Youtube tutorials to figure out how it works, you can do your own alterations and tailoring and DIY stuff. I think it’s fun (but also I realize it’s not everyone’s cup of tea).

    • Katie Katie

      Thank you!

      I have always wanted to try and sew things (like create new garments) but I just do not think that’s my skill set. I’m too inclined to be like, “Mmmeh, this looks good enough” which is kind of dangerous when it comes to crafting things that have to cover your ass without ripping open. Ha.

  9. kate kate

    Ugh sorry, totally drove by last night and was thinking of a completely different place in my above comment! Finally went into JTP and loved it! You’re right, totally boutique-y feel which is great!

  10. […] month 7 of my year-long NO NEW FASHION challenge and I can’t decide if it hasn’t been hard at all or if I’m dying for […]

  11. […] of mine. So, I made a commitment in January to not buy any new clothes (inspired by Katie’s #NONEWFASHION post). Katie’s post is more about the ethics of the fashion industry (with stats to back it up), and […]

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