Students should reject fast fashion, thrift instead

Laura Hallas

New York fashion week started on Sept. 7, but chances are knockoff versions will hit shopping malls before the event even ends. This “fast fashion” depends on cheap labor and harsh chemicals, and its clothes have to be constantly replaced. Local thrift stores offer similar prices for more responsible and longer lasting materials. Austin’s spirit of individualism and “weirdness” creates the perfect environment for exploring personal style while still staying on budget.

Luckily, millennials are more focused on sustainable and higher-quality fashion that lasts longer and has more of a classic feel. Textiles and apparel lecturer Jessica Ciarla says that being “trendy” isn’t the goal for many of today’s young adults — and that’s a good thing.

“If you look at trends in the fashion industry, there really isn’t a solid trend anymore. Young people are creating their own looks,” Ciarla said. “It makes sense that you shouldn’t be buying H&M and Forever 21 trendy looks because they’re not in fashion, and they don’t last, and it doesn’t make sense for your finances or the environment.”

Austin is home to dozens of boutiques, local designers and thrift stores that offer higher quality clothing at prices lower than traditional stores. Buffalo Exchange, Blue Velvet and Feathers are mainstays of Austin thrift shopping, and are complemented by Austin’s growing ranks of local designers and boutiques.

Shopping on South Congress can be a time suck for students’ schedules, but shopping apps make this process faster and easier. Apps like Poshmark, Vinted and Tradesy allow you to browse specific brands and styles filtered to fit your pre-entered sizes. For special events like formals or job interviews, sites like Rent the Runway eliminate the high cost of dressing for a single event, with the added bonus of high quality designer clothing. Though they are generally national, some apps like Wallapop allow you to shop locally among other Austinites. Student Facebook and Etsy pages also help keep quality clothing within the UT family.

Textiles and apparel lecturer Ockhee Bego said that the Textiles and Apparel Department at UT looks to promote this quality-centered thinking amongst students both while on a student budget and in the future. After all, students’ budgets will increase after college as they get jobs, but it will still be important to buy responsibly.

“Austin is very laid back, but at same time going forward, everyone has their own style. That is what is unique about Austin. It’s very self-expressing,” Ockhee said. “If you don’t have the budget [for designer quality clothing], you go buy a secondhand garment and make your own style. I think that’s the greatest thing.”

“Keep Austin Weird” isn’t just a tourist trope — it’s a call for fashion on a budget. Students looking to stay in style for cheap should utilize Austin’s unique fashion scene to build their own sustainable and affordable styles.

Hallas is a Plan II and health and society sophomore from Allen. Follow her on Twitter @LauraHallas.