Stop Defining The Success Of Your Business Like Fast Fashion

Most of us agree that fast fashion is toxic. Rooted in capitalism and materialism, it entices us with the ephemeral thrill of something new. Trends are must-haves one minute and then tossed aside the next. This cycle never ends and instead leaves its toll on the environment and people. We see the dangers of fast fashion and are eager to change that mindset about our clothes. But, even once it’s gone from your wardrobe, the fast fashion mindset can still creep into your business.

We live in a culture that glorifies the hustle. The busiest entrepreneurs are seen as the most successful, and workaholics who get up at the crack of dawn to make their dreams happen are praised. Just like fast fashion pushes for more, cheaper, quicker, it is easy to fall into that same trap within your business. There is nothing wrong with having a thriving business or putting in the work to build your dream brand, but more does not necessarily mean better. Are you defining the success of your business by the quantity of your work instead of the quality? Are you letting the hustle culture shame you into just trying harder and pushing through the burnout that eventually comes? 

Spending any amount of time on the internet, you’ll inevitably run across others doing what you’re doing, but seemingly better. On social media especially, there is ample opportunity to compare yourself and your business to others. You may see others that appear successful, have more likes or follows, and you might feel like you should be doing the same things as they are. Fast fashion sells a trend by telling us that everyone else is wearing it or someone popular is wearing it and we need to do the same if we want to be seen as popular too. Comparing yourself and your business to other business owners does the same. Noticing trends in the industry and keeping an eye on competitors is a healthy practice, but only if you evaluate the trends you are noticing before blindly following them. You probably have different goals, a slightly different customer base, or different resources than the people you’re comparing yourself to. Don’t try a business trend that doesn’t actually help you reach your unique goals just because you see others doing it.

Fast fashion minimizes the effort that goes into making clothing by selling garments at low,  impulse-purchase prices that train the customer to not see the value. Then, because the customer doesn’t see the value, that drives the fast fashion brands to produce clothing of even cheaper quality in order to sell at even lower prices. Even small fashion business owners can get stuck in this same devaluing cycle. Don’t diminish your work or the work of those that make the clothes for your brand by selling your designs for prices that don’t match their true worth. In the same way, don’t diminish your accomplishments and the successes you’ve had in your business just because they aren’t at the scale of a fast fashion brand.

As a fashion business owner, you need to be clear about what your values and goals are. What does success really look like to you? Looking at fast fashion brands, it seems that success to them is the amount of money the owners make. If you haven’t clearly defined what success looks like to you, it is easy to default to equating success with money. In many cases, though, money, to a point, is not what would actually bring the most fulfillment. Why did you start your brand? What does your ideal day to day lifestyle look like? What leaves you most fulfilled and happy? Money may get you to this place, but other things like creative freedom, a flexible schedule, or more time with family may be a better path to your goals. Don’t make decisions in your business solely based on money if that is not what would actually bring you the life you want. Yes, a high revenue number looks “successful” to others, but you need to define for yourself what success for your business looks like. 

I think we all agree that fast fashion is unsustainable. The whole system runs at a break-neck speed that leaves workers and resources burned out and discarded, once-worn clothing often literally burning in a landfill. As a business owner, it is important to realize not only the ways that your brand is environmentally and socially sustainable, but also how your business itself is supportable in the long run. Quick growth feels like success, but is the growth a level you can sustain? Is the growth in an area that will help you reach your goals or is it just a vanity metric that looks flashy from the outside? Be careful not to trade long-term success for short-term wins.

We are quick to identify and remove the fast fashion mindset from our wardrobes, but doing so from your business takes a step more. Just as I think our clothes should fit our lifestyle and our values, I think that is just as true for our fashion businesses. To build a long-lasting, successful, and fulfilling business you love requires just as much attention as designing quality clothing. Don’t let a fast fashion mindset run your fashion business or define your success.

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