What’s Wrong With Fast Fashion + What You Can Do To Help

Do you ever wish there was an easier way to be a conscious consumer? We live in an era of fast fashion, where clothes are designed to be bought and discarded seasonally. While I’m concerned about the impact that has on our environment and people, I don’t have the bandwidth to become an expert in sustainable fashion. That’s why I reached out to my friend, clothing designer Alice Grau, for advice and tips on what we can do to be more conscious about our clothing habits. Take it away, Alice.

12 Easy Things You Can Do Now to End Fast Fashion

I remember sitting in my “Psychology of Dress” class way back in 2001 when my professor said, “One day we will have clothes we only wear once and then throw away.” Well, in case you missed the memo—one day is here.

Unfortunately, this is not the exciting global development my professor imagined it would be. Thanks to an array of media covering the topic over the last couple of years, it is quickly becoming common knowledge that “fast fashion” has some dire consequences, both for the environment and for the people making the products.

According to a 2013 study by the Danish Fashion Institute, fast fashion is second only to big oil when it comes to negative impact on the environment. And, we need look no further than the death toll of the Rana Plaza collapse to understand the value the fast fashion industry places on human life.

Aerial view of the Dhaka Savar building following the disaster. Photo by rijans. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Aerial view of the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed more than 1,100 garment workers in Bangladesh and wounded 2,200 more. Photo by rijans. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Maybe seeing devastation of that magnitude shook you and caused you to start thinking a bit more about your clothing purchases. Or, maybe you have read one of the many articles or books that have come out in recent years on the topic. Or, maybe you just watched The True Cost on Netflix and your head is swimming with a million questions.

As for me, I am just an idealistic fashion designer. I have worked in “slow fashion” for seven years now. The organization I work with, Global Mamas, puts out 1.5 product lines per year. The producers we partner with batik cloth by hand, painstakingly cut out each pattern piece, and some sew with hand-powered machines.

Global Mamas producer Mary Koomson batiking by hand

Global Mamas producer Mary Koomson batiking cloth by hand

I don’t have all the answers for how to change this massive industry, but I do know that consumer buying habits have a way of swaying the powerful.

Today I am going to share some examples of things you can do to make changes to your buying habits and become a more thoughtful consumer. Let’s take it back to the basics. Do you remember the 3R’s? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Consider following these practices, in that order.


  • Simply buy less clothing.
  • Buy higher quality goods that will last longer.
  • Invest in timeless, core wardrobe pieces that you can build around.
  • Take the time to research what you are buying. Get to know the ethics of the business you are supporting. I highly recommend seeking out businesses that practice the principles of fair trade.
  • Wash your garments less frequently and steer clear of garments that require dry cleaning. Line dry your clothes if you can.


  • Don’t get rid of something just because it is out of fashion. It will probably come back into style in your lifetime, or pack it away for your kids. They might be like me and LOVE your vintage collection.
  • Secondhand stores are your friend! Pay them a visit frequently and enjoy the bounty buried in the racks. You can take in one load and pick up another. If you have really good stuff you can even sell it on consignment through some stores.
  • Host a clothing swap with your friends, visit your local mom-to-mom sale, or stop by your neighbor’s yard sale.
  • Tattered T-shirts can be used for a kitschy memorabilia quilt and cleaning rags!
  • Buddy up with your neighborhood tailor, or embrace the grunge look and shorten your dress, skirt, pants, blouse to mix up an old item.
Wedding Dress Redo

Alice’s wedding dress was repurposed from the dress both her grandmother and mother wore.


  • If your clothes are in good condition and you are just ready to move on, find a local charity to donate them to (research it, first).
  • Items that aren’t fit to be resold can literally be recycled! Don’t just throw them away. Some thrift and even large retail stores will collect unwearable clothing and sell items to textile recycling companies where clothes are turned into industrial cleaning cloths or back into fibers to make new fabric.

How do you get started? Pick just one of these suggestions and integrate it into your lifestyle.

Then pick another, and another, and slowly, without even knowing it, you will be making a positive impact on people you have never met, improving our environment, and maybe even saving a buck.

You do vote with your dollar. And, when we collectively start spending less on fast fashion and start investing in a smaller number of high-quality, fair trade, organic goods, the industry will eventually have to respond.

Global Mamas producer Janet Aba Sagoe sewing with her hand-powered machine

Global Mamas producer Janet Aba Sagoe sewing with her hand-powered machine

As we support artisanal, fair trade brands, they can grow and bring one more employee away from a sweatshop. As we stand in the gap for those who have been silenced, governments will be persuaded to take a stand for their people.

We have the ability to make a change, so I hope you will join me in a new generation of Industrial Revolution!

Do you have any questions for Alice? If so, please leave them in the comments and we’ll see if she’ll come back and answer them for us. Thanks, Kate

Clothing designer Alice GrauAlice Grau is the creative director of Global Mamas, a fair trade brand committed to partnering with Ghanaian artisans to help them achieve prosperity in their lives and communities. Alice has been passionate about social justice, sustainability, and fashion since she was a young girl, and finally found a way to merge these passions by working with Global Mamas. She also loves spending time with her husband and two children, traveling, volunteering at her church, and trying to cook complicated international dishes with veggies from her local CSA.

You can connect with Global Mamas via their Facebook Page or Twitter

8 Ethical Fashion Brands You Can Afford + Feel Good About Buying » KateWatson.net - […] week, fashion designer Alice Grau shared 12 simple strategies to combat this era of fast fashion by reducing, reusing, and recycling your clothing. This week, I asked her to share some of her […]

Is Your Job Making You Sick?

A couple of my friends are facing difficulties at work. The first one gets a migraine whenever she works with a particular client. The second had to start seeing a therapist because she found her work environment unreasonably stressful. My response to both, when they told me about these situations? “Quit!”

I know a little something about hostile work environments. In my 20s, I was hired as a team leader for a Big 4 accounting firm. My boss, a managing partner, decided he wasn’t going to tell the team that I was the new lead; instead, he asserted that “they’ll figure it out over time.”

He couldn’t have been more wrong. And, worse, his attitude made the situation difficult for all of us. One team member started exhibiting paranoia. Whenever we chatted, she told me that she was being watched. Scary, right? A second developed panic attacks. I manifested high blood pressure (just at work), stomach pain, and anxiety. The bottom line: Having significant work stress made all of us sick.

I ended up transferring to another group, as did the woman having panic attacks. The first simply disappeared from work one day and may have been hospitalized for treatment. That wouldn’t have been unusual because another member of that same team entered psychiatric care a year or so later. Yeah, it was that much of a snake pit.

As a result of these experiences, I learned an important lesson: Work situations that make you sick are NEVER worth it.

You can make plenty of excuses for staying in a bad situation, just as my friends did when I first suggested they quit:

  • You need the money.
  • It might be difficult, if not impossible, to get another job.
  • You don’t want to rock the boat.
  • It will get better. Probably. Well, maybe.
  • You’re overreacting. It’s not really that bad.
  • You need to get to the next milestone or promotion and everything will be a-ok.

None of these excuses matter, though, if you don’t have your health. As Michelle Ward shared in her recent post about begrudging life lessons, “Your health is preeeeeeetty much the most important thing.”

Taking care of yourself is one of your primary responsibilities in life. If you don’t ensure your needs are being met, no one else will. If you don’t prioritize your health and sanity, no one else will do that for you, either. Quitting a job that makes you sick is simple self care.

And if that logic doesn’t sway you, ask yourself if the reasons you have for staying at your current job are valid or if they’re excuses:

  • Do you really have money concerns? Could you overcome them with a new job or temporary assignment?
  • Is it true you’d have difficulty finding a new job? No one likes job hunting, but isn’t your overall health and happiness worth the short-term pain of writing a new resume and interviewing?
  • Will the current situation improve? How likely is that to happen, and in what timeframe?
  • Are you overreacting? What do you think is contributing to your overreaction?

Is your job making you sick?

If your job is making you sick and your excuses don’t withstand critical analysis, here’s your plan:

  • Get a new job, sweetie. If you can’t do that…
  • Contact a temp agency and get some temporary work. If you’re not comfortable doing that…
  • Take a leave of absence. If you don’t think that will fly…
  • Transfer to another location or department. If you don’t want to do that…
  • Create greater separation between your work and personal lives so you have more downtime and decrease your stress. While you’re at it, also…
  • Set boundaries about what you will and won’t accept. And…
  • Refuse to allow anyone to speak to you in an inappropriate manner. Talk to HR if you have concerns.

Did I leave anything out? If you’ve done something else to solve the problem of a job making you sick, please share your experience in the comments.

Kate Watson

Why I Write About Personal Development


Have you ever heard the phrase, “you teach best what you most need to learn”? I’ve been thinking about this concept recently and I came to a realization about why it’s true.

In 2010, while living in Hawaii, I taught photography to a local woman. Her original goal, she told me, was to learn to shoot in-the-moment photographs like I do but, over time, she preferred to spend our lessons exploring Lightroom rather than honing her shooting skills. That worked well for both of us because it turned out that I struggled to teach her how to capture moments.

You see, photographing moments comes naturally to me. It’s practically inherent, the skillset I use listening, watching, and anticipating a peak moment. I do it in my everyday life, whether or not I have a camera in hand, because I prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch action rather than dropping into the middle of it.

Because my shooting habits are so ingrained, I discovered that I was bad at teaching them. I haven’t gone through the in-depth thought processes and trial and error required to break them down into easy components and explain them effectively. Teaching Lightroom, however, came easily because it was something I had to learn first.

It is for that same reason I feel equipped to write about and teach personal development, from how to change your viewpoints to how to love yourself more. Those were hard-won lessons for me.

I didn’t pop out of the womb confident, open-minded, and zenful. Or maybe I did and I lost those facets of myself along the way. Regardless, these personal-growth learnings were ones I’ve had to work at and cultivate over time. I still work at them.

There’s something so powerful in going through the process of learning something, isn’t there? When you’ve always known it, how can you teach it? It’s just there. You know it unequivocally. Teaching it then becomes an exercise in spouting platitudes, at least from my experience.

“How do you photograph a moment?,” you might ask.

“Well,” I’d reply,”you watch people. You listen to them. You track their actions. You click the shutter at the peak of the action.”

It seems so easy when put that way, doesn’t it? And yet so many people struggle to do it. Just like we struggle with believing in ourselves and putting in the work to bring about what we most desire in life.

And so I write about personal development—because I’ve put in the work and learned these lessons for myself. Now I can share them with you. I’m not an expert or a “professional”; I’m a fellow journeyer.

Kate Watson

P.S. If you enjoyed this post or others on my site, I would love to hear from you. Please take a moment to fill out my Reader Survey. You might even win a prize! The drawing will be this Friday, October 9th.

Help Me Serve You! Reader Survey + Giveaway

Hello, friend. Now that my course, A Call to Beauty, is live, I’m looking ahead to what’s next for KateWatson.net and I’d love your input.


I’ve been blogging about interesting people and personal development for more than a year now and it’s time to check in with you, my readers, to see how I’m doing. I have a lot of ideas and plans for the future, but first I want to make sure I’m giving you what you want most.

To that end, I created a reader survey to learn what topics interest you and what you’d like me to create next. It’s a short and sweet 10 questions so it shouldn’t take you more than five minutes or so to complete.

As an added perk for completing the survey, I am also hosting a giveaway. There are two prize options for you to choose between:

  • A free seat in my course, A Call to Beauty – or –
  • A $25 Amazon.com gift card

At the end of the survey, simply provide your email address to enter the giveaway. This is completely optional and your email address will only be used to contact you should you win the prize.

I’ll draw the winner from entries received by Friday, October 9th and alert him or her no later than Monday, October 12th.

Please visit the reader survey here.

Thank you so much for your assistance in making this blog the best experience possible, for both of us. I deeply appreciate you being here and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Kate Watson

Update October 12, 2015: And the winner is Mary P! Thank you, Mary; your prize is on its way.

Thanks to everyone who responded to the reader survey. If you haven’t and would still like to, I would love your feedback right here.

15 Places to Seek Beauty

15 Places to Seek Beauty

A Call to Beauty launched yesterday and we’re already having fun posting our findings on Instagram. It’s not too late to join the course, if you’d like to. In the meantime, today I’m sharing 15 places you can seek beauty in this world, straight from my own Instagram feed:

  1. Nature’s flora

  2. Nature’s fauna

    Puppy sitting, Alton Golden Brown. #happypuppy #chewtoy

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  3. Art

    Is this baby finally finished?! #paintingthatneverends #koi #watercolor #artclass #overit #nofilter

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  4. Architecture

    Wow, this place is beautiful! #tbt #gettyvilla #museums #california

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  5. Manmade objects

    Sunshine and shadows. #followthelight #latergram

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  6. Light

    Sunlight and shadows at our favorite breakfast spot. #breakfastdate #lookforthelight #grateful #beautifulday

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  7. Places you might overlook

    Love when it rains and the critters come out. #NorCal #siliconvalley #nature #snail #latergram

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  8. Fuel

    Hella good! Duck confit pasta #portland #foodporn

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  9. Creative potential & accomplishment

    Pulled out my koi pocket #watercolor set for the first time last night. #creativityontheroad

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  10. Yourself

  11. Your fellow humans

    Beautiful day + time with a friend. #simplepleasures #norcal #bayarea #beautifulday

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  12. Connection

    Hanging in the #hammock for #4thofjuly. #californialove #dayoff

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  13. Peaceful moments

  14. New experiences

    So this happened. #whatididonmysummervacation #standuppaddle – 16 on my #40before40 list. #SUP #livetothefullest

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

  15. Everywhere

    Admiring the #beauty that surrounds us, from my #patio. #pavers #pollenandleaves #acalltobeauty

    A photo posted by Kate Watson (@kate.r.watson) on

If you’d like more tips for discovering beauty in this world, check out my free guide, Beauty Surrounds Us: 6 Ways to Discover It.

If you’d like to welcome more beauty into your life, we’d love to have you join us for A Call to Beauty, a 12-week course exploring many ways to discover beauty and incorporate more peace, presence, and gratitude into your life.

Kate Watson