In a previous article, I wrote about ultra-fast fashion, specifically on how France is trying to limit its impact on the environment with new regulations. We’ve seen how unsustainable fast fashion can be, with Americans tossing out a whopping 34 billion pounds of used clothes each year—that’s over 100 pounds per person!

What can be done about Shein? Let’s be realistic, Shein is the target of France’s proposed regulations. Bans or taxes sound good on paper, but they don’t completely eliminate the problem and tend to frustrate customers. Making local brands cheaper so they can compete with Shein (through new processes, innovation, or worse, lower taxes or subsidies) may help local economies, but this wouldn’t do much in terms of sustainability. Greenwashing and shaming customers isn’t ideal either, and won’t win any fans.

Are we stuck in a never-ending cycle of buying and trashing clothes, until we drown in used t-shirts? Thousands of new designs are released every day, and Shein sales are supercharged by influencers and social media. However, I believe we shouldn’t throw in the towel just yet. Ecommerce has come a long way in the last 20 years, and there are some impressive innovations that could help us shop smarter and more sustainably. So let’s see what our options are, and how some successful entrepreneurs are already addressing the fast-fashion problem by offering solid alternatives.

Beyond Fast Fashion: Could Ecommerce Make Slow-Fashion an Achievable Alternative?

An interesting term emerged recently to describe the opposite of the unsustainable, mass-produced fast fashion. Slow fashion is a movement and approach to clothing design, production, and consumption that prioritizes sustainability, ethics, and longevity. Unlike fast fashion, which has quick production cycles, low costs, and fast consumption, slow fashion is all about reasonable consumption, quality over quantity, and fair treatment of workers and the environment. When a company like Shein releases thousands of new designs each day, slow fashion encourages consumers to purchase timeless pieces that are made with care, respect for craftsmanship, and kindness to the planet. When I first heard about slow fashion and sustainable clothing years ago, all I could picture was pretentious designers selling $90 plain white t-shirts that don’t fit well to trust-fund hipster kids. These companies definitely exist, and I can see why they give slow fashion a bad rap. But slow fashion is much more than that.

Take, for example, the world of bespoke tailoring on Savile Row in London. Skilled craftspeople with decades of experience create custom suits with an eye for detail and a respect for materials. Artisans know exactly where the materials used come from and how these are made. It’s a fascinating world, but let’s not get sidetracked—I want to focus on what I know best: ecommerce.

A problem with small companies manufacturing high-quality pieces is that they tend to focus on what they do best, making great clothes. Marketing isn’t their main focus, and many of them became known thanks to word-of-mouth. You knew this small local store in your town that made great stylish items, and you would tell friends and family. Fortunately, social media isn’t only great for showing off “Shein hauls”; people can also share their opinions on small designers and brands they love. Living in Texas, I would have never found out about the brand Scavini if it wasn’t for the internet, and I am now excited to go visit their store the next time I am in Paris.

Beyond just marketing, ecommerce and modern tech have done wonders in making it less risky to buy high-quality items online. What do I mean by “risk”? Well, when you splurge on a $5 shirt, it’s no big deal if it doesn’t fit or isn’t quite what you expected. But when we’re talking $300 shoes, many people would rather buy them at the store than risk having to deal with returns. Fortunately, logistics and reverse logistics have made huge progress over the years. It is now easier than ever to return unwanted items. And yes, companies are cutting down on free returns due to the high costs they are facing. But it is still very important for customers, and some brands are finding reasonable compromises. Some brands, like Spier and Mackay, even offer a one-time free return per customer. I bought some trousers from them that were one size too small and was able to return them to buy a larger size. I now know what size I should order from them and probably won’t need to return future purchases.

Ecommerce has also made amazing progress in visuals and size charts. I remember twenty years ago that product listings only had one or two low-resolution, grainy photos. It is now common to see more than five high-definition pictures and one or two videos. Some sites even let customers post reviews and photos, which I find extremely helpful. Seeing the item on a great-looking model in perfect lighting is nice, but I really like seeing what an item looks like on the average Joe posing in his living room.

Size chart designers are stepping up their game, and charts are getting more and more accurate. For example, I recently ordered shoes from for the first time. I had no idea which size was right for me, but they have a great tool that recommends a size based on what shoes you already own. You wear Allen Edmonds Kenwood loafers in a size 10 and your Sperry Topsider shoes are a size 10.5? You need a size 9.5 from Meermin. That was very convenient and a lot easier than complicated charts in inches or centimeters. Finally, augmented reality is helping customers virtually try on clothes before buying. It isn’t widely used yet, but maybe it will become a standard in the near future. Great visuals, advanced chart sizes, and augmented reality are time-consuming to design but work well with slow fashion: brands only have a limited assortment compared with fast-fashion brands with thousands of different items. This makes it a lot easier to manage and provide the highest quality of service to the customers.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room, pricing. Yes, price is important. Sustainability and ethics aside, why would anyone buy a $1000 suit when Shein sells some for $50? In my opinion, a metric as important as item price is often overlooked: the cost per wear. If you buy the $1000 suit but wear it 250 times (or $4 per wear), is it really more expensive than a $50 suit you wear 10 times ($5 per wear)?

When looking at Pini Parma jackets (on the right in the image below), yes, they are relatively expensive compared to typical fast-fashion brands. But in addition to the higher quality of their materials, I find that their style is much more timeless. If I bought a Pini Parma jacket, I wouldn’t fear it would go out of style next year and could probably keep it for the rest of the decade. For people following fashion trends, items can become very quickly outdated. The metallic trend was very popular when Taylor Swift and Beyoncé went on tour last year but is slowly dying down. Maybe the trend will eventually come back, but I can’t see people wearing these items in the next few years. The point is, in the long run, timeless items are much more sustainable, ethically and financially for customers.

Now, you might point out that not everyone has $500 in their bank account to buy a jacket no matter how low the cost per wear may be. And I agree; that is a good amount of money not everyone has the luxury to spend on clothing. But don’t worry if you are on a small budget; Shein isn’t your only option.

One Man’s Trash, Another Man’s Treasure: The Online Market for Second-Hand Items is Booming.

As a kid and a teenager, my dad took me on Sundays to hundreds of flea markets, garage sales and thrift stores, where I could find treasures for only a few euros. As an adult, I still love going to these places. I may not chase video games and trading cards anymore, but I am able to find incredible pieces of clothing at unbeatable prices.

Second-hand items are a great way for people to buy high-quality items at very reasonable prices. Even after being worn by someone else, many items can still be kept in great condition for years. Not to mention how much better they look than their fast-fashion counterparts. I saw a Brioni suit that looked very well-maintained for less than $50. Sadly, it wasn’t my size. But put the used Brioni suit next to a brand new $50 Shein suit, and you’d be crazy not to pick the Brioni suit.

Now, you can argue that these finds are the result of pure luck and that not everyone has time to go to thrift stores every other day. That is true. Luckily, the internet brought a lot of alternatives over brick-and-mortar stores.

Many years ago, eBay revolutionized the way people bought and sold used items over the internet. These days, billions of items are sold every year, and there are amazing deals available. While not perfect, the seller rating system helps buyers make informed decisions and buy from reputable sellers. High-quality images make it easier for buyers to see imperfections, damages, or stains on clothes. I don’t remember the last time I had a bad experience buying something from eBay.

eBay is far from being the only player in the game. Some websites are now specialized in second-hand clothing. Founded in 2008, the popular European platform Vinted is an online marketplace and community platform where users can buy, sell, and swap second-hand clothing, accessories, and shoes. It saw its GMV grow from $2.4B in 2020 to $9.3B in 2023. Some companies go even further, such as focusing on higher-end clothes. Sure, you won’t find the insane deals you can get at thrift stores, but there are great bargains on these platforms, and it is a lot easier to find than digging through bins of used clothes.


The fast-fashion industry’s impact on the environment and society cannot be ignored. While ultra-fast fashion brands like Shein are more popular than ever, thanks to their low-cost, high-volume model, they contribute significantly to textile waste and ethical concerns.

Taxing these low-cost items, banning them, or greenwashing are often cited as solutions to make the fashion industry more sustainable. However, in my opinion, making slow fashion more attractive is a better and more sustainable model. I believe some brands are taking advantage of environmentally conscious customers and overcharging them. But great alternatives exist.

Buying timeless pieces over items that will be out of style within months. Focusing on quality over quantity while taking good care of clothes. Even second-hand items are a great solution for those on smaller budgets. Social media helped Shein grow to its massive size; I can’t see why it couldn’t help more sustainable practices become more popular. Lastly, a special thanks to my friend Tiffany Vo for her valuable insights into the fashion world that greatly contributed to this article.