You're Not The Only One Who Can't Find Any Clothes To Buy Right Now

The rails are full, but we want none of it. Here's why.
Thomas Barwick via Getty Images

Fast fashion brands aren’t just copying designers anymore, they’re also copying each other. And it means if you’re not loving the latest look, that’s too bad – you’ll see it in every high street shop anyway.

Sure, shopping independently from smaller, unique brands can help – but it’s not always easy.

For the past year or so I’ve been on a journey of creating a capsule wardrobe. After years of having a closet filled with trendy pieces that constantly went out of style or clothes that would rip after two washes, I decided to be more intentional with where and how I shop.

Though I understand how harmful it can be on the environment to purchase clothes from fast fashion brands, I haven’t complety ditched the world of fast fashion yet. Partly because as it currently stands, I can’t afford to be fully sustainable, and secondly because I believe the solution is buying less clothes rather than overbuying several unnecessary items.

As my closet began to change, I wanted to start buying pieces that would help me evolve my style. But, as I started searching for new pieces I felt helpless.

Years ago you’d have to stop me from buying clothes, but now I’m struggling to find anything worth buying. Additionally, the pieces I do want to buy are out of my budget.

Annayah James, who is a 26-year old receptionist from London, shares my frustration.

She mainly shops at charity shops, or places like Vinted and Depop, but occasionally she’ll purchase some pieces at high street retailers like Weekday, Asos and & Other Stores.

James keeps finding very similar outfits on different websites. “I found the same exact same style of cargo pants in various shops, it feels like they’re encouraging people to dress the same and nothing seems to represent me,” James says.

“When I visit fast fashion websites, I’ll scroll for a bit and quickly log off because everything just feels the same. Even the charity shops aren’t doing it for me anymore, because they’ve become oversaturated, so it does make it harder to find the things you like.”

James thinks the current fashion landscape is about following trends, not about style or being unique. “It’s hard to keep up with,” she says. “People are feeling unsatisfied, which encourages them to shop more. These brands are preying on the fact that people can’t stay on trend, so they’re constantly making new trends, instead of promoting individuality and the fact that people should look like themselves.”

Stephanie Boyle, a 30-year-old copywriter based in Glasgow, shares similar sentiments. “High street stores (and online brands) are racing to be the first to make these clothes available to the public,” Boyle says.

“Collections feel more reactive than carefully curated, with a certain style or aesthetic in mind. As a result, the identities of these brands have become diluted.”

Boyle believes a lot of brands have fallen into the trap of viewing entire generations as one homogenised group or aesthetic. “They’re trying to appeal to the masses by jumping on these micro trends, instead of committing to a certain mood or aesthetic that will really resonate with a smaller group of people,” Boyle says.

With huge fashion empires like Arcadia (previously home to Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge) disappearing from the high street, Boyle believes brands are scared and “need volume”.

“It’s a survival strategy at this point,” she says.

When brands have a confused fashion identity, it can make it even tricker for customers to discover theirs.

Karen Chalamilla, who is a 26-year old writer from Kenya, feels like it’s hard to shop because she doesn’t really know what she’s looking for. “There are people I know who can look at pieces and know how to style an outfit but I struggle to do that,” Chalamilla says.

“I think a huge part of that is because those people know themselves and know how to use clothes to accentuate their personality, if you’re that kind of person style just comes naturally to you.

“I don’t think enough of us know how to take individual pieces and make them into our own, there isn’t enough inspiration encouraging us to that.”

Social media has a huge influence on the fashion industry today, but Chalamilla doesn’t think influencer culture is helpful to consumers.

“Everyone on social media seems to replicate the same style, so it can be difficult to know what you’re looking for when you’re shopping,” she says.

Steve Bryant, founder of the rental platform The Devout, agrees with Chalamilla and believes people should change they way we consume fashion.

“People need a new way to shop for their outfits that inspire them to get excited about the way they look,” he says.

Meanwhile Stylist Miranda Holder thinks consumers now are accustomed to a life fuelled by instant gratification. “They’re searching for their next dopamine hit of a fast-fashion bargain, only to be left feeling dissatisfied and looking for their next sartorial conquest.”

“Many of our established brick and mortar favourites have been snapped up by these mass production behemoths, following the pandemic,” Holder adds.

“Debenhams was bought by Boohoo and ASOS acquired Topshop, not to mention the many independent boutiques that can no longer fend for themselves.”

In Holder’s eyes, this is part of the reason why we’ve lost the personal touch of brands and also a distinct lack of a feel-good factor. “The result is a relatively hollow shopping experience which contributes to an already increasingly isolated society,” she says.

If we can’t rely on the current landscape of fashion, it’s up to us to change how we shop. Holder believes consumers should take the time out to invest in their personal style rather than buying trendy pieces.

When you are in the hamster wheel of only buying trend-led items, it’s virtually impossible to build a cohesive wardrobe that delivers the right outfits for your lifestyle, because there are no great basics, no hero pieces, no investment purchases that provide the building locks of great looks,” she explains.

She wants fashion lovers to discover what flatters their body shape, which colours suit them best, what outfits make them feel their best self. “Then you can review the shiny current trend-led pieces and understand whether they are a good fit for you or not; whether they deserve a place in your home, in your wardrobe.”

Bryant encourages consumers to rent or buy second-hand clothes as both are a way to combine new styles whilst not giving in to over-production of new clothes.

“Other forms, like wardrobe swapping, is a great way to inspire us to experiment with our clothes without having to invest as much – all of these are on the rise while fast fashion slows down.”