• Georgie Boyle

Fast Fashion

Fast fashion refers to cheap, trendy clothing that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed to meet consumer demand.

There are essentially 3 elements of the issue:

  1. Abusive treatment and lack of sufficient pay to garment workers.

  2. The environmental impacts of the fashion industry.

  3. High turnaround speed of trends from catwalk to high street, ripping off designers' work.

Black Friday 2020

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Friday 2020 was much larger than usual with companies having stock they did not get the opportunity to sell that was going to be wasted. This meant clothing was reduced by a significant amount, and a lot of it aswell. One brand that was exposed as a result of their Black Friday promotions was Pretty Little Thing. They had over 3000 different items on their website that were discounted at 99% off. This price point where most of the clothes were on sale for less than 50p, meant PLT were still making a profit. Being able to sell clothing this cheaply reveals the reality of how much fast fashion brands are paying for materials, for production and for garment workers labour.

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry, and the environmental damage is increasing as the industry grows. For this reason,

Key terms:

  • Sustainable Fashion - Sustainability requires that the design, development, production and use of fashion products meets today’s needs without preventing them from being met by future generations.

  • Slow Fashion - All things eco, ethical and green in one unified movement. The slow approach intervenes as a revolutionary process in the contemporary world because it encourages taking time to ensure quality production, to give value to the product, and contemplate the connection with the environment.

  • Ethical Fashion - For some, ‘ethical fashion’ focuses more on the social impact of the fashion industry and what is “morally right”. Ethical fashion goes beyond your local labour laws and covers a wide range of issues such as living wages, working conditions, animal welfare, and vegan fashion.

  • Fair Trade Fashion - Based on the simple idea that the products bought and sold everyday are connected to the livelihoods of others, fair trade is a way to make a conscious choice for a better world.

  • Traceability - Knowing its supply chains from start to finish, and being able to trace back each component of a product, from the raw material to the clothes tag and everything in between.

  • Greenwashing - The promotion of green-based environmental initiatives or images without the implementation of business practices that actually minimize environmental impact.

What can you do?

It's far too easy for me to write all of these facts and figures about the issue of fast fashion, but it can seem highly apocalyptic and make one feel helpless. It would be naive to think that one person's actions is going to change the world, but there are certainly some minor lifestyle changes one can adopt to do their part and contribute to the fight against the fast fashion industry.

1. Shop second-hand or rent

There are so many options out there to shop second hand; charity shops, online apps, etc... You might have something specific you're looking for, and I'm willing to bet someone out there is trying to sell that exact thing. This might take a bit more time, and be a little more difficult, but more often that not things will be cheaper than going to a high-street shop.

If you're looking for designer items, this is also a great alternative as they wear much better so second-hand designer will generally still be in great condition and at a fraction of the price. Renting of designer wear has also popped up over recent years, and is a great alternative if you have a one-off event coming up that you don't want to purchase a new outfit for as you know you'll wear it once and never again.

2. Think about where you're buying your clothes

It would be ambitious to say we could all revert to buying everything we could ever want/need second-hand for the rest of our lives, so for the times that isn't possible think about where you are buying your clothing from. It is difficult shopping on the high street to completely avoid any brand/company that has ever been accused of being un-ethical. However, I think it's safe to say shopping at places like Primark and Boohoo, if you can financially avoid them, are best!

Some great clothing brands/companies I have found that are far more environmentally and ethically friendly are: Olive Clothing, Free People, Pangaia and TOAST. Another rule of thumb is to go for something made in the UK. This will generally mean the company is either making the clothing themselves, or has control over every party involved in the creation and distribution of the clothing.

Another thing to mention here is that these more environmentally and ethically friendly brands tend to come at a higher price point. This obviously isn't possible for a lot of people (me included!) so in these circumstances thinking about some of the other points mentioned will still have a positive impact.

3. Ignore the deals

If the Pretty Little Thing Black Friday sale taught us anything, it's that what looks like a good financial deal is quite often leaving others in not such a good deal.

An excuse I hear people give for buying clothing they may not need time and again is "it was too good of a deal to pass up". If this is the reason you are buying something, I'm willing to bet that item of clothing will make it's way into your wardrobe, continue to be pushed to the back and never get worn. Thinking about it that way puts this consumer attitude into a different lens that maybe everyone should look through before purchasing.

4. Trends go out of are around forever

Picture this: you've just seen Kylie Jenner post a picture on Instagram wearing an orange and green polka dot jumpsuit so you search to the ends of the internet to find a similar orange and green polka dot jumpsuit in your budget. You buy it, wear it to that BBQ your friend is having and then never wear it again. You discover it one year later and think "this is so out of fashion I couldn't possibly wear this ever again" so you either donate it to charity or throw it in the bin. Sound familiar? We've all been there!

This consumer attitude is one that every high-street chain is fully aware of and uses social media to exploit. Obviously now and again it's fun to buy that floral skirt or that lilac blazer, but being realistic the items that are never going to go out of style and be timeless are that white t-shirt and jeans combo, or that little black dress.

Surveys have shown that the average woman has around 103 items of clothing in her wardrobe. Some are adopting a 7 item wardrobe concept, filling it with the most basic of items. I'm not suggesting you do that because if you're anything like me you've got WAY more than 7 items of clothing in your wardrobe! But maybe keeping that concept in mind when purchasing your clothing will effect your consumer behaviour. Investing a little more in a pair of jeans that are going to last for years, not just months and a t-shirt that is good quality and won't show your bra through is going to be money well spent.

5. Shop your wardrobe!

Getting bored of clothing and donating it to charity to make room for new is not a viable option. It is estimated that just 10% of clothing donated to charity end up being sold. The other 90% ends up in landfills or are sold in developing countries where they contribute to killing the local textile industry. What one would assume to be a righteous, ethical alternative turns out to be almost as harmful as putting the clothing straight in the bin.

Studies have show that women wear approximately 20-30% of their wardrobes. One of the easiest, and sometimes quickly glossed over tips is simply to wear the clothes already in your wardrobe. Brands are obviously not going to advertise this, as they need custom to keep afloat. I'm willing to bet you have more than enough clothes in your wardrobe to get you through the next couple of seasons. If you're feeling bored, spend an hour or two trying on some of your clothes and putting together pieces you would never dream of wearing together and get wacky with the combo's! I reckon some new favourites will be found...

I'm not saying adopting these tactics are going to save the environment from the fashion industry, but they will certainly help you, the average consumer, adopt an alternative, more thoughtful mentality around shopping. If everyone in the world changed one thing, big or small, about the way they shop then that is going to have a massive impact on the planet.

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