Those of us familiar with the term ‘fast fashion’ tend to think of the large e-commerce platforms such as Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing, but the term was actually coined in the 1990’s by the New York Times. They were referring to the first Zara store, who’s mission was to “Take 15 days for a garment to go from a designer’s brain to being sold on the racks”.
Today the term is synonymous with devastating environmental impact, poor worker conditions and landfill waste. This lightning speed production of clothes is the pinnacle of today’s consumerism: an obsession with material possessions, image, and social status.
Most of us are guilty of owning too many garments and with fast fashion producing an excess of clothing at such low costs; it’s easy to fall into the trap.
In the UK, we buy more clothes than any other country in Europe and five times what we bought in the 1980’s. With UK households buying approximately £54 billion worth of clothing in 2020, creating 1.3 million tonnes of waste, we need to collectively find a way to reduce this endless, damaging, textile turn over.
Why is fast fashion bad?
Unethical Practices: The fast fashion industry is built on low wages paid to (typically) women in conditions often akin to modern slavery. Even manufacturers in the UK are paid as little as £2.50 a dress.
The fast fashion brands engage designers and producers and encourage them to undercut each other until the rate becomes untenable for one party and an unsustainable price is agreed.
Unsustainable Materials:Garments are often 100% polyester. Synthetic fibres from these textiles make up 35% of micro plastics in the ocean – micro plastics that are now starting to appear in human organs.
The garments create a huge amount of waste in the production process, for example it takes around 1,800 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans that are wrapped in plastic, often multiple times, each time with new packaging and hangers.
Sold Garments:With clothing being sold so cheaply and constantly marketed to consumers through the permanent e-commerce portal in their hand, many consumers are in a perpetual cycle of hypnotically browsing and purchasing clothes
£30 billion of garments purchased, are never even worn and the clothing that does make it out of the wardrobe is typically only worn 5-8 times before being discarded.
A staggering 10,000 items of clothing are sent to landfill every five minutes.
Unsold Garments: Despite unsustainable stock give-aways like the PLT scandal, thousands of items of clothing remain unsold and are incinerated, polluting our planet.
The problem with fast fashion is that its social and environmental costs are simply not considered or addressed. The environmental costs of materials and fabric are mostly offshored. From beginning to end, there is no accountability for chemical or water pollution, the questionable employment standards or the environmental impact.
What does slow fashion look like?
- Ensure your clothes are made of sustainable fabrics. No synthetics that create micro plastics and no cheap cotton, which uses unsustainable amounts of water and pesticides.
- Look for hemp, organic cotton, silk, linen, wool, plant ‘leathers’, Econyl and lyocell.
- Before you buy, ask yourself if you can wear a garment in more than 5 different ways.
- Commit to wearing pieces you do buy, at least 30 times.
- Delete shopping apps from your phone and unsubscribe from their emails and push notifications.
- Go clothes shopping in actual shops – feel the fabrics, make sure it fits you.
- Visit small independent shops and designers who make the garments themselves, there is a higher cost associated with this, but you have the knowledge that you’re wearing a rare item that fits like a glove and the person who made it was rewarded fairly for their time.
- Wash your clothes less often. Put jeans in the freezer and remove dirt when frozen.
- If dry cleaning is essential, seek out an eco-friendly cleaner, as conventional dry-cleaning harms the water, air and soil.
See are article on our 10 Ways To Make Fashion Sustainable