Fast fashion has been in the press a lot over the past few years. Fast fashion describes clothing retailers that produce new clothing far more quickly and far cheaper than traditional retailers. Because the clothing is so cheap (and often less well-made as a result), it is usually only worn a handful of times before the consumer throws it away.
Fast fashion has become incredibly popular with all ages and genders. Brands like Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and Missguided are the kings of the fast fashion market. They introduce new lines to their websites almost daily and promise next-day delivery and extremely low prices.
So why is fast fashion such a big issue? Here are just a few reasons why fast fashion has such a negative impact on the world, and why you should ditch the trend for good.
1. Worker exploitation
Part of the way fast fashion brands keep their prices so low is by minimising production costs. Many UK brands use factories in Leicester to make their clothes to minimise delivery times. In 2020, Boohoo came under fire for allegations that workers in its Leicester factory earned just £3.50 an hour, which is less than half of the legal minimum wage. Around 10,000 workers are employed in 700 clothing production factories in Leicester. This workforce is predominantly made up of migrant, temporary workers who are underpaid and overworked.
Some brands use overseas factories to produce their clothing and take advantage of more lenient labour laws and lower minimum wages to keep costs down. One report from BWSS found that 80 per cent of people working in the garment industry are women, and only two per cent of them earn a living wage.
2. Environmental impact
The fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters. The industry is estimated to produce 10 per cent of global CO2 emissions, topped only by the oil industry. This is due to the large amount of clothing that goes to landfill, or sometimes is burned, as well as transportation from factories to shops.
In addition to its emissions, fast fashion also contributes to marine pollution. Synthetic fabrics contain microplastics, which are shed by clothing when they are washed or rained on while in landfills. These eventually make their way to the ocean, where marine animals consume them—some of those become seafood, which contributes to small amounts of plastic traceable in human diets.
3. In the long run – it’s worse for your wallet
Instead of chasing trends that change every season or more, invest in timeless pieces that you will want to keep wearing for years to come. You could even think about a capsule wardrobe. Look for clothing that works for a range of occasions, like a jacket that could work for an office outfit, a formal look, and dressing up your casual wear. It will both elevate your wardrobe and help you to shop more sustainably.
If you don't have the disposable income to invest in higher quality clothing, you can still shop both sustainably and cheaply. By shopping in vintage stores, charity shops, or on websites like eBay, you can find some great clothes at bargain prices without contributing to the fashion industry's environmental footprint.
4. Quality, not quantity
Sustainable clothing is usually made with more natural materials such as cotton, linens, or recycled fibres. These tend to last much longer than the poor-quality materials used in fast fashion. While sustainable clothing can come with a higher price tag, spending £100 on a coat that will last you for five years is better value than spending £25 on a new coat every year.
By investing in higher quality fabrics, your clothes will last much longer, and you will need to replace them less often. Millions of tonnes of clothing are thrown into landfills each year, so by lowering the turnover of your wardrobe you can avoid contributing to this waste.
5. Give your clothes a second life
Buying sustainably is all about getting the most out of the products we buy and use. Fashion is no different. Throwing old and unwanted clothes in the bin contributes to landfill waste and the associated pollution. If a piece of clothing breaks, try and fix it before you ditch it. Smaller wear and tear is often easy to fix at home, and the more you do it, the better you will get at it. If it's beyond your sewing skills, think about taking it to a tailor or seamstress. Paying £10 or £20 to fix clothing you like is cheaper than replacing your clothing every time it breaks.
If you simply don’t want a garment anymore, consider donating it to a charity shop, giving it to a friend or selling it online. By using charity shops or online second-hand shops, your unwanted items can be loved by someone else. Plus, the more clothing that becomes available through these avenues, the less people from lower incomes need to rely on cheap, fast fashion. It’s a win-win.
What are you waiting for?
Fast fashion is becoming a larger and larger part of the fashion industry because people choose to spend their money, despite the negative impact it has on the world. By choosing to spend your money elsewhere, you are contributing to a wider change in the way we consume. So start doing your part today, and put some of these fast fashion tips into practice.