The Downsides of Fast Fashion
The average consumer throws away roughly 70 pounds, or 31.75 kilograms of clothing every year. While most people blame the consumers, and rightly so, the fashion industry is just as implicit in the massive amount of pollution. The main cause of this is, of course, fast fashion, but what is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is a new term typically used to describe inexpensive, trending clothes whose design ideas have been taken from the latest trends on the catwalk and churned out at breakneck speed.
The massive amount of waste from discarded clothing is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the negative effects of fast fashion, which also, in part, includes:
- Environmental damage caused by toxic chemicals and dangerous dyes in the countries where the manufacturing is done.
- Synthetic microfibres that seep into the water after washing the garments, both in the countries where they are manufactured as well as where they are worn.
According to Greenpeace “The industry’s textile production has a bigger carbon footprint than all international flights and shipping combined.” As an added negative effect, many garments that aren’t sold, are incinerated by large fashion brands, creating yet more pollution.
A further downside to fast fashion, one that is sometimes overlooked, is modern-day slavery. People in poorer countries are paid less than a living wage if at all, to manufacture as many products as quickly as possible and often work in deplorable conditions while doing so.
The problems caused by fast fashion aren’t endemic to poorer countries either as Independent reports; a well-known clothing brand has recently come under investigation in the United Kingdom for modern slavery practices after workers making products linked to the company were found to have been paid as little as £3.50 an hour, well below the living wage.
If you’d like to read a very in-depth, informative article on fast fashion, give this post by thegoodtrade or rareandfaire a read as they both delve deeper into the negative effects of fast fashion, as well as where it all began.
How You Can Help the Change
What little “benefit” of being trendy that fast fashion gives, it takes so much more from both the environment and the people that are exploited to create this mass of colourful pollution.
But what can we as consumers do to fight fast fashion? Here are 4 quick tips!
- Ask your favourite brand on social media #WhoMadeMyClothes. The ethical brands would love being asked this, and if enough people start asking, it may be what pushes the more famous brands into manufacturing ethically.
- Take the 30-wear pledge. Before you buy an item of clothing, ask yourself; “Will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?”, if the answer is no, then save your money for something worthwhile that you will, but if the answer is yes, wear it with pride!
- Shop ethically online or locally. There are many brands, both online and in brick & mortar shops who are focussed on ethically and sustainably made products, it might take a while finding them, but the journey to a sustainable wardrobe is just as important because of the people you meet and things you learn along the way!
- Buy less but better quality. The saying “you pay for quality” is fitting in almost any discussion about the cost of products. Rather than buy a three-pack of shirts (or socks) that will be worn out and thrown away after a few months, spend a little extra, buy one shirt or one pair of socks that will last years – and be worn more than 30 times!
Buy Ethical - Buy Local
While it’s easy to say fast fashion is bad, we know switching to ethical and environmentally friendly brands can be difficult, especially if you’re just starting. Here’s a small list of good quality clothing brands that are ethical and as an added bonus, made in the UK.
If you haven’t heard of Emma Willis for some reason, that’s ok, we’ll fill you in. Not only has she personally founded an incredible charity, but each shirt is impeccably made and if you want quality, there are few – if any – that are better. In addition, the Emma Willis brand, made in Gloucester, supports the local community immensely. The perfect choice for shirts, and a few other stylish additions.
Now we may be a little biased with this next one, but if you’re after a pair of good quality cotton socks, you can’t go wrong with Peper Harow. Produced in a state-of-the-art factory in West Sussex, our socks last well over 30 wears and look just as stylish as the day they’re bought every time!
Whether you live in jeans or just wear them casually, there’s no doubt that they’re one of the worst culprits of fashion pollution. Blackhorse Lane Ateliers challenges this line of production. With decades of experience in clothing manufacturing, and using selvedge and organic denim, Blackhorse Lane creates extraordinary jeans with a focus on sustainability, community and quality.
While this is a very small selection of brands, there are many out there that fit every lifestyle choice they just take a bit of searching and researching to find. There are great tools to help, such as websites like this that have ethical brand directories, so not only can you buy ethically, you can also buy locally.
Whilst battling fast fashion and the pollution and human rights violations behind it will be a long struggle, we can all help – even if it’s a little – by buying ethically made clothes. The quickest way to tell if something is ethically made is to ask yourself, would you be happy being paid £6 to make a pair of jeans?