It’s time to get up to speed. Fast fashion is so last year.
We’re here to do more than give you the fast fashion statistics. We’re going to show you how your lifestyle has been infiltrated by a global fast fashion industry that depends on your everyday choices. It’s a toxic relationship, but we’ve got you. We can figure out how to break up with fast fashion together.
Fast fashion promises trendy clothes at a cheap cost. Gone are the days of made-to-measure tailors. We no longer hear about six month waits for a seasonal drop. The convenience of fast fashion isn’t dissimilar to fast food – it’s quick, it’s cheap – and it seems too good to be true.
We may be paying attractive prices for our fast fashion clothes, but it doesn’t mean they come without a cost. The fast fashion industry is too good to be true, because although it’s saving our pennies now, it isn’t sustainable.
Firstly, fast fashion depends on exploitative labour. Small prices for us means even smaller wages for the workers, who operate in inhumane conditions. In 2012, a garment factory in Dhaka caught fire and 112 workers were killed. That’s more than the number of people who died in the tragic 2017 fire in Grenfell – in the name of fast fashion.
And it’s not only an issue for underdeveloped countries. Workers were discovered to have been exploited throughout the pandemic in sweatshops after an investigation in Leicester. The Clean Clothes Campaign said that ‘these working conditions are no mere flaws of individual factories, but they are driven by an industry practice of pushing for the lowest price and shortest lead times in an eternal race to the bottom.’
Don’t take our word for it. Fast fashion disguises its impact with flowery words and marketing campaigns (check out my article about greenwashing here). So let’s look at the figures.
Fast fashion does what it says on the tin – this is about keeping up with the trends. Trends that change not just monthly, not just weekly, but daily, so we keep buying. British consumers spend £980,50 a year on new clothes and we aren’t talking heirloom investment pieces that will be given to the grandkids. The UK is the fourth largest textile-waster in Europe – we buy, we get bored and then we bin. In 2018, £12.5 billion worth of our clothes went to landfill..
Clothing is resource-intensive to produce. The fast fashion industry already uses 1.5 trillion tonnes of water each year and is the second biggest polluter of water supplies, thanks to all the chemicals involved. It is also responsible for 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions. And these figures are not about to start decreasing: the demand for raw materials is expected to triple by 2050.
When we think of unsustainable fast fashion brands, it’s easy to point at the Boohoos and Primarks of the fashion world. But the expensive major brands are also major contributors to the environmental horror show caused by the fast fashion industry.
Rather than rework or recycle the stock, the company feared that any adjustments or sales to reduce waste would devalue their luxury brand. Instead, Burberry literally just burnt it.
Burberry received so much bad press that it immediately pledged to become greener and stop burning stock. Companies realized that consumers don’t want to buy into fast fashion brands that are inconsiderate of environmental impact and began to change their strategy.
True fast fashion sustainability!
Or so they want us to think.
As consumer conscious choices evolve faster than legislation, fast fashion brands are claiming to be sustainable, natural, and organic left right and centre.
Harriet Vocking, the chief brand officer at sustainability consultancy Eco-Age, advises: “A brand that is openly transparent and communicative about its steady sustainability journey is always a better bet than one that uses sustainability slang with little to no evidence to back it up.”
And even then, facts and figures can be deceiving in regards to a brand’s sustainability. On their website, fast fashion brand H&M boasts that they collected 29,005 tonnes of textiles in 2019, which is the equivalent of about 145 million t-shirts.
That’s great – until we appreciate that clothes circulating the fast fashion industry are made from a variety of low-quality materials, making them extremely difficult to recycle.
So difficult that less than 1% of this material can actually be recycled into new clothing. Suddenly, 29,005 tonnes of textiles sounds like just a load more landfill.
As much as these fast fashion brands try to neutralize their environmental impact, ‘fast fashion sustainability’ is an impossible concept. If the ultimate goal of a brand is to grow profit, then it will continue to rely on constant consumption.
We can’t change what the fast fashion brands do, but we can change what we do.
Fast fashion is the love-hate relationship that we find ourselves going back to. If you’re not prepared for a clean-cut break up, there are ways of still looking good without falling for greenwashing and marketing gaslighting.
Slow fashion is about shifting from quantity to quality. It allows suppliers to plan orders, predict the numbers of workers needed and invest in the longer term. Rather than spending too little too often, we can buy good quality clothes when we need to.
There are clothing brands who already care more about the planet and its people than quick profits. Patagonia, Goose Studios and Koi Footwear are examples of fashion brands putting sustainability at the heart of their business model instead of using it as a trendy marketing technique. These are the brands of the future.
If these ethical prices seem unaffordable, another way to rid of fast-fashion toxicity is to ditch new clothes altogether. Check out our article on how to reduce your carbon footprint to see how rationing your fashion and buying second hand can minimise your impact on the environment and prevent textile waste.
fashion world, environmental impact, sustainable fabrics, clothing lines, fashion materials, fashion we buy, saving our world, the fashion world, carbon footprint, carbon footprint in fashion, the rainforest alliance, unsustainable production, fashion transparency, environmental fashion policies, fashion whistleblower, one tribe, planet over profit, eco-friendly fashion, sustainable high street fashion, small fashion businesses, environmentally conscious brands, fast fashion, dhaka, garment factory disaster, garment factory fire, clean clothes campaign, toxic clothing relationship, landfill, fashion landfill, fashion waste, textile waste, polluted water supplies, designer waste, Burberry, conscious consumer, Harriet vocking, slow fashion, break up with slow fashion, Patagonia, goose studios, koi footwear, reduce your carbon footprint, fast fashion sustainability, become greener, fast fashion brands, fast fashion industry, recycled into new clothing, low-quality materials, trendy clothes at a cheap cost, convenience of fast fashion.