What is Fast Fashion?
A blog piece for Lengro Magazine, 08/09/2020
Buying new clothes used to be a luxury saved for a special event, when the weather changed, or if you outgrew your old ones. However, in the 21st century, clothes started to become a lot cheaper, trends were constantly changing, and fashion and shopping became a popular hobby. These factors created fast fashion and the multi-million dollar companies that dominate our high streets.
Recently I’ve seen a lot of things online that talk about fast fashion and how it is one of the largest contributors to climate change. But what exactly is it?
Fast fashion is most easily defined as cheap, trendy clothing stolen straight from the catwalk or your favourite celeb’s new clothing line, produced quickly in mass and shipped out to our favourite shops. The idea was to get the trendiest styles on the market as soon as possible before they grew out of fashion. They then get worn a few times, for a few years even, then thrown away as the trend dies out. This creates a constant cycle of consumer culture, creating the idea that in order to stay relevant, you have to buy the newest style, whilst throwing out perfectly good items bought before. The demand for the newest trends then justifies the toxic system of overproduction, making fast fashion one of the largest polluters in the world.
These cheap, throw-away clothes are amazing for those who want to dress up on a budget, however, its impacts on the planet are massive. Because of the pressure to get things out there as quickly as possible while spending the least amount of money, corners are going to be cut. This includes toxic textile dyes, which pollute clean water, and a reliance polyester, which is not only made from fossil fuels but also sheds microfibres, which add to the ever-increasing level of plastics in our oceans. Even natural fabrics like cotton require an insane amount of water and pesticides in developing countries, resulting in an increased risk of drought.
Not only is it a major polluter, but it also relies on the exploitation of workers, as companies base their factories in countries where workers are rewarded with extremely low wages and lack of rights and safety measures.
My good friend Megan made a New Year’s Resolution at the start of 2020 to not buy any new clothes from fast-fashion retailers. She’s shared some tips with me on how she broke up with fast fashion, and how she still managed to keep up appearances:
-Research each brand’s sustainability policy online. If they have one, it will tell you a lot about where they get the materials, how it is produced, and who it is made by. If a ‘sustainability’ section is not immediately recognisable on their website, it’s likely that they don’t have one.
-Kilo Sales. These second-hand hauls pop up in each city every couple of months and are great value for money. They give you a large bag and you can fill it with as much or as little as you want which gets weighed at the end. Paying about £15 per kilo, you can walk away with a lot of stuff for not a lot of money if you set your mind to it!
-Learn to sew. Although the sewing stereotype is reserved for people like your Gran, it is a relatively easy skill to learn. With countless tutorials on YouTube, why wouldn’t you? By learning to sew, you can repurpose old clothes, tailor them, or cut them up and completely start new. If you get your hands on some big clothes (available in excess at kilo sales), then you can make things out of the leftover fabric like masks.
-Delete clothing apps. You know that folder on your phone with about 10 different online clothes apps? Bin them! Delete your accounts, unsubscribe from emails, and block their adverts. Get rid of the temptation!
-Depop. Depop is a buy and sell app that allows you to buy second hand or even new clothing and items from small businesses. Depop is a great alternative to charity shops as, more often than not, you can find a wider variety of brands and sizes for a reasonable price. It’s also great to make a little money off of as you can sell your own unwanted clothing rather than bin it. Win-win!
-Buy things that will last. The only brand new items Megan has bought this year have been investments such as Doc Martins and jeans from Sophie and Yak. Why? Because they will last her years and years. Unlike fast fashion, these items are made to last, and not to be thrown away in a few months.
Hopefully these tips are enough to get you started! Remember, it’s okay not to be perfect – the world needs lots of people trying to make a difference rather than a few perfect zero-wasters.
Until next time,