Some links when discussing the child labour situations may prove disturbing. Viewing discretion is advised.
The average consumer now buys 60% more fashion clothing items a year and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago
With fashion month well underway and a turn in the weather for crisper mornings and much cooler evenings, a very natural change is our wardrobe. A while back I wrote about ‘reviving the reliable‘ and how to build a sustainable wardrobe based on pieces that never lose their style even if they’re not currently in fashion; A series I plan to revive also! But for now, let’s discuss ‘Fast Fashion’.
It’s been a bit of an on/off hot (or maybe just warm) topic over the last 18 months or so, fast fashion and the cost we’re really paying.
I’ve ducked in and out of the conversation, aware that to buy second hand is a wiser and kinder option, but not dismissing my love for seasonal trends, the ability to buy something new and shiny, and with instant gratification upon seeing it. Again, the term ‘trendy activist’ springs to mind.
Did you know it takes 1,800 gallons of water to make a pair of denim jeans?
Fast fashion is a term used widely and describes retailers that are usually high street and quick to cover the latest ‘trends’. An easy way to spot fast fashion is to ask yourselves these questions;
Was this product made to last? Is this product a cheap copy of a common design? Does the cost match the worth? Does the shop you’re stood in offer a quick turn around in trends?
You’ll find that shops that offer T-shirts with Love Island quotes on them are almost definitely going to be classed as fast fashion. As soon as you see something you know you can only wear for one season and in one style, you’re better off going elsewhere.
(This is the bit with the trigger links)
As fashion journo Lucy Siegle quite rightly said, “Fast fashion isn’t free. Somewhere someone is paying for it.” She’s not wrong. The cost of such a high turn around very much falls to the forced labour in human rights violations and the planet. Encouraging the sales of companies that produce from sweat shops means that you support the labour of children as young as 5 years old working in poor conditions, with unfair wages and enforce all the dangers of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh (2013) and the Jieyu shoe factory collapse in China (2015)
The fashion industry was reported in 2018 to produce 92 million tonnes of landfill waster per year, which is projected to increase to 60% by 2030 reaching 2.8 billion tonnes of Co2.
So now you understand a little of how to spot fast fashion, and what happens when you support the companies that produce it,let’s discuss some other options that are more readily available for slow, sustainable fashion and not having to buy cheap, buy twice.
Style spy – how to spot fast fashionistas
In and amongst high street brands and easily accessible retailers, there are still lots of fashion warriors that are doing their bit, changing their policies, and making waves in the right direction for changing the industry and slowing the consumer down into a more thoughtful and considerate path. Some of these are brands that you may already have hanging in your wardrobe and not even realise, others may be names that you’ve heard of but haven’t purchased from before. Whatever the case, now is the time to treat yourself to something that you can look good in, feel good in, and do great in. Let’s meet the teams.
Surprisingly, this is a high street name that is one of the first to come to mind when you discuss fast fashion, but the brand are well on their way to changing this and have reported that they are on track for using 100% sustainability sourced materials in the near future with 57% of the fabrics used by H&M group are recycled or from sustainable sources this year already – a 22% rise this year alone. Newly known to myself, they have also been accepting 2nd hand pieces into the stores from customers since 2013 as part of a recycling scheme.
With a little less surprise, Mango is a name that offers items of quality and sleek style, season on season without fail. With their new awareness of their direct responsibility to the environment generated through their commercial activity, the brand have made a firm commitment towards sustainable development going forwards.
Forging relationships with suppliers who’s models of conduct align with their own, by firmly controlling the use of chemicals in the production process itself, and by offsetting in areas local to their production locations, they have begun to make the correct steps towards a sustainable future for their fashion.
This fun, and young company are pioneering and leading with enthusiasm in their industry, by not only setting out to use only 100% sustainably sourced cotton, but they reached target ahead of schedule and have gone on to set goals for recycled materials such as polyester, wool, and more.
With their ‘Monki Cares’ campaign, they are providing affordable fashion in a way that allows you to treat your wardrobe to those key pieces that you’ve been looking for in a way that encourages the positive movement that this fashion house are leading.
A leading online shopping retailer stocking more than 850 brands including their own in house fashion names for sport, occasions, day to day, and even weddings. With the next day delivery option available at just £10 a year, and their policy allowing them to ship to 196 countries from their UK centres, there is plenty that they haven’t mastered. Whilst they do stock multiple pieces that promote ethical fashion, be sure to search for their ‘Responsible Edit‘ before buying because it’s on my list here.
I hold my hands up to shopping from their app for ease and that excellent instant gratification of being able to wear out an item that I ordered at 8pm the day before, but with a range as wide as they house in this edit, there is little excuse and I’ll certainly be checking there next time I need a dress for a special occasion or a new recycled (but you’d never know) bikini.
Of course, there are many, many, different groups and firms that are bringing our accessible sustainability in their lines, it only takes a google search to see what’s out there, but this list gives a quick oversight of a few different genres of companies and what they are offering.
Your style revival
Within my mini style series “Reviving The Reliable“, I am restyling and rediscovering key pieces of clothing that do me well season in, season out and allow me to invest in garments with more quality and less guilt. As I’m writing this, I’m wearing a pair of black M&S skinny jeans (big surprise) that have been died back to black with a simple Dylon dye a couple of times and a white shirt (praise be to Dr Beckmann Glowhite!) that I bought from Newlook at least 5 years ago! And my trusty Clarks boots that will never die (hello Mr Cobbler).
The point in telling you this is to demonstrate that you can buy from retailers to suit your budget, and even if you mix fast fashion pieces that you bought before you understood the costs, there are was that you can slow it right down and make that piece sustain your style year in year out. I have my core colours that work with everything in my wardrobe, a few key statement pieces and a look about everything that I know works for me, eliminating the process of buy lots ‘just in case’.
Around 1.2 billion pairs of jeans are produced each year. It is estimated that a total of 3.5 trillion litres of water is used during its cotton production, fabric production, dyeing, and garment manufacturing.
That is a big number, one that needs to be lowered. Redyeing our own jeans is less costly in so many ways, and worth doing – just ensure that you have thoroughly cleaned your washing machine drum through afterwards, wipe the rubber seals, and I’d even go as far as to put a dark old towel in a wash just to clean it through.
If classically shopping isn’t your bag, and you’re looking for alternative ways to slow down your wardrobe as we speed into a new season, don’t worry, there are ways.
Let’s get basic:
For me, I struggle to spend on nice things for myself – forever justifying a purchase because I’m always incredibly aware of where I could place my finances to benefit our new home, treat my boyfriend or my friends and family (I’m a gifter) or adult life admin plays it’s part and I need a new set of wiper blades for my car rather than that jacket that I know I could dress up or down, wear to work, on the weekends and out out. Instead, I take what I have, and customise.
Black jeans for example, I had two pairs and when one become so worn and faded that even Dylon couldn’t bring them back, I slashed them to create a new style rather than buying new ripped knee jeans. A classic move, and one that received multiple, hilarious, comments about tripping over but it added a new garment to my collection without costing the world, literally.
You can also adopt this method to tops, by cutting and re-hemming the neckline or midriff for a cop or off the shoulder look, change jeans to shorts, sew skirts to shorts, add patches to a denim jacket, or simply change your once white trainer laces to black for a monochrome look or vise versa.
Should you find yourself needing more than a DIY fix, be sure to search charity shops for those hidden gems, Ebay or Amazon Fashion for a more refined and specific search, and other peer to peer social shopping apps such as Depop for the latest trends at sustainable speed. Don’t worry, there are people out there making it easy for you to get your fashion fix at a speed suited to you.
Your style can be your secret
You can be clever, and picky in your choices, no one need ever know that your expensive looking, brand name, new coat in pristine condition was found with the tags on for £15 at the back of the charity shop. Get savvy with your style, and slow down your buys to build yourself a curated and sustainable wardrobe collection that will last you and aid the demise of fast fashion.
All images from tumblr account Laugh Like Youre In Love