When I first heard the term fast fashion, I assumed it was a good thing. As a student with a part-time, minimum wage job, the ability to buy clothes quickly, cheaply and easily seemed entirely beneficial to me. Designer trends are copied by high street brands, making expensive styles accessible to us with less-than-designer budgets.
And then suddenly I’m told my shopping habits are destroying the planet?
Actually, the items we buy and wear are having a dramatic impact on the environment. Stats from the Enviro Audit Committee on the BBC, say Brits are buying the most new items of clothing per head of anyone in Europe, with the average one of us spending over a grand on garments every single year.
According to a recent Great British Wardrobe Report in the Telegraph, we girls admit to regularly wearing around 59% of our wardrobes, and even the boys only wear 62% regularly. I’m certainly guilty of owning clothes with the tags still on after late night binges on Boohoo.com, and feeling reluctant to re-wear outfits in case (God forbid), someone remembers it!
It’s hardly a surprise we’re so addicted to fast fashion when it comes so cheap… but not everyone is happy about it. Popular online clothing store, Misguided, were forced to issue a media statement defending their decision to sell a one pound bikini, in which they claimed: ‘It cost us more to produce than £1 and we’re absorbing the costs… it is sourced to the same high standards as all of our other products.’
Despite this, the product is made entirely from non-recyclable plastic, meaning the wearer will probably decompose long before her teeny tiny bargain bikini. It’s also easy encouragement to buy yet another product you probably don’t need.
So what are the solutions to this fast fashion phenomenon? How can we make sure the way we dress harms the planet as little as possible? The obvious answer is to simply buy less and wear what we have, but for those that still want fresh, original outfits without the guilt – where and how should we shop?
Self-made Depop queen, Ayesha Rosebay, has over ten thousand followers on her page, Revamps Vintage, where she sells items she’s reworked at home. She said: ‘I source all my items from charity shops in my local town, vintage shops, and sometimes hand-me-downs from family and friends. I haven’t bought anything brand new in over two years.’
She added: ‘I believe sites like Depop can make a massive impact on how we can reduce fast fashion. It’s a huge mission, but with time and growth it’ll make an impact.”
Ayesha’s got some tips for anyone new to the site; she advises establishing a brand image, using the app frequently to keep up to date with messages and sales, and following lots of accounts that mirror your style.
Scout out charity rails:
The internet isn’t the only place to shop second hand. Our high streets are peppered with charity shops selling tonnes of donated items desperate for a new lease of life. And your money will go to good causes, rather than funnelled into the pocket of another faceless corporation. Support local charities, and look good doing it!
Sue Ryder are a bereavement support charity based in the UK, who have been selling second hand clothes for over 50 years. Paul Martin, the National PR Manager of the charity, said: ‘We get everything from designer goods to high street fashion. Very often we will get items that have never been worn or still have tags on them.’ Ed Sheeran even made a donation once, giving all his stage clothes for resale! You won’t find that in Primark.
Sue Ryder reuse, recycle and resell 12.6 million items every year, which would otherwise end up in landfill. And there are benefits for you, the buyer, as well. Items they sell are significantly cheaper than in usual high street shops, meaning you can always find a pre-loved item cheaper than if you bought new. There are also tonnes of unique, one-off items, so when an envious friend asks: ‘Where did you get that?’ you can proudly say… it’s vintage!
If you really can’t resist a few new pieces new off the rail, there’s loads of brands opting to make items from recycled and organic materials. Global sneaker company, Converse, have said it’s ‘Time to Chuck your Plastic.’
Their Converse Renew initiative has reinvented the brand’s iconic shoe with a three step process that makes it not only more sustainable, but popular with an eco-conscious shoppers. Canvas is made from 100% recycled polyester, denim jeans from landfill have been used in the Chuck Taylor design and cotton canvas manufacturing waste is used to form new yarn. On their site, they say: ‘Converse Renew is an ongoing commitment to make our products in more innovative and sustainable ways. There’s always a way to renew what we do.’
Greta Eagan, founder of sustainable fashion awareness project FASHIONmeGREEN, said: ‘Buying sustainably may feel like a larger investment upfront, but that will pay dividends over time. Purchasing something once and using it for years is far more sustainable than buying cheap pieces that need replacing every few months.’
She added: ‘Buying sustainably also helps the consumer connect to their ethics and support the causes they believe in with their purchases. Subconsciously, I think this has a big impact and also helps one inspire others and lead by example.’
A couple of last minute tips before you embark on your own battle against fast fashion: take it easy on your clothes. Pay attention to washing instructions and store them with care, to make sure they last as long as possible. Consider clothes swapping and lending to your friends, or even ask your mum for her oh-so-vintage hand me downs. Take a look at your old clothes, and imagine them into something new. Can’t see those old denim flares ever coming back into style? Hello cute new jean shorts!