Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Fast Fahion: Everything You Need to Know & What You Can do to Help

What is Fast Fashion?

'Fast Fashion' is a term that's being thrown around a lot at the moment and it's not likely to be going anywhere anytime soon. So, to get you up to speed here's a guide of what you need to know, why it's an issue and what you can do to help.

Photo by Wander Fleur on Unsplash - Edited

Fast Fashion Definition: in a nutshell this is the term used to describe cheap, throw-away fashion, created to emulate catwalk style but for a high street audience with no longevity in mind. Products are retailed cheaply, usually made cheaply and are designed to be right on trend for current season but thrown away for the next. 

To put it simply the cheap clothes you can buy from Primark, Asos, basically most high street retailers and online equivalents are encouraging fast fashion. Think about it this way, you can check the 'New-in' section daily on websites and see multiple new clothes appearing - brands are producing 52 'micro seasons' each year  so that's something new every week!

So, that's a win right? We've got more access to affordable fashion at our fingertips than ever! Sure the quality isn't great and I'll probably bin it if a few stitches come undone, but it's so cheap and I'd rather move on to next season anyway...

What's the problem?

Well, hang on a second. Let's think for a moment where all this massive amount of clothing is coming from.

When we think about Carbon Footprint people are quick to turn a shady side glance to airline emissions, it's hard to ignore something so big after all! But did you realise that textile production actually has a much bigger Carbon Footprint than both international air travel and maratime shipping combined! In fact, it's been estimated that approximately 5-10% of global emissions come from the fashion industry alone.

clothing rail
Photo by Artificial Photography on Unsplash

The production of synthetic materials has massively increased, with polyester being the most commonly used fabric in clothing manufacture. To create these fabrics uses fossil fuels and crude oil (hence the carbon footprint) but also have you ever thought about the water that goes into fabric manufacture?

Waste water is a huge problem as it's full of chemicals from the bleaching and dying processes that goes into creating our clothing. A report back in 2017 estimated the amount of water used annually by the fashion industry was enough to fill 32 million Olympic sized swimming pools with that figure set to increase by a further 50% in the next 10 years. Fast fashion water pollution is big, let's look at that on a scale that's easier to relate to, to create one T-shirt uses 2,720 litres of water, according to the NHS Eat Well guide an adult should drink 6-8 glasses of water a day (around 1.2 litres) which means one T-Shirt consumes over 6 years worth of daily recommended drinking water in the UK.

brightly coloured dyed fabric
Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

It's not just the environment that's impacted heavily by our fashion consumption - there's a huge social impact too. I'm always intrigued to check the label on something new and see where it was made some - I've not once seen in a made in the UK.
More often than not our fashion comes from a developing country that lacks stringent regulations and ethical working laws. Child labour is still a problem with around 11% of global children unable to go to school because they have to work. Some particular problem areas (and places to check your labels for) are: India, Bangladesh, Thailand, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Egypt.
The conditions these workers are in is not fit for purpose, you may recall the Rana Plaza disaster back in 2013 when a factory roof in Bangladesh collapse burying it's workforce and killing over 1,000. An accord was put in place after the event to improve factory safety but as of now that may be scrapped by Bangladeshes Supreme Court returning to the unsafe conditions.

What can you do?

The fashion industry is huge but it's fueled by us. Without consumers there is no industry and so we have the ability to make a change and have our voices heard. If every person made just small changes we could make such a huge impact.

Change our mindset and how we see fashion, do we really need 52 micro seasons? No! I'm personally having a long harsh look at my wardrobe (I'm definitely guilty of enabling fast fashion) and thinking carefully about anything new that I buy. Do I need it? it is a piece that will stand the test of time (both in durability and style)? Remember that a higher price point doesn't always ensure higher quality though! 

woman sewing
Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

Mend and make do! The war mentality was out of necessity but that doesn't mean it should have ended, so many clothes are thrown away when they just needed a simple repair - it's time to buy some sewing needles and get cracking, or find a local seamstress/tailor!
Patagonia, are already on the bandwagon for this one and will make any repairs free of charge!

Share borrow and buy second hand, friends and siblings are pretty useful people, collectively between us we have a lot to wear and borrowing clothes increases that pool even further. Some places now offer clothing rental for occasions too, why buy something you'd only wear once when for a much small price tag you can loan it for the day! Girl Meets Dress is a good place to get started if you're interested in renting.
Charity shops are also a great alternative to the high street and occasionally do offer an absolute bargain! One thing worth keeping in mind is that the more we ourselves donate the more choice we'll all have!

Recycle unwanted pieces. In 2016 it was reported that in the UK we threw away 300,000 tonnes of clothing, equating to around £12.5bn. I like to work in kg's so that's 300 million kilograms - or the equivalent of 55,556 Asian Elephants, or, 50 million Nespresso Lungo Pods...
Clothing is not something that will just breakdown, it contains allsorts of chemicals that can have a harmful impact on the environment. 
Instead of heading to the bin with your unwanted clothes is there a way to recycle them? If they're still in good condition then there's your local charity shops. If you're not willing to simply give something away then why not make a bit of money back? Ebay and Depop are simple ways to sell your unwanted clothes on to someone who can give them a new lease of life! 

girl outside h&m
Photo by Naganath Chiluveru on Unsplash

Give Them Back! High Street retailers are listening and a few now offer schemes for you to return your old clothes that's ANY clothes, not just ones bought from that store:
  • H&M - Now in it's 6th year of accepting your old clothes and you get a £5 voucher 
  • Monki - Part of the H&M group and this one is fab as it's all textiles, not just clothes! For your efforts you'll be rewarding with a 10% off voucher. 
  • M&S - Schwopping has been an ongoing collab with Oxfam since 2008 and is another retailer offering a £5 reward. 
  • Zara - Available at selected stores, no monetary incentive here, just some guilt unloading!
  • Yet to be put into practice but Primark has promised a 'back to' scheme will launch this year.

That's everything you need to know to get you up to speed on fast fashion and ways you can reduce your impact. Comment below, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the problem, the industry and what we can all do to help! Please share this article - sharing is caring!


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