Fast Fashion - what's the big issue?

"Van Trijp and Fisher (2011) suggest that lots of consumers have a positive attitude towards sustainability, however, they also discovered that the actual sustainability consumption does not represent this attitude. Furthermore, many businesses argue that there is always a trade-off between profits and environmentally friendly practices (Porte and van der Linde, 1995) and because many businesses are consumer demand-driven many businesses often say that their consumers do not seek environmentally friendly products or their stakeholders do not truly care about these issues otherwise they would have focused on them more (York 2009). Hence, they are not trying to change their business practices."

We Need To Stop Fast fashion

The opening paragraph that you just read is from my coursework which I had to write this semester for my sustainability course. Fast fashion has a huge environmental impact, and it is the second most harmful and polluting industry in the world - textile waste, toxic chemical use, water pollution and unethical labour practices are one of the few issues often associated with fast fashion. But what exactly fast fashion is, and how can we avoid it? 
Fast fashion facts infographic | Cedar + Surf


What is a fast fashion?
According to Investopedia" "Fast fashion" is a term used by fashion retailers to describe inexpensive designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends. As a result of this trend, the tradition of introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis is being challenged. Today, it is not uncommon for fast-fashion retailers to introduce new products multiple times in a single week to stay on-trend. So, what is the big deal with fast fashion and why is it so demanding to our planet? 

The first problem is waste. Over 60% of fast fashion clothes end up in landfill within a year of purchase. Some women consider their clothes old if they wear them more than three times! Futhermore, McKinsey and Company (2019) found out that an average person buys 60% more clothes than they would've 15 years ago. It is estimated by 2030 148 million tons of clothing will end up in landfill (17.5kg of waste per person, per year, across the planet), which is a huge issue.

The second problem is water & toxic pollutionYou know the new pair of blue jeans you just bought? It takes around 1,000 gallons of water to make A SINGLE PAIR OF BLUE JEANS. You might no think that this is not a big issue because water is an infinite resource, right? Wrong. Water scarcity is one of the biggest challenges faced by the world food supply chain. Water shortage is critical in some countries across the globe, and because water is an essential part of food production, the lack of it leads to extreme hunger and poverty (Fedoroff et al. 2010). A single cotton t-shirt takes up around 2,720 litres of water which is the amount you would typically consume over three years. Toxic chemicals are also a big part of fast fashion. Cotton farmers and factory workers are often exposed to pesticides, toxic dyes and other chemicals. Those chemicals are also released into the water supply, which again makes our precious water contaminated and let's not forget about the microplastic fibres which many of our garments contain and they again damaging to our eco-system. Last but not least, fashion industry accounts for 8% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions with almost 4,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere each year (Quantins, 2018).

The last problem with fast fashion is unethical labour practices. Firstly, animal abuse is widespread in the fast fashion industry with many animals being tortured for their skin, fur or its hide but fast fashion also harms animals by polluting their habitat and disrupting their food chains (EcoWarrierPrincess 2016). Secondly, which is even more significant issues than animal abuse is human abuse. It usually takes up to 6 months for companies to produce and deliver clothes from catwalks to consumers. However, many fast fashion companies, such as H&M and ZARA, can do this within weeks.

Furthermore, those companies are trying to keep their overall costs to a minimum hence most of their manufacturing procedures take place in China or Turkey where many workers are exposed to unethical practices mainly due to the tight delivery schedule and let's not forget about child labour (Tokatli, 2008; Barnes and Lea-Greenwood, 2006). "Reshoring" is also a problem when it comes to fast fashion. Many retailers such as ASOS or Boohoo have started producing their garments in the UK, which helps them to make the lead times even shorter. However, it is very unclear how these brands manage to source so much of their stock in the UK while they retain low prices considering the labour costs are way higher here compare to the rest of the world.
What Happened When I Stopped Shopping Fast Fashion For One Year

So, how can you stop contributing and buying fast fashion? 

I personally stopped buying fast fashion not even a year ago, so I am nowhere no near perfect, but here are some of my favourite tips and ways of supporting slow fashion instead of fast fashion.

1. Know your wardrobe
I think it is so important to know what clothes you already own because it will help you so much when it comes to buying new clothes - no matter if it is slow of fast fashion. Do you already own a similar piece of clothing? Do you have something that goes with it or will you need to buy a full new outfit just so you can wear this one piece? Will you wear it even if it goes "out of fashion"? Can you combine it with other clothing? These are some of the questions which I always try to ask myself when I am looking at new clothes.

Also, don't be scared of wearing the same clothes or repeating the same outfits! If you feel like you wore something too many times maybe you could try to style it differently or add different accessories? The possibilities are endless!
 2. Charity shopping
Charity shopping is probably my most favourite way of buying new clothes. I think the beauty of charity shops is that the items you can get there are truly unique and the likelihood of other people owning the same thing is very low. Some of the most unusual items in my wardrobe are from charity shops and don't worry, you can find loads of branded items in charity shops too. So, if you don't want to give up on some of the brands you like to try to get them second hand! 

3. DEPOP & VINTED
Depop and Vinted is my second favourite way of buying second-hand clothes. Compare to charity shops, you can search for the specific item you would like to buy, which makes shopping a bit easier. Over the last year, I managed to get some fantastic items from Depop such as Vegan Doctor Martens, COS Jumper, Topshop Coat, pair of Levi's jeans or pair of Adidas trains and the best thing? Because the items are preowned, they are way cheaper than if you went and bought them from the official store. However, be careful because sometimes you can come across first-hand clothing on Depop too.

4. VINTAGE KILO SALE
I attended only attended two vintage kilo sales, and it's safe to say that it is probably my least favourite way of getting new clothes! It is mainly because of the number of people who attend these events, which give me anxiety, and overall I feel very stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of clothing 😂. However, if you are looking for some cool old school stuff the kilo sales are your place to go!


5. Ethical and sustainable brands 
If you really need something, but you can't find it in any charity shops or on Depop, look for ethical and sustainable brands which are fully transparent about their supply chain, labour and manufacturing practices and all the other issues which I touched on in this article. You can also search for smaller, independent businesses in your local area so you can support your local economy too.

 I also personally never buy underwear or socks from charity shops, but instead of buying those items from fast fashion companies, I choose ethical and sustainable brands such as Organic Basics. 

Some companies also produced clothes from recycled materials. For example, I got the red-ish jumper which you can see in the photo two years ago from Kings of Indigo. It is made from recycled wool and although it wasn't cheap because it is, of course, ethically and sustainably produced and most importantly - it is a high-quality jumper which won't fall apart after I wear it a few times. I wear this jumper all the time, and it is one of my favourite items in my whole wardrobe, so the investment was worth it. 

6. REPAIR, CLOTHES SWAP & DIY
Last but not least - just because something breaks, it does not mean it can't be fixed. Search for your local clothes repair and alternations who might be able to fix your clothes, and it will most likely be cheaper than buying a brand new item. You can also learn how to fix the cloths yourself!

You can also try to swap your clothes with your friends and family. My mum often gives me clothes which do not fit her or she does not like it anymore so I can wear it. You can also rent clothes for a special occasion from a website such as By Rotation. 

DIY is also a great way to change up the clothes you don't like anymore. I've recently started learning embroidery so I can add new embellishments if I want to. You can also learn how to tailor od dye your clothes too. There are loads of articles and youtube videos which show you how you can customize your clothes at home.

The t-shirt I am wearing in this photo was made by Chloe (Instagram @Chloesvegan) who is upcycling secondhand T-shirts and giving them a new life! 

The very last thing I would like to mention is that just because you buy clothes second-hand does mean you need to buy everything you see. Waste is still waste. No matter if you buy your clothes from a fast-fashion retailer or your local charity shop, always think before you buy new items. Ask some of the questions I mentioned above and stay true to yourself and be honest - do you want to buy this just because it is pretty? Do you really need a new shirt? Will you wear it more than 3x times? 

Anyway, this is all I wanted to say about this topic. As I mentioned earlier on, I am not an expert, and I only started boycotting fast fashion last summer, so I still have lots of things to learn, but I wanted to share with you my own personal experience and feelings regarding this topic. If you have anything to add, please do not hesitate to leave a comment and if you want to ask me something my Instagram DMs are always open! 

Lots of love,
Kat xo



Resources:

Van Trijp, H.C.M.C. and Fischer, A.R.H.R. (2011). Mobilizing consumer demand for sustainable development. In the TransForum Model: Transforming Agro Innovation Toward Sustainable Development. Springer Netherlands, pp. 73–96.
Tokatli, N. (2008). ‘Global Sourcing Insights from the Clothing Industry: The Case of Zara, a Fast Fashion Retailer’. Journal of Economic Geography. 8, pp.21–38.
Barnes, L. and Lea-Greenwood, G. (2006). ‘Fast fashioning the supply chain: shaping the research agenda’. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 10 (3), pp. 259-271.
Fedoroff, N.V., Battisti, D.S., Beachy, R.N., Cooper, P.J.M., Fischhoff, D.A., Hodges, C.N., Knauf, V.C., Lobell, D., Mazur, B.J., Molden, D., Reynolds, M.P., Ronald, P.C., Rosegrant, M.W., Sanchez, P.A., Vonshak, A., Zhu, J.-K. (2010). Radically rethinking agriculture for the 21st century. Science, 327 (5967), pp. 833–834.

Porter, M. E. and C. van der Linde (1995). Toward a New Conception of the Environment–Competitiveness Relationship, The Journal of Economic Perspectives 9(4), pp. 97–118.
York, J., (2009). Pragmatic Sustainability: Translating Environmental Ethics into Competitive Advantage', Journal of Business Ethics, 85(Supplement 1), pp. 97-109.
Bhardwaj, V. and Fairhurst, A. (2010). Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry. The international review of retail, distribution and consumer research, 20(1), pp.165-173.
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/style-thats-sustainable-a-new-fast-fashion-formula
https://www.fashionrevolution.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/FashRev_Haulternatives_2018.pdf
https://quantis-intl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/measuringfashion_globalimpactstudy_full-report_quantis_cwf_2018a.pdf
Crumbie, A., (2019). ‘What is fast fashion and why is it a problem?’ Available at: https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/fashion-clothing/what-fast-fashion-why-it-problem (Accessed on 27 March 2020).

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