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What is Fast Fashion?

For the last few years, there’s been an environmental topic that is yet to make any major moves in the fashion industry, and that’s the creation and marketing of ‘fast’ fashion. But what is it? How can you decide whether what you’re buying falls into this category? We’re here to help answer your questions.

What is fast fashion?

There are many ways to think about fast fashion, but in short, it’s garments that imitate ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture to make them affordable and quickly available. When a celebrity steps out in a dress made by a world-famous designer, fashion companies have learnt to quickly replicate that same garment in a matter of days, often far more affordable than the original.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, easy come easy go and before the latest trend has ended, there’s even more new designs, style, and colours that people are itching to buy, creating an environmental and humanitarian crisis that has made the fashion industry one of the world’s biggest cause of pollution.

Is fast fashion a new problem?

Although the issue of fast fashion and its unethical practices have been at the forefront of many eco groups for a few years, the practice has been around for several decades. Before the Industrial revolution, clothes had to be made of materials locally available, such as leather and wool, but this changed with the invention of the sewing machine came and transportation improved to allow the supply of new materials in mass quantities.

The ability to create clothes in a faster fashion saw the increase of workhouses and poor practices to keep up with the demand. It was around the time of the 70’s where clothes became more of an expression than just a necessity, that some of the clothes stores we see today were born and have continued to contribute to the world of fast fashion.

What is wrong with Fast Fashion?

The ethical and environmental costs of fast fashion come in many forms. Here are some of them:

  • How clothes are made
    Many manufacturers use poisonous dyes which get into water supplies such as rivers and streams affecting wildlife and ecosystems.
  • What garments are made from
    To keep it cheap, often materials such as polyester are used which, when washed, release plastic particles into the water that enters our oceans and seas.
  • Who’s making the clothes
    The ethics surrounding the workers making the clothes we see from the common outlets is important to consider. To keep costs down, workers can be unfairly paid, have limited workers right and of course, the conditions are unsuitable and unethical.
  • Where clothes end up
    The trend of buying clothes made to be worn for a short time period means they aren’t made to last. Common issues are that cheaper clothing falls apart after being washed, will break, rip or fade easily. Due to the materials being used, recycling isn’t an option and contributes to the ever-growing problem of landfills.

How Do You Know if a Shop Sells Fast Fashion?

There are a few signs to see if a company falls into the category of fast fashion;

  • Costs are extremely low
  • 1000s of styles which are similar to that of other fast fashion suppliers
  • Materials used are low quality e.g polyester
  • Low quantities of ‘in trend’ styles increase demand and cause panic buying
  • An abundance of ‘Other items you may like’

Bought fast fashion? Tips to reducing the impact;

You may have bought items which you now realise may not be as ethical as you first thought, but don’t worry, it’s common and can be difficult to avoid. There are things you can do to reduce the impact;

  • Wear and re-wear. People are choosing to buy more clothes than wearing what they have. If you have items that still have a lot of life in them, then put them at the front of your wardrobe and make sure they’re in eyesight next time you say you have nothing to wear.
  • Repurpose items past their best. If you have clothing that has seen better days, rather than throw it in the bin, have a look if there’s another use for it. Cotton makes wonderful cleaning cloths, denim can be changed up to make some interesting homeware and fleece makes the perfect bedding for small animals.
  • Don’t throw, donate. If some items just aren’t being worn, then don’t throw them away if they are of good quality. Either look to give away on social sites or donate to charity. If they aren’t in good shape i.e broken, stained, ripped, then look for textile recycling centres, or clothes recycling banks

How to shop for clothes ethically

There are so many ways you can buy new clothes without feeling guilty. One of these is to choose second hand or vintage clothing, rather than buying new. There are so many charity shops on the high street that stock a whole range of designer labels, styles and sizes that you may just be surprised what you can get.

As well as the high street, there are sellers on preloved websites that also have incredible bargains. eBay is a great choice, but Depop, Vinted and even Facebook Marketplace have items that are waiting to be bought at a fraction of the new price.

If you don’t fancy second-hand buys or can’t find what you’re looking for on these sites, then just consider the ethics of the shops you do buy from; see above. Often you pay a little bit more for slow fashion pieces, but as the saying goes; buy cheap, buy twice. Often it can cost you more to keep buying cheap clothes, rather than investing in good quality garments.