Learning how to quit fast fashion is a useful and environmentally friendly step to helping save our planet.
In the UK, an estimated £30 billion worth of clothes are in people’s wardrobes and drawers, having never been worn1.
And every week or every other week, fast fashion brands are releasing new items for us to buy and hang in our wardrobes.
But the manufacturing process of fast fashion is often unethical. Here, we delve into the ins and outs of fast fashion, and how to quit it for good…
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is pretty much exactly what the name implies; it’s fashion, that’s fast, and disposable.
We’re buying more clothes than ever before, with research finding that we’re consuming 400% more clothing compared to 20 years ago2.
The reason we’re buying so much is because there’s a constant stream of new clothes, being mass produced, at cheap, affordable prices. Fast fashion items are worn for a short period of time, before being thrown out by consumers and replaced with new, trendier clothes. It means that we can all have continually updated, on-trend wardrobes.
Fast fashion brands make clothes inspired by catwalk trends. These clothes are mass-produced, using cheap labour as well as cheap materials that don’t tend to last. The manufacturing and distributing process, as well as the ever-growing piles on landfill, all contribute to increasing pollution and intense use of the planet’s natural resources.
The Truth About Fast Fashion Impact on Our Planet
So why is fast fashion so bad for our planet?
Firstly, there’s the intense amount of materials needed to make such a high number of garments. Growing cotton quickly requires vast amounts of fertilisers and pesticides . These are toxic and can end up in waterways, killing animals and plants.
The energy used to make the garments also releases dangerous emissions.
Research has found that manufacturing fast fashion garments, as well as washing, drying and ironing them, contributes about 3% of global production CO2 emissions every year.
The chemicals used when dying, bleaching or treating garments can also end up polluting water and causing harm to wildlife, and even humans.
Textile waste and also the chucking out of garments, means landfills are being inundated, further releasing even more dangerous greenhouse gases. Fast fashion pollution is very much a real thing.
Around 100 billion fast fashion garments are made every single year, with 92 million tonnes of fast fashion and textile waste ending up in landfills every year. This just shows how much is being thrown away every 12 months.
Essentially, fast fashion’s negative impact on our planet will continue to worsen unless we take action. In a bid to keep producing cheap clothes, brands will keep finding the cheapest labour, the cheapest factories and the cheapest materials so prices can be kept at rock bottom.
Fast Fashion Impact on Your Wallet
Fast fashion is cheap to make, and therefore it’s cheap to buy.
Consistently buying a lot of lower quality items will likely cost more in the long run. They need replacing more frequently as they wear out quicker with the colour often fading and the shape deteriorating. Therefore, you’re having to keep buying more and more clothes, plus there is so much choice made available by fast fashion brands.
So, in essence, your wallet might not actually be so grateful.
And, if your wallet does feel better off, spare a thought for the people who are enlisted to produce fast fashion garments. They certainly aren’t enjoying the same thing.
It’s said that less than 2% of the people who make the clothes that we wear earn a living wage.
Fast Fashion Brands to Avoid
Fast fashion is everywhere. Often, you might not even realise which are the fast fashion brands to avoid. But, if we want to reduce the environmental impact that fast fashion is having on our planet, we need to be aware of which fast fashion brands to avoid. We’ve rounded up four fast fashion brands which could be doing more to reduce their negative impact on the planet.
One such brand is popular online site, Shein, based in China. It reportedly adds a staggering 500 NEW items to its site every single day, making it a prime fast fashion brand.
Shein has come under scrutiny in the past for copying and stealing the designs from smaller independent fashion brands, which is a key indicator of a fast fashion brand. Designer Bailey Prado accused Shein of copying 20 of her designs.
It’s also hard to find a direct contact for Shein, making it impossible to hunt down any information as to its manufacturing process. This again, is a key indicator of a fast fashion brand; it seems to refrain from being open as to how the company is run.
A second fast fashion brand to avoid is H&M, who made headlines after they failed to deliver their promise of a living wage to 850,000 workers. Surely a living wage is the minimum these workers should expect?
On the plus side, H&M have reduced some of the harmful chemicals involved in manufacturing and they encourage the recycling of clothes. Yet, a fairly low percentage of these garments are in fact recycled with reports stating a tiny 35% is reused.
Next up is Boohoo, another online retailer, with an epic proportion of new garments being added to the site each week.
Clothes are cheap, and the brand came under fire in 2021 after an investigation discovered that it was paying some of its factory staff in Leicester just £3.50 an hour. Considering the UK minimum wage is around £9.90 an hour, it’s clearly a violation of the law.
An enquiry actually labelled Boohoo as one of the worst fast fashion offenders. This was along with another online fast fashion retailer, Missguided.
Missguided and Nasty Gal, which like Boohoo stock their sites with huge amounts of new garments every week, are two other fast fashion brands to avoid.
Irish owned store Primark, graces pretty much every high street going. Big stores, stacks of garments, and everything at rock bottom prices.
But, it’s pretty hard to find many sustainability credentials for Primark, which is a classic sign of a fast fashion brand. The brand has also made several worrying headlines.
The BBC reported that a Primark customer found a Chinese-written SOS note in a garment. The note claimed that factory workers for Primark were being made to work 15 hour days.
Primark is also a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, plus they made the switch from plastic paper bags and they do state that there is a certain code of conduct that must be met, before working with certain factories.
However, a classic trait of fast fashion brands is greenwashing; where consumers may be misled or given the wrong information about the environmental impact of a brand.
How to Quit Fast Fashion – Even if You Are on a Budget
Although fast fashion is affordable, it contributes to the toxic system of overconsumption and overproduction. However, more and more Millenials and Gen Zers started boycotting fast fashion in favour of more ethical brands.
But how? And how can it be done without spending a fortune on clothing?
First up, do some research into sustainable, environmentally friendly fashion brands. Have a read into how they source fabrics, how they treat factory staff and what efforts they’re making to reduce their environmental impact. Arm yourself with facts. This way, you can source alternatives to fast fashion that suit your style and tastes. Plus, they don’t all necessarily have to cost a lot. But do keep in mind; it’s quality over quantity when it comes to fashion.
Look for secondhand clothing
You can hunt out some incredible vintage styles, designer clothing and previously worn fast fashion garments, at a fraction of the price. Buying secondhand reduces the amount of clothes that go to landfill. Infact, doubling the life of clothing from one year to two, reduces emission over the year by an impressive 24%.
Check out secondhand stores online, or visit thrift or charity shops near where you live. If there’s an expensive designer item you’ve got your eye on (that’s created by a sustainable brand) yet it’s a little over budget, try and source it secondhand. With a little digging, you can probably find a similar, pre-loved item in a fantastic condition.
You could even get involved in a clothes swap. It’s highly likely that your have friends, colleagues or family members who also buy fast fashion, so why not get together and swap items with each other? After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure…
Set a spending cap
Do you find yourself veering into every fast fashion store you walk past? The constant pressure to keep up to date with trends can mean we end up spending every time we go into stores such as Zara, H&M and New Look.
Setting yourself a spending cap will force you to stop and really think about every item that you purchase.
Upcycle your current clothing
The reality is, we’re throwing out clothes at a rapid rate, and replacing them just as fast with cheap alternatives. There’s a high chance you’ve got items in your wardrobe that you’ve worn just a handful of times, and likely won’t wear again. Instead of throwing these garments out and contributing to fast fashion waste, why not give them a revamp? Fix any broken garments or style them with different fashion items. If you’re nifty with sewing machines or you’re feeling particularly creative, you could make your own tweaks to garments. Add embellishments, remove sleeves, amends the length; have fun whilst creating something you’d want to wear again and again.
Stick to basics
Basics never die; they remain constantly on trend, and a good quality basic such as a white tee or well-fitting pair of jeans, won’t need replacing constantly. By investing in high quality fashion, with staple pieces from sustainable brands, you’ll be less likely to need replacements and could in fact save money in the long run. Take care of your new garments and they’ll last for many years to come.
Turn your back on fast fashion social media
Next, unfollow fast fashion brands on social media; the less you see of them, the less you’ll be persuaded to shop. On Instagram, it’s now possible to hide ads and restrict sponsored content too, so you won’t be inundated with fast fashion garments that are contributing to fast fashion pollution. Plus, the more of us that unfollow these fast fashion brands, the more we’re holding them accountable for the fast fashion pollution and waste that they’re causing.
If we don’t all pull together and do something soon, the damaging effects of fast fashion on our planet will continue to increase.
There’s a myriad of fast fashion brands gracing our high streets, web browsers and social media outlets, and often we might not even be aware of them!
Try to implement new rules that will prevent you from spending more money on fast fashion, and play your part in keeping fast fashion brands accountable for their actions.
Unfollow, unsubscribe and avoid fast fashion stores where possible.
Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/aerial-footage-of-landfill-on-shore-5433124/