I’ve heard some things about fast fashion through posts on tumblr and, more recently, this post by Marzia. Fast fashion isn’t really talked about, which is surprising considering how it’s so so relevant at the moment.
So to learn more about the issue, I decided to do some research of my own.
Online Research on the Effects of Fast Fashion
One article I found on Huffington Post from 2014 discusses some pretty shocking issues:
- Current on trend shops now create new clothing as often as possible to try and get you to buy as often as possible. If the shops you go into or the emails subscriptions advertise new styles every week, then you have more reason to browse the website or take a look inside.
- Some chains are selling lead-contaminated clothing and accessories above the legal amount. This can lead to infertility, higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure in the worst cases.
- Clothes are purposely designed to not last long – if your clothes lasted years, why would you need to buy more? According to this article, the average american throws away more than 30kg of textiles a year. That’s approximately 9.5 million tonnes of clothes sent to landfill a year!
- Beading and sequins on clothes and accessories may have been done by child labour. Machines for doing this are particularly expensive so it’s possible that cheap products like these were sewn by home-workers being paid pennies.
Another article by the Independent earlier this year discusses specifically the environmental impact of fast fashion:
- The second largest polluter of water in the world is fashion due to toxic chemicals used to dye and treat fabrics. Many countries have bans on these but brands continue to use them anyway.
- Polyester (the most common fabric used in clothing) sheds microfibres when it is washed. These add to plastic into the oceans which affects sea life and eventually us – plankton eat the microfibres, which are transferred up the food chain into fish and shellfish eaten by us and animals.
- Throwing clothes away instead of fixing them is mentioned in this article too – the UK has large chains of charity shops and recycling points, even so, 75% of people in the UK still just throw their clothes away.
Fast fashion affects every single person – from the underpaid workers making the garments, the customer buying low quality clothing, the living creatures in our oceans and the environment around us. Who would have thought that something as simple as cheap clothing would affect so many aspects of our lives?
Modern Issues with Clothing
Tailored clothes that fit each individual aren’t the norm anymore; clothes are now designed to fit a certain percentage of people, so if something doesn’t fit, you just go to the next size and hope for the best. Self confidence issues due to this are a whole other post to talk about.
A simple fact is that many families just don’t have the money to buy certain clothing or brands, and there’s just not much you can do in that situation.
I’m not going to say you have to boycott every single high street shop – everyday experiences and needs have changed too much over the last century. Instead, I’m going to discuss what I personally plan to do – and some things I already do – to reduce my impact.
Everyday Ways to Reduce Your Impact
I buy and sell a large fraction of my clothes on Depop. I have bought more than 60 things using Depop in the last year, and the money I have saved is impressive. I have bought Doc Martens retailing at more than £100 brand new for just £25 second hand AND I didn’t have to worry about hurting my feet to wear them in. The range of clothing you can find is great too – from vintage finds to brand new and current items still being sold.
I have also sold more than 70 listings on the app, helping me to clear out the unwanted clothing in my wardrobe. It’s a great way to clear some space without throwing everything straight into the bin AND make some money from it. Here is a guide to selling on Depop that I wrote based on my experiences. I even sell clothing for friends and family members as I know they won’t be bothered to do it themselves.
Friends & Family –
Hand-me-downs are usually looked down on for some reason. Sure you might not wear your aunt’s dated clothing but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some gems in other people’s wardrobes. If you have any family members that hoard clothing, you’d be surprised at what you can find in their stores. Even if there isn’t anything you can wear yourself, think about giving it away to other people who might like it or selling particularly good finds.
Another suggestion I’ve seen from articles is to hold clothes swaps – simply grab a bunch of friends and the things you never wear anymore and make a night of it. Friends typically have somewhat similar senses in fashion so swapping out what you have is another great way to get new clothes for no cost.
Charity Shops –
In general, it may seem that charity shops cater to typically older customers. But if you donate to charity shops and take a look for things yourself, the types of clothes there might appeal more to you and the people around you. And if you do find something or donate, you can contribute to charity which is a whole other upside. I recently did a charity shop trip myself and found high street brands galore.
Alter Clothing You Don’t Love –
Sometimes it’s the case that the fabric is really nice, or there’s a feature that just calls to you, but the item as a whole doesn’t work. In this case, consider altering it:
- crop it to the right length – tops, trousers, jumpers and the likes
- dye it – bleach or dye the fabric (with environmentally friendlier chemicals) to give it a new look
- get it tailored – either pay for someone to tailor a piece for you or look online for how to do it yourself
- upcycle – fabric doesn’t just have to be used for clothes. Reupholster some furniture, make a blanket, patch some old clothing, get your creative juices flowing!
Think Consciously About What You Need
There will be times when you see an item that you simply need – but do you actually need it? It’s quite likely that it will still be there in a few days or even a week. Give it some thought over that time and consider whether you actually need it or not. This is a great way to defeat impulse buying in general. As little as 24 hours could change your perspective on whether you should buy an item or not.
I am super guilty of not thinking purchases over for long enough. And now that I sell what I no longer want on Depop, I find myself buying items of clothing with the option of selling them if I don’t like them. For this reason it’s a double edged sword – second hand items are usually non-returnable and if you decide to resell, then it’s likely that you won’t get your money back.