Sustainability & Fashion: Tackling The Impact of Fast Fashion

Sustainability and Fast Fashion infographic

What is Fast Fashion?

Sustainability in fashion has become a hot button topic, as has the term “Fast Fashion”. But what is it? How does it impact our world? And how can we tackle it?

Simply put, Fast Fashion is a means of producing and consuming clothing at a high rate of turnover, with extremely low production costs (and ultimately poor quality).

Fast fashion by design, does not last. By design, it needs replacing by the time the next seasonal trend comes along. Believe it or not, many parts of the fashion industry do not work according to just four seasonal trends, they work to 52 micro seasons in the fashion industry. One for every week of the year.

We won’t name names, but you can think of plenty of high street clothing stores who base their entire business model on Fast Fashion.

With an estimated worth of over £25 billion, it’s easy to see why Fast Fashion is so popular with retailers. From the consumer point of view, it saves us plenty of money up front as garments are cheap, but this is only a short term saving (more on this later).

Fast fashion may offer us short term solutions and earn big bucks for highstreet stores, but it causes plenty of long term problems. The most prominent of these is   environmental damage.

Fast Fashion’s Environmental Impact

Let’s get into the numbers, which have been detailed over at Business Insider:

  • Since the year 2000, the world’s production of clothing has doubled, while the fashion industry now accounts for 10% of all carbon emissions (more than all international flights combined).
  • Continuing at this rate, it could be over 25% by the year 2050.
  • People have been buying 60% more items of clothing since 2000, but only keeping them for half as long.
  • 85% of textiles end up in landfill sites.
  • Every year, half a million tonnes of microfibres (including polyester, a type of plastic) wind up in our oceans.
  • Polyester production produces more than double the carbon emissions of cotton.
  • Fashion production consumes staggering amounts of freshwater. One pair of jeans uses up 2,000 gallons of fresh water, while textile dyeing accounts for 20% of global wastewater.
  • This wastewater is released into rivers and streams, and eventually makes its way back to our wildlife, our own drinking water supplies, and the food we eat.

Much of the above may relate to the fashion industry as a whole, but it’s easy how the role of fast fashion has escalated the situation.

By producing more and more, we waste more and more, causing more and more damage. In the above, we haven’t even mentioned the economic disparity created by fast fashion, which is only sustained by low wages and poor working conditions. We’ll get to that another time.

How Can We Tackle The Impact of Fast Fashion?

Making the industry more sustainable is the only way to assuage fast fashion’s damage. By and large, it’s on manufacturers and retail brands to make their means of production less harmful to the environment, and more economically sustainable along the supply chain from source to shop.

But we consumers can make a huge difference ourselves, by slowing down our consumption, thus reducing the turnover demand.

Tackling Fast Fashion With Quality Over Quantity

We know it’s unreasonable and frankly, unrealistic to buy the most expensive clothing we can find, assuming the price guarantees quality (it doesn’t always). Some can do this, but most can’t.

We can’t also expect everyone to examine where their clothes have been sourced, made and what the environmental and human costs of making them were.

Neither is it altogether realistic to expect everyone to ask questions on where their clothes come from, how they’re made, and what the environmental and human costs of making them were.

In an ideal world this would happen with everything we consume, but this isn’t likely to change on a mass scale any time soon.

But there is a sweet spot to be found by simply slowing down our consumption of clothing, and opting to buy good quality which will last for a long time. It’s a super simple, but extremely effective measure we can all take.

What are the costs of quality?

You could go out today and buy an adequate looking formal shirt for about £10. It won’t last, and you’ll be replacing it in a few months.

You could also go out and have one tailored for well north of £100, or pick up something from D&G or Gucci for around £300. These should last the distance, and offer great comfort, but that’s a steep price for one shirt.

Or you could find that happy medium in the £30-£55 range. In context, that’s between 2 and 4 hours of work at the average UK hourly wage.

For a piece of clothing that will look great, last thousands of wears, and actively help reduce the impact of fast fashion on our world, that’s not a bad price to pay.

By making more considered and informed choices in what clothes we buy, we can have a significant impact on the world around us, not just on our own lives.

If you’d like a shirt that’s made to last more than just a season, explore our collection.

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