Fashion blogs are everywhere and fast fashion has taken over the industry. Zara and H&M, for example, bring out new pieces every other week, with an approximate 20 to 52 micro-seasons a year! Such brands are referred to as fast fashion retailers, as they continuously emulate and manufacture clothes resembling highly coveted designer pieces and present them to the mainstream consumer – at ridiculously low prices and extremely quickly.
Fast fashion is associated with disposable fashion. In many cases, the pieces purchased are no longer ‘in style’ and thus end up at the back of a closet, never to be used again. These soon end up in the bin, get sold at prices as low as 99p on eBay or get donated to charity shops. From the bin, these pile up in landfill. This trend is perpetuated by the countless fashion bloggers who post photos of their outfits but never dare rewear the same outfit. In fact, last spring, Britons were expected to send 235m items to clothing to landfill. The key problem is that methane, a greenhouse gas, released from decomposing clothes – contributing to climate change. These clothes could have been recycled, send to a thrift store or given to those in need.
For a product to be considerably cheaper with such a quick production rate, another resource must be paying for the theoretical price of it. The speedy and low prices of their garments, raises alarm bells and lots of questions – the who, what, why, where of every piece we purchase.
- How can these companies even afford to sell them at such prices?
- How much are the workers along the supply chain paid?
- Was this produced in a work environment free from all forms of abuse, unhealthy and unsanitary conditions?
- Do their work hours allow for a good work/life balance?
- Are the workers there of their own free will?
- Which type and quality material is being used?
- Does the dye pollute water?
- What are the other effects of producing this piece of clothing on the environment?
- How far has this item travelled along its’ supply chain?
- Where have each of these materials been sourced from?
These questions could go on forever…
In fact, Fashion Revolution‘s ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ social media campaign made us ask brands just that, allowing them to be more transparent. The impact of the fashion industry has been spreading as quick as wildfire, especially due to social media, the news and documentaries (like the The True Cost and RiverBlue).
Typically, with fast fashion brands, these questions are left unanswered. If answered, the responses are vague or are simply blanket statements.
See this excerpt of what Boohoo said to Emily from The Pretty & The Kitsch:
‘As a fast-growing responsible brand, we recognise our duty of care to the people involved in the creation of our products and to our environment. We therefore take our corporate governance and health and safety responsibilities extremely seriously and have a demanding set of procedures and policies in place.
Operations procedures and policies must be followed and adhered to by all suppliers. We are dedicated to working with our suppliers to help promote better working standards for the future and we hope to lead the way in encouraging open and transparent supply chain operations. Boohoo is a member of SEDEX, a global organisation with the world’s largest collaborative platform for sharing responsible sourcing data on supply chains.’
Read the rest of that here.
The majority of these brands’ sustainability reports have chapters dedicated to the company’s efforts aimed at ensuring eco-friendly practices along their supply chain, how they tackle gender equality and how their workers have the freedom to exercise their rights. That sounds like they’re doing something right? See H&M’s. The fashion industry appears to be evaluating their triple bottom time more than ever, or perhaps improving their greenwashing skills.
All in all, fast fashion is cheap, trendy clothing that is mass produced at at alarming rate – essentially, it’s an unsustainable business model. More recently, we have seen consumers turn towards ‘slow fashion’ which is the movement of designing, producing and buying garments for it’s timelessness and high quality. It encourages transparency along the supply chain, slower production rates, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, less waste and a shift from using polyester and other similar fabrics to more natural ones.
A post about how to have an ethical and sustainable wardrobe on a budget is coming soon!