Fast fashion is destroying the planet. The fashion industry is now the fourth most polluting industry worldwide, and, in the UK alone, in 2018 over 300,000 tonnes of clothing went to landfills, as clothes have become more “throwaway” than ever.
As fashion becomes increasingly faster, and we consume more than ever; we own four times the number of clothes that our parents did, and it’s hitting the environment hard. Yet, despite all the damage, we seem to be less satisfied with our wardrobes than ever.
A quick disclaimer: this article is not condemning people who shop fast fashion. For many people, it simply isn’t affordable to shop only with sustainable brands, and a lot of us don’t have the time to trawl through second-hand items.
They have the resources to shop more ethically
There’s no point shaming people who shop fast fashion because, at some point, the vast majority of us will. Avoiding fast fashion entirely is not what sustainable shopping is about.
The issue is never with the person who buys one pair of trousers from Shein because they don’t have the time to search through charity shops, or because they can’t afford to buy from a more sustainable brand.
The issue is with the person spending hundreds of pounds on hauls from brands like Shein each month, when they have the resources to shop more ethically. If this is you, then I have a feeling you might find this column helpful.
Companies are structured specifically to push trends
Sustainable shopping is not about avoiding fast fashion brands entirely, but making sure that when we shop with them, we’re making smart decisions. Many of these companies are structured specifically to push trends, manufacturing pieces with the aim of customers soon getting bored of them and wanting to purchase something new.
This is what is so damaging to the environment, and also why you feel the need to keep buying more. Zara is one very popular culprit. Its business model is based on minimising the time between the emergence of the trend and it being available in store for customers to buy.
Whereas its competitors switch out their clothing ranges on a monthly basis or longer, Zara’s turnover is much faster – it produces clothes to meet trends. Once a piece has passed its peak popularity, it’s replaced by something equally as disposable.
Ask yourself whether the piece fits with your personal style
While Zara’s competitors produce around 2,000-4,000 distinct items per year, Zara produces closer to 11,000, due to its constantly changing clothing designs.
This mass production of items means that each item is only in store for a short period of time, creating a sense of urgency as customers know that the piece may not be in store next week – prompting us to buy items that we may not have had we had more time to consider.
Again, this article isn’t telling you to stop buying from Zara or other fast fashion brands, or to give up on trends entirely. Rather, it is asking you to shop smarter. Before buying a trend-driven piece, ask yourself whether the piece fits with your personal style. If the trend wasn’t everywhere right now, would you be buying it?
Your purchasing power makes a difference
However, if the trend does fit with your personal style- in the case of tie dye, if you love boho clothing, or just really love the print- you’re much more likely to keep wearing it a few years down the line.
By limiting the number of trend-led purchases you make, you’ll not only save money and get more wear out of your wardrobe, but also prevent the number of clothes going to landfill. If enough people begin to reduce the number of trendy pieces they buy, fast fashion retailers will get the message to stop producing so much.
Your purchasing power makes a difference. Shopping sustainably isn’t about cutting out fast fashion, but making better buying decisions. Don’t let these companies convince you to buy clothes you don’t truly love- the environment and your wallet will thank you.