New research from Hubbub and WoolOvers shows that nearly half of women in the UK don’t know what ‘fast fashion’ means. Do you?  

What actually is fast fashion? 

No, it doesn’t mean when clothes are delivered to you really quickly or being able to avoid queues by using Collect Plus (although almost three in ten teenagers think so). 

Fast fashion is when high-street brands make cheap, low quality clothes, (inspired by trends), really, really quickly.  

How do I know if it’s fast fashion?  

Well, if the brand is dropping a new line of clothes almost weekly, then they’re creating fast fashion. Other things to look out for are: 

  • If there is a really quick turn around from trend prediction (which is seen on a celebrity or on the catwalk) to garments hitting the shops, then it’s fast fashion.  
  • If the brand are making their clothes in big factories outside of the UK, in places like Bangladesh, and not paying their garment workers good wages, then it’s fast fashion. 
  • If you feel the pressure to buy an item because of limited availability, or because you’re worried they’ll take it off the website or away from the shop floor, then it’s fast fashion. (Sustainable brands will keep items available to buy until they’ve sold out of stock!) 
  • If the clothes are made poorly from cheap, low quality materials and break after a few wears, it’s fast fashion.    

What’s the problem? 

The main aim of fast fashion is to make and sell many clothes as quickly and cheaply as possible. Brands who sell fast fashion items encourage shoppers to be frequent buyers by dropping new lines almost weekly at low prices, making shoppers feel the pressure to buy more. Forget Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter, we now have 52 ‘micro-seasons’ a year.  

The issue is that when we make clothes this quickly and cheaply, we aren’t considering the impact this is having on our environment. So what’s the damage?   

1) Increased emissions: 

The UN says that the fashion industry consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined.  

2) Water use: 

It takes 20,000 litres just to produce one cotton t-shirt and a pair of jeans.  

3) Waste: 

According to WRAP, the value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at around £30 billion. It is also estimated £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year. According to Oxfam, that’s over 11 million items of clothing going to UK landfill every week. 

4) Plastic pollution: 

Worried about plastic? Well, 1/3 of all microplastic pollution in our oceans comes from washing clothes. That’s because 80% of what we wear is polyester. Fabrics like polyester or nylon are synthetic materials which, put simply, means that they’re made from plastic.  

5) Dissatisfaction: 

This isn’t technically an environmental impact, but the very nature of fast fashion means that we’re all encouraged to buy a lot more than we need. This constant pressure to buy more can leave us feeling stressed, overwhelmed and out of pocket…38% of teenagers we spoke to felt stressed about the money they spend on clothes. It also promotes a throw away culture where we only wear an item a few times before we get rid of it. 

What can we do about it? 

1) Buy less: 

The most sustainable outfit is something that you already own. Buying less clothes promotes production reductions, reduces waste and minimises fashion’s impact on the environment.  

2) Buy better:

Sometimes we do need to get something that we don’t already have. Try to get something of good quality that will last and that you know you get a lot of use out of. 

Try to buy items which are second hand, helping clothes have a longer life.  

If you want to buy something that is new, look out for brands which makes clothes locally and from sustainable materials such as recycled or organic fabrics. Good On You have a guide on what fabrics to look out for.

3) Make it last

  • Fix it: Good quality clothes can last a lifetime. If the button falls off your favourite top, don’t put it in the back of the wardrobe and forget about it. There are lots of online tutorials that can help you repair your clothes. 
      
  • Wash with care: The way we wash our clothes can have a positive impact. If it’s not dirty, avoid microfibre pollution by leaving it out of the wash. Spot wash where possible or hang your item up to air if it smells a bit worn. Did you know that fabrics like wool are actually have self-cleaning properties? If something really needs a wash, wash it on cold for a shorter amount of time. Don’t put it in the dryer. 

  • Pass it on: Inspired by Marie Kondo to clear out your wardrobe? No clothes should ever end up in the bin. Organise a clothes swap with your friends or donate them to your local Traid bank. One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.  
    If it’s come to it’s end of life, take your unwanted items to your local recycling bank. 

This research and content is supported by WoolOvers.