“Fast fashion was a term first coined by retailers to encapsulate how fashion trends move rapidly from the catwalk to the store. There’s a short turnaround time between designing garments and the production of a clothing collection. Manufacturing is quick and cheap and consumers in the Global North can easily take advantage of affordable and desirable clothes in the shops of high street brands. Fast fashion garments are normally produced in the Global South, predominantly by low paid, female workers. Quick turnaround times place often overwhelming demands on these factory workers, one effect of which can be the manufacture of lower quality clothing. This can encourage the rapid consumption and disposal of cheap clothes after they have been worn only a few times, creating a very unsustainable sector”
Admittedly I’m a total sucker for fast fashion. Often window-shopping online in the evening; saving items to my basket or wish list, where they’ll sit till I’m certain I’m ready to “invest”. Although I would say I consume cautiously with consideration to my budget and needs. I’d also say I consume at a rate greater than is really probably necessary. And whilst I tend to justify this with the fact I have an interest in fashion and work as a stylist, last month (after one temporary style swap) I actually swapped a piece of my wardrobe with a piece from The Salty Sea‘s Sarah’s. They were items we were both planning to sell online or deliver to a charity shop at some point, but it got me thinking how between the two of us there’s enough. How between all of us there’s really more than enough.
From the cheap mass-production to the swift disposal of a trend (we’re looking at poor resource management, toxic industrialism and landfills) there’s no doubt that fast fashion is dysfunctionally unsustainable and a slow death for the planet. But its impacts are more than just environmental. Fast fashion calls for the outsourcing of cheap labour; for garment factories renowned for questionable worker’s rights and exploitation. The clothing made is designed to fall apart in order that we buy more. And to be honest, it’s not just the well-being of others being compromised. I’m pretty sure a wardrobe full of throwaway fashion does little for our own peace of mind. I mean is it just me, or is this where the whole notion of “nothing to wear” comes from.
So how can we help? How can we do things better? Well we can slow the rate at which we buy new clothing. Purchasing less but ensuring those garments bought are of a higher quality; choosing clothes that are well made and will last. Also rather than going to brands – whether high street or designer – hold clothing swaps and buy second hand from charity or vintage shops. Plus there’s sites like eBay and Depop, which are especially handy if you’re on a tight budget. It’s also worth checking out Labour Behind the Label; they provide great advice on how to change old shopping habits as well as campaigning for garment worker’s rights worldwide.
Finally (cause I know a lot of people who read this blog are bloggers themselves) I don’t think a slower approach to fashion, needs to spell the end for fashion blogging. Personally I’d love to read a post on what few key pieces you’d invest in for that season. Or how you’d mix and match those pieces together. Even how to style a certain item in a number of ways. I’d like to hear about the charity shop finds, the epic eBay auction wins and local clothing swaps. Maybe even how you’ve made your own clothing from scratch – cause goodness knows you couldn’t find exactly what it is you were looking for elsewhere!
I think in the end, rather than trend hopping, it’s about seeing fashion as a form of self-expression. It’s about choosing garments that will last; standing the test of time as well as articulating some sense of personal style. It’s about letting your clothing tell stories for years to come; of who you are or who you feel like being that day. There are no rules to this besides looking after each other and the planet. In the end when it comes to fashion, I think it’s about holding a simpler and more purposeful approach to our wardrobes, that isn’t only more sustainable for the planet, but for our own sense of well-being too.