I’m certainly not blame-free when it comes indulging in fast fashion because who doesn’t love a new outfit for the weekend? But slowly, I’m making changes to reduce my impact by encouraging myself to pay attention to the damage it’s causing.
Fast fashion describes how ever-changing fashion trends move from the catwalk into high street and online shops quickly and inexpensively. Now this might sound wonderful for both your bank account and wardrobe, but it isn’t so wonderful for the environment. The environmental impact of fast fashion is immense and spans from the beginning of the process all the way to after you’ve thrown away your unwanted garms.
Last year, Burberry burned £28.6 million of unsold stock, which adds to a total of £90 million in the past 5 years. And they’re not the only ones. All high end designer brands aim for exclusivity, burning or landfilling unsold stock is an easy solution. Unfortunately, this produces an incredible amount of waste alongside the waste and pollution produced by making and transporting the materials and products.
All fabrics have their pros and cons, but polyester – as the most common fabric used – is causing irreversible damage to our oceans. When washed, polyester clothing sheds microfibres that are too small to be filtered out by water treatment plants and they end up in our rivers and seas. Small sea creatures ingest these non-biodegradable fibres and eventually they enter the food chain; this means that the fish we eat likely contain microplastics and although the effects of ingesting microplastics aren’t exactly known, they probably aren’t too good.
I’m a sucker for prints and I find it hard to resist anything green. Sadly, my love for colour and pattern is fuelling the second biggest water polluter after agriculture: textile dyeing. Despite its devastating impact, it is largely unknown to us fashion addicts. The chemicals used are often toxic and, although their use is banned or heavily regulated in some countries, many fashion brands still include them somewhere in their supply chain. As a result, the chemicals cause severe harm to animals that consume polluted water because they build up in their systems faster than the animal can process them.
Part of the solution lies with fashion brands taking responsibility for the damage they’re causing and making changes that move towards a more environmentally aware fashion industry. This would involve choosing recycled fabrics, lessening overproduction and finding alternatives to replace the toxic chemicals in textile dyes.
The rest of the solution lies with us, the fashion-obsessed consumers. Where possible, we need to encourage ourselves to shop with brands that use recycled fabrics, but more importantly recycle or donate clothes that we would otherwise throw into landfill. Rather than buying everything brand new, why not dig through charity and vintage shops to find something unusual or shop through Depop (yes, I’m shamelessly going to link my page right here). Depop gives unwanted garms the chance for a new lease of life and loving home, all while gradually reducing the demand for new and fast fashion. And most importantly, we need to find ways to repair and reinvent that particular pair of jeans we’ve fallen out of love with and make an effort to love our clothes for a little longer.