Fast Fashion: Is It Slowing Down?
Online retailer giants have thrived through the pandemic, does this mean all hope is lost for the sustainability movement in fashion?
2020 was a year of lockdown, stress and boredom, and, as a result, consumers turned
to online shopping to fill the retail-shaped hole left in their hearts. Buying into the emerging
culture of e-shoppers, many switched up their shopping trolley for an online basket and
purchased clothes and accessories from the confines of their homes, documenting hauls on
social media platforms such as TikTok. However, many of the purchases made by online
influences and the public, in general, would fall in the category of fast fashion. Recent scandals
involving Shein and Missguided have shed light on the social and environmental consequences
of retail inertia. 2021 is the year fast fashion must be addressed. It has to be slowed down.
According to unearthed.greenpeace.org, we can now confidently define the UK as Europe’s epicentre for fast fashion.
In the UK, the average individual buys an estimate of 26.7kg of clothing each year. This number is dramatically higher than the rest of Europe. With these purchases comes the environmental and social consequences that we all hear so much about, but are we actually doing anything to conquer these problems?
One of the main pitfalls of the fast fashion industry is the emphasis on short-term clothing: on-trend items that are mass-produced and only realistically worn for very short periods of time (for instance, the a boob-tube wouldn’t quite suit the chills of a British winter). As a result of this, an estimated $500 billion dollars worth of clothing is lost each year through the failure to recycle or under wearing clothes. Fast fashion companies are not holding back; they sway consumers into believing these clothes appear as if by magic, most with easy-to-use apps and fast delivery. No effort is required of consumers any more.
The social impact of these mass purchases endure and affect the lives of many individuals, but we
are not exposed to the realities of the fast-fashion industry on media platforms. A shocking
report revealed that 93% of brands surveyed by the Fashion Checker are not paying garment workers a living wage - these companies exploit cheap labour to meet their high demands and compete with competitors. The rights and well-being of workers are pushed aside and need to be addressed.
However, all hope is not lost. Fighting back against these retail giants is the ever-growing
concept of reselling clothes through applications such as Vinted and Depop. According to
Airnow.com, the amount of Depop users increased by 1,000,000 users from March to May in 2020. The number of people aged 16-30 who are buying, swapping or
reselling clothes has also increased in 2020.
The question of who is making our clothes and the consequences they suffer is playing on
our minds more than in the past, this is the direction the fashion industry must continue in. It has to slow down. Consumers are demanding more of these brands and we must see a change in
attitudes towards both the social and environmental consequences of this industry.