Fast Fashion vs Sustainable Fashion

What is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion is mass produced inexpensive clothing created at a rapid rate to follow the latest trends. These garments are appealing because they are affordable and easily accessible either on the high street or online. Some items are produced so quickly stores can see a turnover in just a few weeks. You’ve probably noticed after purchasing clothes from fast fashion brands, you wear them maybe a few times and after a few washes they start to lose shape or fall apart. Once this happens it’s likely that piece of clothing is thrown away. When this happens it will eventually end up on a landfill site. It is estimated around 350,000 tonnes of used clothing totalling around £140 million goes to landfill in the UK every year. Tons of garments are discarded as consumers ditch fast fashion styles for a new wardrobe and our planet simply can’t cope.

Why is it a problem?

Fast fashion is doing the planet more harm than good and it’s extremely unsustainable. The fashion industry as a whole is contributing more to climate change than the air and sea shipping industries combined. If trends continue, the industry could account for a 1/4 of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.  The only solution is to think more sustainably when considering our fashion choices.


What is Sustainable Fashion?

Also known as Slow Fashion.  Sustainable fashion addresses the whole system of fashion.  I found this definition online;

More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components. From an environmental perspective, the aim should be to minimise any undesirable environmental effect of the product’s life cycle by: (a) ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources (water, energy, land, soil, animals, plants, biodiversity, ecosystems, etc); (b) selecting renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc) at every stage, and (c) maximising repair, remake, reuse, and recycling of the product and its components. From a socio-economic perspective, all stakeholders should work to improve present working conditions for workers on the field, in the factories, transportation chain, and stores, by aligning with good ethics, best practice and international codes of conduct. In addition, fashion companies should contribute to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns, caring and washing practices, and overall attitudes to fashion. (Green Strategy, June 2014)

That all reads like a bit of a mouthful so I’ve taken Green Strategy’s definition and simplified it a bit.

High Quality

Easier said than done for the majority of us.  Garments made from high quality materials are often hand crafted, customised, unique items of clothing.  This craftsmanship is reflected in the price which not many of us can afford.  The reason high quality is sustainable is that the garment is made to last and can be passed down through generations.  Definitely not something that will end up in a landfill within less than a year.

Buy Vintage / Second hand

Buying vintage or second hand means you’ve purchased an item that didn’t require any of the Earth’s additional resources to make. For example; it takes 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton it takes to make one cotton t-shirt, but if you buy it second hand it’ll cost the Earth nothing additionally and you – probably no more than a tenner. You could even be one of the lucky ones and find a high end designer brand for a fraction of the cost.

Mend  / Re-use / Upcycle

Haven’t worn an item in your wardrobe since your aunties wedding a few years ago?  Get it out of the wardrobe and see if you can turn it into a completely new outfit.  A simple example is turning jeans into shorts.  If it’s something more complicated take it to a tailor to be mended or have it completely reconfigured.  There is loads of inspiration online for upcycling clothing – who knows you could give an old garment a new lease of life!

Shop Local

Plain and simple. Purchasing items from your own country means it has made less of a carbon footprint on the planet to reach you. Every fashion piece has a “made in” tag, pay attention to those.

Fair and Ethical

This impacts all major processes. From how the garment is made to what materials are used to make the garment. A company has full control on the materials they use and they have the decision whether to use recycled or organic materials which have less of an impact. Have a look at the materials used on the tag, read the descriptions when buying online. Purchasing from companies who are people friendly ensures workers have fair compensation and are treated ethically.

Borrow from your pals

Another myth thought up by fast fashion brands is to encourage us to buy more and more because we’ve been led to believe we need a new outfit for every occasion.  Not the case.  We own twice the amount of clothes our parents ever did and it’s just unnecessary.  If you borrow and swap between friends you will be less likely to purchase more.  Good news for the environment and good news for your pocket!

It’s not easy being sustainable but nothing worthwhile ever is. Don’t expect to do all of these things at once. Doing one of these things is better than doing nothing at all. The smallest change is still a change and by not shopping the fast fashion brands and choosing to buy more ethically – your pocket and your planet will thank you for it.

Ultimately, it’s about quality over quantity and it shouldn’t have to cost the Earth. Excuse the pun.

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Thank you.

~Beauty and the Beaches~

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