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29 Oct

Fast Fashion: The Devastating Impacts

With #secondhandseptember starting to fade in our rearview mirrors, the topic of ‘fast fashion’ has never been hotter. According to Greenpeace, fast fashion has risen 60% over the last 15 years, racking up consumers carbon footprints, and causing serious damage to our climate.

With that being said, there has been a lot of talk recently about saving the planet for future generations, and giving up meat and swapping out plastic bottles, bags and packaging for reusable sources aren’t the only things we can do. Overall the fashion industry contributes more to climate change than most other industries, and according to The Guardian, if the fast fashion and throwaway culture continues, the fashion industry could account for a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.

The numbers are so contrasting, it’s hard to get an idea of whether these new shopping trends will have a positive or negative effect on the planet. The good news is that in 2018, the number of consumers purchasing items once a month dropped and those buying every few months rose to 67%. So, although 50 million single-use items were bought this summer, more and more people are becoming conscious about what they are buying.

In 2015, emissions from the textiles industry amounted to 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2, and with less than 1% of materials being recycled into new clothing, it doesn’t bode well for the future. Over 300,000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfills each year, with brands cutting corners with the quality of fabrics and materials, items are becoming single-use rather than sustainable and ethical.

Marie Kondo also might have a little something to do with the large deposits to the landfills – getting rid of items that don’t spark joy doesn’t just mean household items; clothing, shoes and accessories that don’t bring you joy might go home with somebody else, only for them to discover it doesn’t bring joy to them either.

Recently UK shoppers are becoming more interested in sustainable items, and are leaning towards buying preloved items over new-in on the high-street. eBay noted that their customers spent £187 million on preloved and pre-owned fashion items in the last 12 months (up to June’19). Depop is the new eBay, and almost all of it’s 13 million users are under the age of 25, showing the consciousness of younger generations when it comes to the environment. Recently, designer department store Selfridges has also set up a second-hand depop pop-up in their designer studio, showcasing top sellers’ collections. Although the pop-up is only open until the end of October, the exclusivity is aimed to encourage more second-hand shopping. But this rise in second-hand items didn’t stop 50 million single-use items being bought this summer alone. The majority of these items will most likely end up in the landfill at the end of the season.

It’s not just consumers either, Zara’s owner announced they would be using 100% sustainable fabrics by 2025, similarly, H&M would increase their current 57% sustainability to 100% by 2030. Fast-fashion brand Boohoo seems to be going from strength to strength, with their sales increasing from between 33-38% in the first half of this financial year. And, although they understand they are a fast-fashion company they have released news that they are working with reGAIN, a company that recycles unwanted clothing rather than them being shipped off to a landfill site. But, that isn’t to say that fast fashion companies are the future, their low cost, low-quality products are essentially causing more damage to the planet than all international flight emissions combined.

If you buy second-hand, or preloved (or whatever you like to call it) and extend a piece of clothing’s life by just nine months, the carbon and water usage associated with this item drops drastically. Even fashion designer Stella McCartney thinks the fashion industry is wasteful. She joined up with the environmental campaigner Ellen MacArthur to call for a change in the way clothing is produced and used. The brand recently released its A/W’19 campaign, with its message focussing on climate change, but this is not the first time the issue has been raised. In 2017 they shot a campaign in a Scottish landfill site in order to raise awareness of this over-consumption and waste; proving that the issue isn’t as new as people may think.

Nobody is saying stop shopping, but think more about purchasing ethical and sustainable pieces instead. Obviously, the price tags on such items add up, and you may think is it worth it when I could get five of this item for the same price? But, in the long run, more expensive and better quality items are going to stand the test of time. Livia Firth, the creative director of Eco-Age suggests the ‘30 wears test’ – are you going to wear an item 30 times or more? If you say no, don’t add it to your wardrobe. This way, you help save the planet and your wallet.

Sophie Cain

I am a 24-year-old journalism graduate from the University of Huddersfield, currently completing a business administration apprenticeship within the NHS. I currently write a monthly fashion article for a local lifestyle magazine, Excelle and have done for the last three years. I also currently manage the social media accounts for Ragdoll Nails and love to keep up with friends, brands and celebrities through social media. In my free time I do a lot of shopping, but I also love to read - true crime mainly - and have a slight obsession with gin and tonics.

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