Magazines tell us we need them; Shops entice us to try them on; Influencers make us feel like if we don’t buy them, we’ll be left behind. Every teenage girl has heeded the iconic words of Kate Sanders, “Lizzie McGuire, you are an OUTFIT REPEATER”, teaching us all that wearing your clothes in public more than once is basically a cardinal sin. Fast fashion has become an integral part of our consumer behaviour, with British consumers buying 1.13 million tonnes of clothing in 2016, with 235 million items consequently being sent to landfill. With images of oil spills and deforestation dominating news media, ideas of environmental degradation solutions appear seemingly out of our control. Meanwhile, there’s a personal solution and ethical lifestyle choice waiting in your wardrobe. And funnily enough, it’s not your new snake print midi-skirt.
Stacey Dooley rose to national sweetheart status in 2018 as she released her attention-grabbing yet relatable BBC documentary Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, uncovering the shocking environmental impact of fast fashion. Her footage of toxic boiling liquid being pumped into local Chinese rivers through “secret” pipes from factories was sickening, with water samples testing positive for pesticides and crude oil derivatives. Meanwhile, entire seas have ceased to exist with deserts taking their place; a direct result of mass cotton production. The fashion industry has bigger impacts than just the shame of re-entering your overdraft.
Fast fashion is propelled by its low pricing and disposable nature of items, a ridiculous thought when all pieces of clothing can be recycled in one way or another. Why then are millions of tonnes worth of textiles sent to landfill each year?
By altering our approach to shopping and rejecting society and the industry’s influence over our appearance, fast fashion can be tackled from an individual level by adopting some simple attitudes.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Buying quality pieces, granted, often more expensive items, that are of higher value and ethical roots, will withstand their use and have a longer lifecycle. Therefore, buying a few quality pieces rather than frequently buying cheaper disposable alternatives will result in less waste sent to landfill and a reduction in an individual’s carbon footprint. In the long run, it is more cost effective and environmentally friendly to invest carefully in your clothing.
CLEANSE & RECYCLE
Creating a capsule wardrobe per season, consisting of 8-10 quality interchangeable pieces from your existing wardrobe enables simple yet stylish outfits, whilst avoiding unnecessary shopping and acquiring of disposable items. For the items which do not make the cut/haven’t been worn for months (we all do it), a donation to a local charity shop seems a more appropriate alternative to landfill. It seems an incredible waste to discard items which have contaminated gallons of water in their production when they could be re-used and avoid further environmental degradation.
GIVE PRE-LOVED A HOME
Browsing your local charity shops leaves you with two sensations of goodwill: recycling disowned clothing to be given a new lease of life, while donating to charity. Guilt-free shopping does exist. By buying second hand, tonnes of textiles can be saved from landfill and the environmental damaged caused in their production will not have been in vain.
Supporting your local independent clothing stores reduces a person’ carbon footprint by eliminating unethical production processes alongside transportation methods from outsourced factories. By supporting local shops, we can tackle fast fashion by avoiding purchasing clothing made by global brands.
A key contributor to environmental pollution can be tackled via a bottom-up approach; a personal choice can make all the difference. By improving our consumer behaviours to become more ethical and responsible, our fashion choices can make a personal and individual move to saving the planet. By becoming environmentally conscious to the wider impacts of our consumer habits, we can beat fast fashion and make being an outfit repeater trendy again.
Words by Tallula Lawrence-Bagnall