Fast fashion is like that person you dated in your first year of uni. Easy, cheap, use once then get rid. Not really designed for longevity, they were there when you needed them. But once you realised there wasn't much behind their looks, you probably swapped them out for someone else. Come on, you knew it was never meant to be.
Well, much like that shitty person you keep dating (just stop replying to their texts, please) I'm here to help you break up with fast fashion, and for good this time.
The Problem with Fast Fashion
Fashion trends used to operate on a 2 season a year basis, Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. The clothes you bought were trend versatile and could be used throughout the whole season. But now, fashion companies like H&M, Missguided and Topshop operate on a 52 season a year basis. With new clothes launching weekly (and sometimes daily) the constant bombardment of 'new' meant that as soon as you'd bought something the trend had all but moved on and you were all of a sudden, out of step with fashion. This means that people feel the need to buy something new almost constantly.
"This is fast fashion accelerated." (https://www.prettylittlething.com/about-us)
By manufacturing quickly and cheaply these companies could lower the price of their clothing so people could afford to buy new every week. So instead of paying £20 for a t-shirt, you were now paying £5 for a
t-shirt and could afford to buy four t-shirts rather than one. Just like a bad partner, they lure you in over and over with promises of new and exciting, when in reality it's just the same shit, different day.
"the fashion industry is worth €1.5 trillion and produces over a billion clothes every year" (@thesustainablefashionforum)
But how can these companies afford to charge you such low prices? By mass manufacturing in countries which pay their workers practically nothing and don't have to spend any money to protect the environment from the negative effects of their production.
"Our mission is to empower females globally to be confident in themselves and be who they want to be." (https://www.missguided.co.uk/about)
In countries like China and Bangladesh which are home to large amounts of fabric dyeing and clothing manufacture industries many of the workforce (often predominantly female and very often, children) are forced to work long hours, often 12 or 14 hour days in extremely unsafe working conditions (heavy machinery, toxic chemical dyes and tannery) for very little money. In fact 17% of garment workers in Bangladesh cut down the amount of meals they eat a week due to salary shortfalls. 80% of workers are not paid anything close to a living wage and endanger their life to do so. This exploitative industry locks them and their families into a cycle of poverty which is impossible to escape and kills them slowly due to the chemicals they are surrounded by affecting their endocrine systems and leading to higher rates of cancer.
All of this for a £5 polyester t-shirt with 'empower women' emblazoned on the chest that is likely to be worn less than 5 times.
But how empowering are your clothes Missguided? How empowering are they to the women who make them? Real feminist of ya. A classic tactic from last weeks tinder-date, just slap some hugely positive writing in your bio and they'll never know what you're really like. Dumped.
Fast Fashion and the Planet, the Toxic Couple
We've all seen it, your BFF gets a new partner and brings them out for a few drinks to meet the gang. But they spend the whole night arguing about everything, then they go home and post an Insta pic about how much they love each other. Eh? Were we at the same pub? The cycle repeats like this week in, week out until everyone starts to realise just what this relationship is: toxic.
And much like your mates, I know of another toxic couple, fast-fashion and mama earth. Constantly draining all mamas resources, fast fashion seems to just apologise and keep doing what they're doing. Let's take a look at just how bad fast-fashion is for the earth.
Fashion is one of the biggest polluters in the world. The pollution it creates comes from various stages of production including;
- Agriculture and Cultivation of Raw Materials
A standard cotton t-shirt takes 2700 litres of water to produce and 1 handful of chemical pesticide. (https://www.weekendinspirations.com/the-negative-impact-of-fast-fashion/) The creation of synthetic fibres like polyester and nylon is a hugely polluting process involving a lot of oil, which we all know to be a huge planetary enemy.
- Water Pollution
Mainly from dyeing, toxic dyes make their way into waterways and pollute rivers and oceans, killing the biodiversity of our waterways. (check out the documentary River Blue for more info)
- Fossil Fuels
Manufacturing plants in rural areas rely heavily on coal for energy and are very energy inefficient.
- Carbon Emissions
Clothing travels vast distances in its creation, often different parts of the supply chain are in many different countries. Coupled with the next-day-delivery model favoured by fast fashion retailers like Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo, carbon emissions from transporting the goods is huge.
- Landfill Waste
As the demand for these wear-once products increases, so does the amount of them that end up in landfill. Synthetic fibres that make up a large portion of our clothes does not decompose and when sent to landfill, release methane gases (one of the most powerful greenhouse gases)
Like I said, toxic. Fast fashion is slowly killing the planet and I believe its time to re-evaluate the relationship.
You Are Now Entering Splitsville: Population 762K
Breaking up is never easy but once you realise that your other half ain't all they're cracked up to be, you find it hard to see how you were ever together. Looking back on it, you realise you were blinded by the rush of retail therapy and compliments from your mates about how cute you were together. But eventually you realise, you just aren't meant to be, you know there are better things out there for you. And thanks to you, there will be plenty more fish in the sea (See what I did there? because fast-fashion won't be polluting the water any more, sorry I'll stop)
Global movement Fashion Revolution states that they have a global total of 762K followers, which means that's 762K people who are going through this breakup with you, they'll be there with vegan ice-cream and red wine to help you get over your toxic ex. But from one ex-fast fashion-lover to another, I've compiled a list of tips to help you mend the heartbreak and get over them a little quicker.
Heartbreak Healing Tips to Break Up for the Better
1. End all communication
Block their number boo, and their social media, unsubscribe from mailing lists or any influencers who guilt you into over-consumption. It's just like Dua Lipa told us, if you're under them, you're not getting over them. Follow accounts which encourage you and teach you about better alternatives (list below) or check out the hashtag #notbuyingnew
2. Learn to love what you've got
Being single for a while before finding a new relationship can be healing. Try not to buy anything for a couple of weeks, rediscover what you already have in your wardrobe and find new ways to wear. You're not any less without fast-fashion, it's you that's cute, not your clothes.
3. Get by with a little help from your friends
During a breakup your friends can be the biggest supporters. Why not get the gang together and organise a clothing swap, that way it's out with the old and in with the new, without a single purchase.
4. Mend a broken heart
It can be tempting to rush back into buying when older clothes start falling apart, but find some joy in mending things, sewing up holes or buttons, taking clothes in or up or out so they fit you perfectly. Make do with what you have before chucking them out for a new piece.
5. Get back in the game, the fair way.
Ultimately it would be great if we never had to buy new clothes again (or date again to be honest) but at some point you are going to find yourself in real need of something. Maybe you've sewn up the same hole in the inner thigh of your jeans 4 times but you just keep wearing it through (yes, this is me I'm talking about). At this point it's time to find a better alternative. I've got 2 solutions here, ethical fashion and secondhand shopping.
7. Take it Slow
Slow fashion is the complete opposite from your ex, they're kind, gentle and supportive and are always thinking of others. Many of these companies put the environment at the heart of what they do and they have the accreditations to prove it. They'll foster a much healthier attitude for you post-breakup. Some of my favourite slow fashion brands include: Green Spirits (www.shopgreenspirits.com Use code LUCY10 for 10% off) Tala (www.wearetala.com) Organic Basics (https://uk.organicbasics.com Use code LUCYOB02 for 10% off) People Tree (https://www.peopletree.co.uk) But don't forget small, local businesses too!
Thrifting has recently become my favourite thing to do, rummaging through charity shops and vintage stores is so fun because you find one-off unique pieces that no-one else has. Sure the clothes have been worn a few times, maybe they're not in perfect condition, and they smell kind of funky but a relationship with second-hand is a better one because it stops the reliance on new. There are plenty of clothes that al
ready exist, if everyone used them first we wouldn't need the toxic, over consuming fast fashion industry. There are great options now for those of us who want or need the convenience of online shopping but don't want to be a part of the fast fashion cycle, like Depop or Ebay. My top thrifting tip is to create a list or an inspiration board (check out mine here https://www.pinterest.co.uk/minimallucy/a-u-t-u-m-n-t-h-r-i-f-t/) for clothes that you like, or a specific style or colour scheme and look out for those pieces when you are thrifting. It's a lot more rewarding and exciting when you find something that looks exactly like what you had in mind.
So you're finally rid of that toxic relationship you've been in for so long and looking to nurture yourself and your planet in the future. Good on ya. Break ups are tough, but you always come out better on the other side. If you've got a few mates that could do with breaking up with fast fashion why not send them this as an intervention?
Thanks for popping by to my blog, check out my Instagram where I post lots of thrift hauls and secondhand shopping tips!