By Sayma Zaman

First of all, what is fast fashion? The good trade defines it as ‘inexpensive designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends’. So basically just a rapid production of a lot of clothes.

I quitted fast fashion a year and a half ago and this also was when I started to become more conscious of the climate crisis that was and still is happening. My personal reasons to stop purchasing fast fashion was the effect it had on workers (particularly in the global south). In November 2012, a fire in the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh killed at least 112 workers and later it was found out that some of the fire exits were blocked. These appalling work conditions are how fast fashion companies kept their prices so low. The documentary ‘The true cost’ explores the actual detrimental effects fast fashion have on vulnerable workers who have no choice but to work in these sweatshops. There are many reasons to quit fast fashion but I’m going to explore the environmental reasons. At the time I didn’t realise the link between the two and why they were happening together but now I see reducing fast fashion as one of the key steps to climate justice.

The first time I was exposed to the term ‘fast fashion’ was from a youtube video by Sarah Hawkinson called ‘stop buying fast fashion’. I remember it being the first time I had even heard the term ‘fast fashion’. She emphasises in her videos about sustainability and that it’s about trying our best to reduce our fast fashion habits as much as we can, as purchasing slow fashion is not accessible to everyone.

One of the reasons for the lack of awareness surrounding fast fashion is that many ethical brands are on the more expensive side, so the average consumer may not even see responsible brands or can’t afford the pay tag. Another reason is that a lot of media is funded by fast fashion companies , so rather than education we are given advertising. Some other reasons why people can’t buy slow fashion are that it can be difficult to find a certain piece or size on short notice/in your area. So the responsibility of having sustainable clothing is really on the retailers and we need to show them that we will no longer support their selfish interests, however big or small we show it.

Textile production produces 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year, which is more emissions than international flights. This makes the fashion industry the second most polluting industry after oil.

Also, 300,000 tonnes of clothes are dumped on landfill sites and only 1% of our clothing is recycled.

Another way fast fashion harms the environment is through the litres of water that it takes to produce clothing – an average pair of jeans takes 10,000 litres of water to produce.

85% of the plastic pollution in the ocean is due to microfibres from synthetic clothing.

These are some ways we can reduce our carbon footprint and make the best decisions while shopping.

  1. Only buy clothing when we need it.
  2. Try to go to charity shops/thrift shops instead of irresponsible retailers when you can. I recommend using ‘depop’ (an online thrift store essentially). Also you can use the app ‘good on you’ that rates retailers so you can make an informed choice even when you have to buy from fast fashion.
  3. Support your local charity shops. Whether this is volunteering, donating
    money/clothes or purchasing items from the charity shops.
  4. Try the 30 day pledge. This is when before buying clothes you ask yourself
    will i wear this a minimum of 30 times. This is endorsed by famous faces
    like Emma Watson and Livia Firth.

The demand for slow fashion is increasing which means change will come soon. I encourage you to try to implement changes in your clothing purchasing habits and actively question retailers who refuse to. Remember that this journey may be difficult but by facing the abundance aesthetic has become, you can help reform the current state of consumerism.