Fast to make and fast to kill.
Fast Fashion is the world's third-largest manufacturing industry which produces up to 10% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions; it is also responsible for:
- 20% of global wastewater
- Using more energy than aviation and shipping combined
- Using 70 million barrels of oil per year *
* Source: BBC Sustainable Fashion how to buy clothes good for the climate
The fast fashion industry produces cheaper clothes for the ever-changing fashion trends demanded by shoppers, who might only wear the items a few times before purchasing their next in-vogue wardrobe additions. This is becoming a hot topic of discussion here at Staffordshire University too.
Nunika, who was a 2nd-year fashion student and a committee leader for our Fashion Society, talked about Sustainable Fashion and steps that you can take to make your wardrobe more sustainable in 'Nunika on Sustainable Fashion'.
Rachel Heeley, Senior Lecturer in Fashion at Staffordshire University, discusses the need for sustainable Fashion to achieve climate goals and asks How sustainable is your wardrobe?
The importance of fast Fashion and its impact on people and our planet is recognised by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Better Fashion targets, embedded into the Sustainable Development Goals framework.
How fashion impacts the Ocean
Most of our clothes are made from tiny micro-fibres, mainly made from plastic - each time you wash your clothes, your washing machines spit the tiny fibres out into the drains, which go straight into our oceans. Washing synthetic garments account for 35% of primary microplastics in the environment, and an estimated 9.4 trillion fibres are released from washes in the UK.
Not only does this affect marine life, but it can come straight back into our bodies. Fish tend to eat these fibres; if you're a meat eater, they end up on our plates and ingested bodies.
You can help reduce and eventually stop this in the future; the Marine Conservation Society needs your help to Stop Ocean Threads! They want to encourage the UK Government to require washing machine manufacturers to fit microfibre filters in all new domestic and commercial machines, by law, by 2025. So sign the petition now to save our seas!
If you want to check out more pledges/petitions to sign, you can check out the list here.
Water usage and the Fashion Industry
The fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water, requiring about 700 gallons to produce one cotton shirt and 2 000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans.
Do you know how much energy goes into making a pair of socks?
Incase you missed Inside the Factory on BBC, you can watch the episode here. Gregg Wallace visits a factory in Leicester that produces one and a half million socks annually!
Why people shop fast Fashion
Fast fashion, it's in the name. The idea of having a new, on-trend, cheap item for next-day delivery appeals to customers who want new things quicker than they can say fast fashion. Many customers will buy bulk items, knowing they can return the items free of charge. Not only are they buying for the sake of it, but they are also wasting packaging materials from the supplier's warehouse. According to MPs, UK shoppers buy more clothes per person than in other European countries.
Young people top that list. A recent survey by environmental charity Hubbub found that more than two-fifths of 16 to 24-year-olds buy clothes online at least once a week, compared to 13% on average for other age groups.
Saying this, second-hand clothing Apps have become increasingly popular over the last three years, and Vinted is now Europe's most prominent app for buying and selling used clothes. Most items on these apps are either brand new or used and are most likely cheaper than if you were to buy them new. So not only can you buy clothes, but you can also purchase household, beauty or garden items! Although these Apps are growing, research suggests that second-hand fashion currently represents just 3-4 per cent of the total apparel market. However, in the current Cost of Living Crisis, shoppers are becoming more aware of spending, which could be the extra push of second-hand purchasing.
Rent clothes - Rent the Runway - since 2008, Rent the Runway has changed how customers shop. Why spend a fortune on a garment to wear once? Rent it for a fraction of the price. Renting clothes has become more and more popular over the last ten years. "Every day, we're seeing new sustainable brands emerging or existing ones pledging to go greener within their business. Sharing Fashion eliminates the risk of panic buying for one occasion that feeds into the fast fashion cycle". Bazaar magazine
Vintage clothing fairs nationwide have been popping up in major cities and University campuses. The immense popularity amongst students is due to the affordable, trendy fashion the fairs offer. If you are a fan of charity shops, you will undoubtedly be a fan of vintage clothing fairs.
Influencers for second-hand clothing
Social media has been the pinnacle of fashion influencers over the past five years. Instagram has been the home of new trends and influencers worldwide selling the idea of fast fashion. However, the younger generation has been creating trends like the return of '90s and 2000s fashion leading shoppers to head straight for vintage second-hand clothing. In 2019 Oxfam launched their #SecondHandSeptember social media campaign, which encouraged many fast fashion influencers to ditch new clothes and find second-hand clothes to advertise on their platforms. The profits from the Second Hand September campaign supported Oxfam's ongoing aim to end worldwide poverty. A great influencer to follow is Venetia La Manna - check out her campaigning and excellent tips on where to buy second-hand!
So what can you do to play your part?
- Wash your clothes at a lower temperature and follow garment care instructions to make them last longer.
- Get more wear out of your garments - aim to wear the item at least 30 times.
- Don't buy clothes on a whim - only buy what you need.
- Donate unused clothes instead of binning them.
- Clothes swap with your mates.
- Learn how to sew - repair a ripped seam, sew a button back on. Stitching repairs can add unique character to your threads.
- Try bringing old clothes back to life with new accessories, and sew on patches or decorations.
- Visit the vintage fashion stalls regularly hosted in LRV to grab a great second-hand bargain.
- Be shopper-savvy and do some research; look out for brands to avoid and those that tick the most sustainable boxes.