Fast Fashion Confession: It’s Time to Leave Our Toxic Relationship

It's Fashion Revolution Week, so what better time to learn how to break up with your toxic relationship with fast fashion?

WORDS Robyn Sian Cusworth

Forgive me Mother Nature, for I have sinned. I accuse myself of being a perpetrator of fast fashion; as your ice caps melt and cities flood, the fabrics that we choose fall into a matter of urgency.

By 2030, global apparel consumption is predicted to rise 63% (from 62 million tonnes to 102 million), it’s expected that clothing waste produced in the next five years will weigh as much as today’s world population. If we continue to consume at this pace, we will exceed the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius.

Throughout my teenage years, I’d spend my Saturday job wages travelling back and forth to the shopping centre to galavant around New Look and Topshop. I would hum and haw over glittery scrunchies, plastic earrings, and those tiny little bum shorts à la Pixie Lott that were all the rage in 2010. A decade on, I’ve nothing to show for those Saturday job paycheques apart from hidden Facebook tags. Aside from my precious vintage pieces, it is safe to say that all of those high street finds ended up in landfill, joining the approximately 300,000 tonnes of fashion waste per year.

Moving away from the high street with greener and more circular solutions is a period of transition – it takes time. It’s crucial that we recognise our own privilege, encouraging people along their journey towards ethical consumer choices.

The addiction has now mutated, from mindlessly strolling around the high street on my weekends to daily browsing the internet hours on end for those last-minute buys. A pair of cheap flip flops for an impending holiday? Primark will have them. Red stockings for my Kate Bush costume? ASOS next day delivery will sort me out. Yet, in 2020, I’m growing more conscious of the impact it’s having on you, Mother Nature. Now when I walk into a shop, it’s not just the bright lights and blaring chart music that gets under my skin. When I search online, it’s not the overwhelming amount of choice I have that cuts my session short. It’s the ethics of it all. 

Although I am preaching about my own sustainable conversion, I understand this is an intersectional issue. Fast fashion provides a myriad of benefits for the time-restricted people who don’t fall into ‘standard sizes’ or those who have financial limitations. Moving away from the high street with greener and more circular solutions is a period of transition – it takes time. It’s crucial that we recognise our own privilege, encouraging people along their journey towards ethical consumer choices.

As penance, I offer you this Fast Fashion Manifesto, with ideas that we can all take on board to help sew the seams of the fast fashion crisis back together. 

With love,
Your apologetic Earth Child.

Thou shalt take time to transform

Remember, transitioning to ethical brands, scouring vintage shops and turning it all around takes time. Set yourself a target to check out one vintage store a month, you will be surprised with what you find.

BRICKS recommends: Serotonin Vintage, Rokit Vintage and Beyond Retro.

Thou shalt not demonise polyester

Unsustainable materials already exist on earth — use them — wear them until the bitter end. Just don’t invest in the creation of more.

Maketh peace with old robes

Throwing away your Primark specials adds to the problem and makes sustainability a trend. Which it is not. Make peace with your old clothes. Fall back in love.

#OOOTD is thy gospel

The hashtag suggests outfits shouldn’t be reworn. Who’s got the wardrobe space for 365 outfits anyway? As coined by activist Venetia La Manna, #OOOTD (old outfit of the day) brings the gram back down to earth.

Thou shalt preach kindly

Maybe your friend wears a less common size, like a 2 or a 22, and they find it trickier to find fabulous garments like you in a local charity shop? Or, somebody you know has four school uniforms to buy and Asda is their most affordable option? Everybody has unique obstacles, remember to recognise your privilege and other people’s limitations when it comes to sustainability.

Thou shalt swap or sew

Mary Quant and Coco Chanel wanted to make high fashion democratised, adding to fast fashion as we know it. But how about making your own couture with a sewing machine? Or, trying swap-shops and rental apps like Hurr & By Rotation?

Sinful are printed T-Shirts

One T-shirt takes 9 bathtubs of water just to make! If you want to buy a ‘Save the Planet’ or ‘Feminist’ slogan T-shirt, shop them second hand to minimise your effect on the environment or only support brands that create them ethically – otherwise, it’s against the point of the print!.

BRICKS recommends: If you’re printing your own T-shirts, consider using Everpress, who are changing the way things get made and printed for a 0-waste future.

Thinketh of colonialist issues

As explained by writer Aja Barber at a Marguerite panel, donations from the Western world to countries such as Kenya have drastic CO2 implications and makes it more difficult for local traders to sell local goods.

Know thy facts

Factory workers globally are working in poor conditions and not being paid a fair wage. Period. Some garment workers in the UK are paid £3.50 per hour! 

BRICKS recommends: Read the ‘Fixing Fashion’ 2019 on the UK parliament’s official website and take a read through Fashion Revolution’s latest transparency report.

Taketh to higher powers

Governments are not addressing the crisis. Alongside making personal changes and passing on your knowledge to friends, we need change at the top. Find out who your local MP is and send them a lobby letter backed up by facts. The faster, the better (in this case).