Written by Shazia Govindji • Published 13th June 2019 • 4 minute read
‘Fast fashion’ has become something of a buzz phrase lately, and some fashion brands are having to defend themselves against the backlash of selling cheap, seemingly poor-quality clothes, thereby promoting disposability and excessive wastage. The UN has published research that says that by 2050 the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles, given the growth in global population. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says people are buying twice as many items of clothing as they did a decade ago. We’ve investigated why the explosion of fast fashion is something we should care about and have listed five businesses presenting ethical alternatives.
What exactly is fast fashion and why is it a problem?
According to ethical brand ratings app Good On You, “fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing, that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into garments in high street stores at breakneck speed.” While this may sound like an innocent shift towards putting more choice into the hands of consumers, it has a huge negative impact on the environment.
Firstly, there’s landfill. The more clothes that are produced and purchased, the more clothes are thrown away. According to Rubicon Global, a staggering eleven million tonnes of clothing is thrown into landfill each year in the US alone. In the UK, 235 million items were sent to landfill in 2017. Another problem is the materials that are used to manufacture the garments. Polyester is the most popular fabric used for fashion, and not only is it made from fossil fuels (contributing to global warming), but when washed, polyester garments shed plastic microfibres which end up in our oceans. The Plastic Soup Foundation have claimed that more than 4,500 fibres can be released per gram of clothing per wash.
It’s not just the planet that suffers. With fast-fashion brands introducing new products multiple times in a single week, the intention is to encourage consumers to replace clothes with newer and trendier items after just a couple of wears. On their website, Missguided boast that they “drop up to 1000 brand new styles every week”. With an increased rate of production, however, comes reduced quality standards. Clothes made by fast fashion brands are often intentionally made to have a short lifespan, for example shrinking in the wash or breaking down quickly.
Mass-produced, cheaply made garments also have a human impact. Labour workers have been found to work long hours in dangerous environments where they’re exposed to harmful chemicals, for low wages and without basic human rights.
So, it turns out high-street fast fashion brands have a lot to answer for, namely their impact on the environment, their low-quality products, and their ethical dubiousness. But all hope isn’t lost – there are several clothing brands out there fighting for sustainability.
What are the alternatives?
Established in 1988 by Mark Bloom, pioneer brand Komodo promotes the use of ethically sourced organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, Tencel and other natural fibres – limiting the amount of chemicals, water and wastewater used in production. It creates high-quality, long-lasting products without compromising on design, and the company deploys a robust supplier code of conduct that ensures its workers are paid living wage. It runs independent audits on its final stage of production, and Komodo staff visit factories for at least two months each year to ensure that any problems can be solved together.
AllSisters is a Barcelona-based, eco-friendly swimwear brand that uses the highest quality recycled fabrics to create high-end swimsuits. The brand has a commitment to ethical and sustainable fashion design, utilising high quality recycled textiles from Italy that carry the Made in Green by OEKO-TEX® certification. This ensures that they are tested for harmful substances and are made in environmentally friendly facilities and socially responsible workplaces.
Award-winning women’s clothing, accessories and homeware brand Mayamiko fuses modern and traditional textiles from Africa, Asia and Italy. In 2013, 37-year-old Paola Masperi was inspired to begin the label as a charity that provided creative business training and opportunities to disadvantaged communities. The company grew from there and now produces high quality, trendy and desirable fashions, that are wholly made under ethical conditions. It reduces its carbon footprint by sourcing textiles from the same region it manufactures in, and ensures all workers are permanent with fixed salaries, earning a living wage.
Founded by Cora Hilts and Natasha Tucker in 2013, Rêve En Vert is a retailer of sustainable and honest luxury, which to them stands for four principles: organic, re-made, local and fair. With a commitment not to sacrifice style for ethics, the brand uses natural, organic materials with an emphasis on low-environmental impact and longevity. It recycles and upcycles materials as often as possible, checks for fair factory certification to ensure workers are paid living wage, and exclusively features designers who operate their businesses with respect for people and the planet.
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Traditional artisan skills meet natural materials to create a beautiful collection cultivated by the rhythm and aesthetics of a modern day free-spirit. Every dress, kaftan and jumpsuit by A Perfect Nomad is made using either naturally dyed organic cotton or peace silk (the most ethical kind). Tap the link in our bio to find your next timeless, trend-resistant travel piece. #aperfectnomad #ecotravel #consciousliving #sustainability #honestliving #conscioustravel #summer #honestluxury
Set up in 1999 by brothers Drew and Gav Lawson, The Hemp Trading Company (THTC) is an award winning, ethically driven clothing label, specialising in eco-friendly, politically conscious streetwear that is high-quality and long-lasting. Materials are made from hemp, carbon-neutral organic cotton, and recycled salvage plastic fibres, and most of the company’s supply chain is either independently audited or directly visited by the brand.
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Go wish this G a very happy birthday. @lowkeyonline has been speaking truths and raising roofs for a long time – and the world is a better place for it. If you've not checked it already, go peep 'Soundtrack to the Struggle 2' – our absolute mad lad managed to get Noam Chomsky to open the first track. Wish we could give you a better present than this post – but hey, next year we might just try frog marching Tony Blair to the Hague to be tried for war crimes. That would be an ace birthday present, no? #Lowkey #soundtracktothestruggle #happybirthday (Photo @foonia)
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