So, after an amazing response to my Instagram stories, I have decided to write a blog post about fast fashion- looking at what it is and what can be done about it. I studied business management at University and in my last year I decided to carry out my dissertation on the topic, titled: “An Exploration into How to Overcome ‘Fast Fashion’ by Engaging Young Consumers in ‘Ethical Fashion’ Through Marketing”. Through this study I essentially wanted to look into consumer behaviour when it comes to fashion and then use business strategies (mainly marketing) to see whether we could move young consumers away from fast fashion. What astonished me was that people didn’t really know what fast fashion was when I was carrying out my studies- yes, they had heard of the term but didn’t really know what it was. So, I thought I would start by outlining exactly what it is, and what we can do to reduce its harmful effects.
Disclaimer: before I start, I am aware I still wear fast fashion brands on my blog, but the point I’m making is I want to start getting a little better at being mindful of what I wear so this is my starting point.
What is ‘fast fashion’?
The ‘fast fashion’ trend is described as “low-cost clothing collections that mimic current luxury fashion trends” (Joy et al., 2012, pp 273). Fast fashion companies turn around new styles from the design room to shop floor within 2 weeks, which allows retailers to generate high profits selling large quantities of low-priced clothing to consumers looking for something new to wear every week. However, this trend has an unethical side that needs to be addressed- both socially and environmentally. The social unethical side of fast fashion is related to production and manufacturing as most fast fashion garments are produced in developing countries, normally by low paid labour. This means lower costs overall for companies, resulting in lower prices for consumers, thus, leading to a higher number of sales. In terms of environmental issues- fast fashion systemsuse large amounts of water and chemicals and emit significant amounts of greenhouse gases and is known to be the second highest polluter in the world behind oil. Furthermore with 1,000,000,000kg of clothes being disposed to landfills every year, very few clothes are being recycled (Morgan and Birtwistle, 2009). What really shocked me is that fast fashion is the second largest polluter worldwide behind oil, so we really need to start being pro-active about this issue.
What can be done
There are lots that can be done to reduce the issue:
- Buy second hand- charity shops are amazing.
- Recycle and donate old clothing as opposed to throwing it away.
- Reduce consumption- this is a big one. If we were all to at least half the clothing we purchase, we would make a massive difference.
- Buy from sustainable clothing brands- there are some great brands out there such as Matt and Nat and People Tree- however they are expensive. Nobody’s Child is a sustainable brand that isn’t too expensive so I am going to start shopping there a little more!
- There is talk of implementing a tax onto producers to pay 1p for every garment made that goes towards better waste collection.
My personal opinion on the matter
- From studying this area extensively, I have quite a few opinions on the matter
- 1) Firstly, I do think implementing a tax for manufacturers is a good idea as that can be put towards better waste collection and hopefully reduce landfills being used for fashion waste. However, I think more needs to be done than that. The issue also lies with consumerism- we as consumers respond to trends etc but ultimately it is the suppliers and manufacturers who respond to our demand. The more we demand, the more manufacturers will produce and this just ends up creating a vicious circle.
- 2) There needs to be more education around the area of fast fashion and consumers need to be shown a more ethical solution. We have seen first-hand a massive response to reducing plastic waste and lots of people are turning vegan for our planet – people want to do good, and that is because they are witnessing the harm of our planet. We have seen restaurants and companies scrap plastic straws for paper ones, and even well-establish food companies respond to the growing demand for vegan food (Greggs being one of them). So, it is possible as consumers to demand for businesses to give a more ethical and sustainable fashion option
- 3) But how do we do this? We as consumers have the power to change our buying habits thus changing how much manufacturers make. Small steps to begin with such as buying less clothing, swapping to ethical brands, buying second-hand and donating to charity will make a big difference. Coming from a business point of view, I think a lot can be done. My hope is that current brands may see a shift in what consumers want and hopefully follow a more sustainable business strategy. As for already established sustainable brands, a few things need to change. Firstly, the pricing of these brands need to reduce a little bit as consumers are generally price sensitive. Secondly, these brands need to go about their marketing a little better. A lot of them are still not very well known, so perhaps getting involved with the social media movement (the way fast-fashion has) would help. I think there is also a stigma around these sustainable brands being not very fashionable and ‘hippy’, so perhaps finding a right balance between trendy but also sustainable would be ideal.
- As a blogger, I will definitely be incorporating these thoughts into my content. I want to show a more sustainable way of being fashionable. I started the year by sharing that I was going to buy less, and whilst that has reduced my content (as I’ve had less outfits to post), I’m hoping to find ways to incorporate sustainable yet fashionable content to build it back up.
- I don’t want to lose the fashion aspect of my blog. Fashion makes me happy so I will continue to shop, but I will buy less and be a bit more mindful.
- I am going to look into more sustainable brands.
- Finally, I want to make the point that my blog won’t be about constant pressure to be sustainable, as that can be a bit off putting in my opinion. I just want to be a little more mindful, and think it would be great to share it with you all in subtle way.
I think as long as we are making small changes and doing what we can, thats a great start! I hope you have found this interesting- any questions please leave them in the comments below!