Want to know how to tackle fast fashion?

Fast fashion is good, right?

We get our clothes and styles quicker than ever thanks to high-tech manufacturing and a constant supply chain. 

Who cares how cheap it is if it looks good for just a season?

But fast fashion isn’t good for our planet.

Fast fashion is horrible for the environment. It wreaks havoc on our oceans, and it’s one of the biggest polluters of our atmosphere.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there for when you want to make sustainable choices while looking great.

Want to know how to avoid fast fashion? We’ve got some ideas! Read on to see our complete guide to avoiding fast fashion and choosing the more eco-friendly option.

What is fast fashion?

Fast fashion occurs when clothing manufacturers replicate styles seen on the fashion runways and red carpets.

Very quick with rapid turnarounds, they attempt to capitalise on the favourable reception these new styles present. 

Huge amounts of waste are created by the high production rates of the fast fashion industry.

Fast fashion has taken over the industry:

  • From 2000 to 2014, the production of clothes doubled. 
  • Per-person purchases of clothing rose by 60% in that same time frame.
  • Since 2000, European designers went from releasing two new lines a year to a whopping 24! 
  • By 2030, the apparel and footwear industry will exceed £2.4 trillion in sales a year.

UK shopping choices feed fast fashion

Fashion-conscious shoppers in Great Britain love fast fashion:

  • As many as 55% of UK apparel shoppers purchased clothes online in 2020.
  • One-third of young women in Britain believe their clothes become “old” after they’ve worn them once or twice. 

These shopping habits play right into the hands of fast fashion brands who want shoppers to think their fashions are out of style within a month or two. That type of marketing is everywhere.

Just how bad is fast fashion for the environment?

Not to labour the point, but it’s HORRIBLE, fast fashion is potentially responsible for:

  • Approximately 10% of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions in 2022.
  • An increase in its carbon emissions of up to 50% by 2030. 
  • A quarter (26%) of the world’s entire carbon emissions by 2050.
  • 92 million tonnes of waste per year. 
  • Contamination of the ocean, land, and air.
  • Being the world’s second-largest consumer of water. 
  • Being the world’s second-largest polluter of water.

How do these things happen?

Producing synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic is an energy-intensive process. 

Fashion brands require large amounts of fuel, such as gasoline, to import materials and supplies, not to mention make their machinery run in factories and then be exported. 

Fabrics can break down into microplastics that contaminate the ocean and groundwater. Microplastics can even show up in your bloodstream and cause long-term health effects.

Greenpeace illuminates the problems of fast fashion like this: 

  • Brits throw away 300,000 tonnes of used clothing every year
  • It’s either burned or sent to landfill. 
  • 300,000 tonnes equals to about 3,000 blue whales, trashed annually.

We can all start saving a whale or two. Easily.

Why is fast fashion’s environmental impact so bad?

Fashion brands want to produce the most relevant clothes as quickly possible for their customers. Major brands have slimmed down to an efficient streamlined system: 

  • Quick design thanks to computer software. 
  • Production from highly efficient machines in the factory.
  • Distribution such as shipping from overseas into non-Asian markets.
  • Marketing that consumers see in high-end fashion magazines, red carpet styles at Hollywood galas and movie premieres, and celebrity endorsements.

This system allows retailers to place smaller quantities of a greater variety of styles sold at a lower price point. This industry model is destroying the environment.

Fast fashion brands often quickly reflect the latest trends from the runway or movie premieres.

But it’s not all gloom and doom! Fortunately, there are ways you, as a shopper, can make the right shopping choices to reduce your carbon footprint and support eco-friendly fashion brands.

How can I spot a fast fashion brand?

Spot a fast fashion brand by keeping in mind these clues:

  • Many different styles that frequently change.
  • Offshore manufacturing (look for the “Made in” label).
  • Cheap, low-quality materials that may fall apart after just a few months.

Here are some examples of fast fashion brands common in the UK to be mindful of when you shop at your favourite retailer:

  • Uniqlo
  • Primark
  • ASOS
  • Zara
  • H&M

Ask yourself a few questions, too:

  • How fast are clothes hitting the shelves after a new fashion trend? 
  • Do I see a new style in stores just two weeks after a fashion show or movie premiere? 
  • What do I see on social media? 

Brands like Shein, with 20 million Instagram followers, plug into the “gotta have it now” mystique. It adds 500 new products to its website every day and at very low prices.

Do you buy clothes produced in big factories overseas? 

Most brands with a “Made in [Insert Asian Country Here] are guilty of this. H&M, a Swedish brand, as well as Boohoo are probably the worst. 

Do you feel pressured to buy clothing due to limited availability? 

You’ll see this in the marketing of clothes and fast fashion brands like Missguided, a UK brand that launches 1,000 new styles every week

Are the clothes you buy made from cheap, poor quality materials? 

Polyester, acrylic and nylon are the worst and cheapest, and most major fast fashion brands utilise these materials in most of their apparel.

But we can all make different choices!

What are the most sustainable clothing brands out there?

Check out some of these brands for the most sustainable fashion choices you can make. 

They offer local and ethically sourced materials to make great-looking clothes.

  • BEEN London
  • Mother of Pearl
  • Fanfare
  • Elvis & Kresse
  • Birdsong
  • Baukjen
  • Wires, a brand that makes 3D-printed glasses from a single piece of metal

For children’s brands, check out our article on the best sustainable clothing brands for kids, and our article on the best sustainable winter clothing for kids.

Also a look at our list of sustainable school uniforms for the best choices for your kids when they attend school.

How can I be a part of the circular economy for fashion?

Lots of people already partake in renewable clothing practices.

They are part of a circular economy that includes eco-friendly practices, organically grown fabrics, and sustainable initiatives that reduce waste.

Take advantage of apps like Vinted and Depop. 

They will point to brands that truly offer sustainable fashion.

There are many alternatives to fast fashion with eco-friendly choices in clothing, if you’re willing to dig a bit deeper. Check out our article on renting and recycling for inspiration. If clothing rentals (or saving the planet!) inspires you, then you could consider other types of rentals including renting furniture or baby and kids items too.

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We know that it can feel like a struggle when you want to do good for your kids, the 🌎 and your community. That’s why we want to make it easier for you to embark on your own #MoreLoveLessWaste journey:

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Expect a big helping of humour and a lack of judgement. We’re helping each other and the planet, one rental at a time. #MoreLoveLessWaste 💙

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Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people and small businesses in your community or make some cash if you have items you don't need right now. We plant 🌲 and adopt 🐝, plus give to children’s charities.

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