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How fast fashion brands are seriously harming the environment.
Buying new clothes is a great feeling, made even better when you find a tasty bargain or a massive percentage off. But is it really worth it when fast fashion companies like Missguided and Boohoo are steadily contributing to climate change with the fabrics and dyes that they use?
Fast fashion aims to replicate the best selling looks quicker than their competitors, and at the lowest price. Missguided is perhaps the most notorious of these fast fashion companies, thanks to its sponsorship of Love Island, but Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing are hot on its heels. These companies are thriving online as their high street competitors like Topshop and River Island flounder amid people leaving to seek out better deals elsewhere. Nitin Passi, the founder of Missguided, likes to think his company can recreate the hottest looks the quickest, naming it ‘rapid fashion’ rather than simply the fast fashion of the high streets.
Missguided especially knows how to retain an audience. Hundreds of new items are launched on the site every week, at ridiculously low prices, and several celebrity collaborations are routinely released throughout the year. Students are offered a massive discount of 25%, beating the majority of other online clothes retailers such as ASOS, and promotions with as much as 50% the whole site can be seen what seems like every other week. Earlier this summer, their latest marketing gimmick was the infamous £1 bikini.
Simple, black, classic: this was a bikini that anyone could wear. Every single time they restocked it, it would sell out within the hour, in every single size. A statement from Missguided proclaimed that they were selling at a loss to ‘celebrate ten years of empowering women to look and feel good without breaking the bank’. But not everyone loved this new drop.
Many people lashed out against the brand, condemning it for being unsustainable and for Missguided trying to use feminism to sell it, as well as being made from 85% polyester, a non-biodegradable material that harms the environment during production as well. Despite the suitably vague statement that Missguided put on their website stating that it was ‘sourced to the same high standards’ as their other products, it’s clear that they are completely disregarding the impact that their company has on the environment as a whole.
Climate emergency has been declared, and companies need to start using more sustainable, eco-friendly ways to produce clothes. Government findings report that textile production produced more emissions than international flying and shipping, consumed vast amounts of freshwater, and pumped harmful chemicals and microplastics into the environment. To make things worse, in the UK alone, 300,000 tonnes of clothes are destroyed each year, and a 1p fashion tax has been rejected by the government, despite the fact it would have raised funds to help combat the devastating impact that irresponsible fashion companies have on the environment. Shoppers in the UK buy more clothes than any other European country (double that of Italy and Germany), adding to an already damaging impact on the planet. Nitin Passi didn’t even bother to turn up to a Parliamentary inquiry into sustainability, showing just how little he cares about making better decisions for the environment and how much he cares about making money.
The problem with making more sustainable clothes is that they will be more expensive. This is the key selling point that drives many consumers to fast fashion websites: the prices. The clothes are cheap, cute, and current. Sustainable fashion is more expensive, as they use recycled materials or high-quality materials that are sourced ethically, which are unfortunately more expensive than those used by fast fashion brands. More sustainable brands are often not as concerned with staying on-trend and don’t sponsor shows with a viewership in the millions to get their name out there. It makes it more difficult for sustainable, ethical brands to get their names out there when they are being overshadowed by multi-million-pound companies that don’t care about the toxic waste they produce with their clothes.
There are a few things you can do to help combat these companies. Vintage and second-hand clothes have almost zero impact on the environment, as they have been pre-worn. You can often find amazing things in vintage shops: American university t-shirts, soft flannels, amazing blue jeans. The Vintage Kilo Sale is a great place to start, as you can find tonnes of vintage fashion for a fixed price, and it travels around to make it more accessible. You can keep track of where they’re going on Facebook. There are also loads of great vintage shops online – check out Brag Vintage or ASOS Marketplace for some real gems! The vintage aesthetic never goes out of style, and you never know what you’ll find in an unassuming little shop.
Another thing you can try is repairing things. Your favourite pair of jeans have ripped? Don’t throw them away! Instead, try taking them to an alterations shop. For a simple rip, it shouldn’t be too pricy, but certainly cheaper than buying a brand-new pair. If it’s something as simple as a broken zipper or a rip, it can be more cost-effective for you and better for the planet just to get it mended.
That being said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying new clothes. It’s just about being mindful of where you’re buying from. ASOS has a huge range of recycled products, including bikinis and tights, and also carries vintage brands. Converse also has a new range of shoes made from recycled products, as do Vans. Even if you’re not buying recycled, you can make a difference by buying good quality clothes that’ll last, rather than end up in the bin after being worn twice. When you’re buying, try to find things made with organic materials such as organic cotton or leather. If you’re vegetarian or vegan and don’t want to buy anything made with real leather, try to avoid so-called ‘vegan leather’, as it’s essentially a fancy word for plastic.
However, it isn’t easy to buy a completely sustainable fashion. Itâ€™s expensive for one, and hard to find everything you want from all sustainable or recycled sources. The most we can do is try. Try and buy fewer clothes, find more clothes second-hand, wear the clothes you own more. Everybody has a responsibility to try and live more sustainably, but the sad truth is that we can do little until major corporations decide, or are forced, to make permanent changes. All we can do is keep making small changes until major ones can be pushed through.