When it’s easier to turn a blind eye to the problems of fast fashion, how do we even try to start solving the problem?
The problems caused by fast fashion
Fast fashion is quickly becoming a phrase that is actually starting to mean something to the people spending their money on it. With its utterance conjuring images of sweatshops, mountains of clothing destined to be worn once and never again, and oceans polluted with microfibers, fast fashion seems to be something we hate, but are doing little about.
The company Boohoo, now recognised as one of the UK’s online clothing giants and valued at around £4.3 million, has recently been named as a quintessential user and abuser of the fast fashion industry. The company has been called out for, allegedly, paying their employees in their factory in Leicester as little as £3.50 an hour while requiring employees to work through the pandemic despite the city’s recent lockdown. Boohoo, like many other online retailers, is proficient in rolling out over 100 new designs clothing onto their website every day with promises of totally rare and fleeting promo codes and free next day delivery. Boohoo is not alone and companies like these are making it cheaper and easier than ever to get their items onto consumer’s doorsteps but at the cost of their employees and the environment.
As more and more light is being shone on the ethics of fast fashion, it will not be long until many more of our beloved stores come under fire.
Refrain and re-frame
To solve the problem of fast fashion is not an easy task. Recently, buyers of fast fashion are receiving criticism from peers and across social media for their buying choices, a fine demonstration of this is the ridicule customers who queued for Primark received during the first day it reopened. This ridiculing was undeserved. As consumers we should not feel guilt for buying what it is we can afford, which is the case for many people.
However, the question we should be asking is how can we strike a balance between what we can afford whilst still making ethical and conscious choices?
Ultimately, as individuals we choose in what directions to be ignorant. I know this because I chose to blissfully continue being unaware. It is just a lot easier to not think about where my clothes come from, or if I am reaping the benefits of someone else’s disadvantage. I get a lot more joy out of buying what I want when I want because I can. We live in a capitalist society, “spend, spend, spend,” is thickly plastered onto the world around us so we mustn’t be too tough on ourselves and curl up in our own self hatred because we didn’t check if our jeans were made using less water or if they are made from a synthetic fabric.
What we do need to consider is how we can move on from our states of ignorance now that we have been made aware that fast fashion is not up to standard. We need to reframe our buying options. If you shop somewhere regularly, maybe just have a little research and see what you can find about what they are doing well and what they aren’t doing so well. All businesses have social responsibilities, and if they aren’t playing their part, maybe consider getting your basic pieces elsewhere. Depop is a saving grace for everyone, and I mean everyone. All sizes, all brands, all friendly people in the same head space getting rid of clothes they no longer want for clothes they do want and the more people involved, the better.
With People now buying 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, it’s clear we need to normalise second hand buying again; its cheaper, environmentally friendly and doesn’t exclude anyone from the target market. We should all try and consider buying items that we know we can wear more than once (which can be difficult), and not be afraid to re-wear things more than once. We are not in Mean Girls, we are all just people, and we all look nice in clothes, so make the most out of them.
The sad truth of fast fashion
Unfortunately, fast fashion is everywhere, and our purses would confirm that ignorance is bliss when it comes down to ethically sourcing our clothes. We were all probably happier not knowing that our high-street retailers are killing the planet and believing that the workers who made our shoes were being paid right. However, fast fashion relies on this; our motivated avoidance of the issues that come with buying without thinking.
We are living in a new world, where actions have responsibilities, and it is a better world, so to reap the benefits of that world we must participate. It is much easier to protect ourselves from feelings of guilt and culpability, but it is also perpetuating a vicious cycle which we can all just take smalls steps to try and moderate. No one can single-handedly stop fast fashion in its path, but like with veganism, individuals are having a greater impact than they ever could have imagined, it is catching on, and so can this.
So re-frame your buying options! Buy the clothes that you want as permanent placeholders in your coveted wardrobes, not just because they’re cheap or you might have an event where you might be able to wear it at some point. Use Depop and other second hand clothing platforms, normalise thrifting and rewearing, buy things that can be worn on more than one occasion, accessorise your basics and do not just throw away the clothes you don’t want any more, because it is likely that someone else will.
Buying is a feel good outlet for everyone, don’t blame yourselves for that, but when your buying habits become ethically conscious, it is not ignorance that is bliss, bliss is knowing that we are making better choices.