It’s the buzzword that is often thrown around in today’s media, but what does it mean? Why is it a problem? And how can businesses help to bring about positive solutions?
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is essentially the excessive consumption of clothing
In previous decades, the fashion industry would have had two seasons - summer and winter.
However, in the last 20 years, we've seen a rapid shift from two to fifty-two seasons a year, with online fashion brands boasting about ‘new styles added every week.’
This is due to a shift in the fashion industry. Before the 1980s, the ability to predict future fashion trends was what made a fashion brand successful.
But today it's the speed at which fashion brands can replicate the latest trends and stock garments for sale in stores and online - hence the term 'fast fashion'.
Why is fast fashion a problem?
As fashion brands are racing against time, the public are competing with each other on wearing the latest fashion before anyone else.
With such a quick turnover of trends and everyone rushing to the stores to make sure they are constantly deemed fashionable, you can imagine the volume of clothes purchased and only worn a handful of times before claiming the back of the wardrobe as their new home.
The environmental impacts of fast fashion
This drive to consume has left us with astonishing figures, with an estimated £30 billion worth of clothing collecting dust in our wardrobes, according to WRAP.
From an environmental perspective, the new clothing bought by one house annually produces the same amount of carbon emissions emitted by a car driving 6,000 miles.
The water used to clean these new clothes could fill over 1000 bathtubs - and that's even before we get started on microfibres.
There's no doubt that the fashion industry is a major contributor to green issues such as carbon emissions, fossil fuels, socially destructive practices and water pollution.
The nature of fast fashion increases the environmental impact of the entire industry and accelerates the detrimental effects on the planet.
Solutions to the fast fashion problem
Although the data may sound all doom and gloom, there's plenty that you can do within your business to prevent contributing to the harmful effects of the global fashion industry and its fast fashion trends.
Swap fast fashion brands for sustainable brands
Fast fashion brands are those that specialise in cheap and fashionable clothing even at the cost of their environmental impact, such as air and water pollution.
Consumer behaviour can send a powerful message to the garment industry about our values and concern for the environmental impact of excess clothing production.
Directing your clothes shopping budget towards more slow fashion brands - those who value quality and sustainability - can be an effective way to shift the tide within the fashion industry.
The fashion supply chain responds quickly to trends, so if more people set the trend of valuing eco-credentials, the entire industry will notice and begin to incorporate more of these values in their textile manufacturing, marketing messages and business models.
Opt for organic cotton instead of synthetic textiles
When making choices for your own clothes or business workwear, explore more eco-friendly options such as organic cotton production rather than the cheaper products that increase the problem of synthetic fibres, toxic chemicals or harmful chemicals in our water systems.
Fast fashion companies tend to offer cheaper clothing which they're only able to produce at the expense of other aspects such as human welfare, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and the depletion of natural resources.
In the long-term, these cheaper fabrics and garments can be very costly for our planet.
Reduce textile waste with a Swap Shop
Follow the example we're setting at First Mile’s recycling headquarters: set up a Swap Shop within the office!
Swap Shops are really simple to organise and can encourage a much greener office culture.
Simply source an old wardrobe (buy one from a second-hand shop or make space in your workplace coat cupboard), or invest in a clothes rail.
Ask colleagues to bring in their pre-loved or unwanted clothes that they no longer want and let this wardrobe flourish into a space where colleagues can easily exchange their items.
For each item taken, another is donated, so the show keeps going year-round. As the saying goes; One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!
This can reduce the impact of fast fashion as fewer new items are purchased, and this reduced demand can influence the production of more quality fashion items, rather than the throwaway culture of cheap garments.
Offer a clothes recycling service
In addition to our Swap Shops initiative, as a recycling company, First Mile offer a clothes recycling service for all garment recycling needs, including old clothes, shoes and even scraps of fabric.
Perhaps this is something you could explore as a service for your employees?
Businesses making a difference
Here at First Mile, our efforts to reduce the impact of fast fashion have had a lot of success, and you can do the same within your business.
Even just a few simple initiatives within your company can help to reduce fabric waste, cut down on the greenhouse gas emissions from excess clothes production and create a positive culture of reusing and recycling clothes.
Imagine if more and more businesses embraced these practices! Together we could reduce the significant environmental impact of cheap clothes and the excess fibre production associated with fast fashion garments.
Why not take matters into your own hand and take a step towards creating a greener work culture by setting up your own Swap Shop?