Hi, let me introduce myself, my name is Amy and I’m the marketing assistant for BIDBI(Bag It Don’t Bin It), manufacture and printer of ethically sourced cotton bags. I’m excited to collaborate with Aarabhi London because we share the values of having a sustainable and ethical supply chain.
In order for us to discuss fast fashion it’s important to get a definition of what exactly fast fashion is. The Oxford dictonary defines fast fashion as“inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” We often see this in the real world where catwalk designs and influences from social media trends are replicated at rapid speeds and are in stores within days. As a result of the multitude of influences globally and different styles we will see that mass-producing, fast fashion brands have thousands of items in a range of different colours and styles. Currently online retailer ASOS has 11,494 dresses alone for sale right now. Another defining feature of fast fashion brands is the low price of the garments for sale. Online retailer Boohoo lists 168 dresses under £5 and over 500 between £5-£15.
So how can fast fashion companies churn out such a high quantity of styles for such a low price and still maintain profits? Well normally the easiest way to reduce overheads is to lower labour costs, so many of these brands will offshore their manufacturing to countries where labour costs are low, conditions are poor, and workers can be exploited to keep costs down. Also, the materials used in fast fashion garments are made cheaply and are of poor quality, designed to be worn and thrown away after a couple of uses. These companies will use intermediaries when looking for offshore manufacturers so there is a disconnect and maybe a “what I don’t know can’t hurt me” approach to knowing the origins of their clothes.
In order to understand the full impact of fast fashion we will take a three-pronged approach and look at the social, environmental and economic impact of this industry.
£5 from each tote sold, is donated to Street Child UK. Click here to purchase.
We will discuss the social prong as both an influence for fast fashion and the consequences of this culture. Historically fashion had 4 seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn/Fall and Winter each with a new clothing collection for the trends and weather changes of the season. However, this is no longer the case and high street retailers operate with more frequent “mini seasons” that take place every few weeks, these are influenced by the ever-changing trends displayed via social media.To keep up with the changing market demands, fast fashion has a very high turnover of stock. But this is not limited to the shops, people are obviously buying garments to keep up with the trends, leaving their “old” out of style clothes redundant.
The social impact of the fast paced ever changing “need” for new stock, new garments to satisfy new trends, feeds into the reliance from offshore, fast-paced, cheap manufacturing. Meaning that people working in this industry, continue to live and work in poor conditions. Without a drastic change the companies will not change their ways, to source from sustainable and more ethical supply chains.
Tambour beading in process at our factory in India.
Due to high demand, fast fashion companies use cheap, poor quality materials made from fossil fuels like polyester. Then once the garments have been made, they are then shipped worldwide using more fuel. Further to fuel usage, poor quality chemical dyes create toxins which are then emitted into water systems, polluting water supplies, “The textile industry is one of the most damaging industries to our waterways and our planet, only coming second in line to the agriculture industry”.
As a result of the fast-paced change in trends, stock will be removed from stores at the end of these “mini Seasons” instead of selling out. Rather than donating or reusing stock some companies have been exposed for destroying goods at the end of these seasons, wasting both time and resources which have gone into making the garment. This video demonstrates the vast amount of garments thrown away by the western world, much of it undamaged, being destroyed by workers in India.
“Everyone says…clothes come over because there is a water shortage in the west. Water is just as expensive as clothes are. That’s why they wear their clothes a couple of times, and then throw them away”
The workers who destroy the unwanted clothes can’t imagine any other reason as to why people would be so wasteful with wearable clothing.
A closer look at our beading. Produced by artisans who are paid fairly and work in a safe environment.
In order to compete with each other, the fast fashion companies offer low prices, and since there is a market that revolves around this, the market now expects these cheap deals. This isn’t economically viable for a company in the long run. Nor is it viable for the manufacturers as the workers will continue to be paid poorly as a knock-on effect of the low revenue made per garment.
The small amounts of capital put into making the clothing means they are poor quality. The low quality of the clothing ensures they aren’t made to last and are essentially designed to break or rip. This along with the fast turnaround of trends is fuelling the throw away culture.
Each garment has been signed by one of the artisans who worked on the team to create the piece.
So now we’ve discussed the causes and impacts of the fast fashion industry the burning question is “What do we do now?!”. Well, here’s a few ways to avoid the trend.
Learn to sew. Learning to sew is an indispensable skill to learn even if it’s just the basics. It can really help you out if you’re trying to reduce how much you throw away clothing. Being able to sew you will be able to mend tears and close up holes in clothing so it’s once again a wearable garment.
You can up-cycle old clothes; crop it, add tassels or sequins, or even give something a new lease of life such as using a lovely material from a jumper and transform it into a cushion cover! The ability to sew also means that if you lose weight you can alter your favourite items rather than having to buy new. If you’re really desperate to get a new on trend piece of clothing you could try your hand at making your own, with a bit of time you can sew your own garments. This means they will:
- Be made to measure and
- Be far more rewarding than buying.
Is lilac out and indigo in? Instead of buying something new, why not find a natural dye and just change the colour yourself. It is a much more fun way of experimenting with different colours and can be done with something as simple as a red cabbage or turmeric!
If you can’t make or use what you have, charity or vintage shops give a new lease of life to clothes that other people don’t want anymore. By doing this you are avoiding the fast fashion loop while still being able to get clothes that are new to you.
Finally, just do your research! Make a conscious effort to look into the companies you’re buying from. See what they are doing to make themselves more sustainable. Do they source ethically? Are their materials eco-friendly? Do they only order small quantities to avoid having a surplus? There are some really amazing companies who value their supply chain and have their ethics at the core of the business rather than an afterthought to appeal to their audience.
That is what companies like Aarabhi London and BIDBI are aiming to achieve. To create products, made that are high quality by choosing ethically and organically sourced materials that are built to last. By using an ethical supply chain where everyone in that supply chain is paid fairly and has a minimal impact on the environment.