Fast Fashion

The recent scandals of Pretty little things and Nasty gal’s parent company , accused of slavery, shed some light on the fast fashion industry. A deeper understanding is necessary to make wiser consumer choices and pay for what your values support.

For many the first exposure to fast fashion was the Rana plaza scandal, a structurally unsound building where big fashion companies manufactured their clothes. What is remembered as the deadliest garment factory disaster in history shines some light on the underlying industry unsoundness.

What is the issue with fast fashion and what are the alternatives?

What is fast fashion?

Pre-cut clothes with seasons and trends sold for very little. Often found in chain present on the high street and now e-commerce. The designs are brought quickly from catwalks to market to capture momentary trends. Shoppers often buy it as a leisure activity or to “refresh” their wardrobe. This is especially different when compared to previous generations who shopped for clothes out of necessity. The materials are sourced considering price only without consideration of depletion of resources. Therefore, there is no sustainable view of the garment.

A fast fashion shopper
Photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

The problem

To be able to meet the low-cost high volume the quality is poor and the supply chain is a heavy pollutant relying on low cost manufacturers in countries where human rights or safety at work is not as regulated as they are in western countries’. The clothes are not made to last due to poor quality and purchase driven by price and trend.

Waste in the process is not valued, disregarded adding to the environmental impact (this can be when the material is cut or during quality audits).

The industry encourages unnecessary purchases that are likely to be worn once or never and seven times on average.

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

In the Rana Plaza scandal the buyers ranged from the luxury Versace to Primark showing that price is not a guarantee of ethical supply chain. The death toll reached 1134 people with many injured.

Photo by fran hogan on Unsplash

Fast fashion facts:

  • Using an item for nine more months would reduce the carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30 % each per garment. Durability of clothes is a design issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Fashion produces 10% of the world’s green house gas emissions and 85% of textile goes to landfill every year (one garbage truck full every second).
  • Producing one cotton t-shirt uses the equivalent water to a person’s for three and a half years of consumption. A pair of jeans is the equivalent for 10 years.

The solution

The way out needs to be two sided: it can focus on the production as well as consumers’ purchasing and maintenance behaviours. Washing clothes as they are intended to be will prolongate their usage. A few other options are:

  • Turning towards a circular economy that will reduce the need for sourcing new materials far from the country where it is being sold. Currently recycling techniques make it difficult to recycle the products created as they are blended fibres. A design issue if you ask me.
  • Natural dyes to reduce pollution and workers breathing chemicals. Coffee, turmeric, henna and other have become trendier.
  • A more transparent, accountable and responsible vision of the supply chain and management of suppliers. Knowing where your suppliers buy, work and regulate the working conditions or support the suppliers in improving.
  • A reckoning from customers that if they are not paying the real cost someone will. Realising that the cost of your garment should be much higher so you may buy less, better quality or second hand!
  • Separate sustainable in marketing language and products that genuinely conserve the resources of the planet for future generations. A £20 dress cannot be sustainably made.
  • Tighter regulations around slavery produced products and their enforcement.
  • Rethinking slavery  in its modern forms encompassing low paid work, tied in workers (employers keep their passports or tie them in debt) and other.
  • As recommended by you can create an ethical checklist to verify their stance on important matters is aligned to yours.
Photo by tu tu on Unsplash

Further resources:

Organisations like provide guidance and rating on brand’s stance on ethical matters and their sourcing

A website called that selects products meant to last a lifetime!


2 thoughts on “Fast Fashion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s