Fast fashion, faster damage

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Clothing and shoes collection bins will hopefully encourage people to donate their unwanted items to charity.

Fast food, fast cars and now there is even fast fashion – a contemporary term used for the cheap and trendy throwaway clothes we buy from budget retailers. These garments might be perfectly good at the time of purchase, but they soon both fall apart and out of fashion. According to Fashion Focus, it is estimated that we now buy 40% of our clothes at ‘value’ retailers. These fast fashion suppliers – the majority of whom solely allow online shopping – have not just stomped their stiff, faux-leather boot adorned foot down on the high street, but they have also left a muddy carbon footprint in their wake.

Recent findings from the Environmental Audit Committee show that Britons are the number one consumer of new clothes in Europe, and the number of items we are purchasing has doubled in the last ten years. Campaigners for sustainability Wrap have highlighted that 300,000 tones of clothing are binned every year. Of these easily re-useable clothes, 80% are piled in a landfill and the other 20% are incinerated, releasing toxic chemicals such as azo dyes, chlorinated solvents, lead and mercury into the air.

Last week, MPs reported that they are growing increasingly worried about the UK’s penchant for buying new clothes and the many repercussions this has on the environment. In their report, MPs said the fashion industry was now a leading producer of the greenhouse gases that are over-heating the planet. MPs have since reached out to a number of retailers, urging them to consider the various approaches they can take to drastically reduce fast fashions’ destructive impact on the environment.

Andrew Pankhurst, Re-use Campaigns Manager for Zero Waste Scotland, emphasised the importance of fashion retailers taking immediate action:

“We all know buying brand new products can be tempting, but we have to think about our limited natural resources and the impact of our waste as we fight the ever-increasing threat of climate change.

“With the public and businesses more attuned than ever to the problems caused by linear consumption, there has never been a better time to be making the case for making things last and getting maximum value from our resources.”

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Clothes will a lot of life left in them can be found in charity and vintage shops.

In Edinburgh, steps are being taken to find solutions and alternatives to fast fashion, with its various sustainable fashion choices for shoppers. The capital boasts a vast array of vintage boutiques, natural wool knitwear stores and even shops such as Godiva and Totty Rocks, who use locally sourced fabrics to custom make pieces – which can take up to three weeks – ‘slow fashion’ is more fitting here.

Edinburgh & Lothians’ Regional Equality Council, who work to promote human rights and sustainability, have been hosting weekly clothing repairs and alterations drop ins. At 1:30pm on Wednesday 10th September, they have organised a swap shop event at Kings Church on Gilmore Place and encourage the people of Edinburgh to bring items in exchange for other items of their choosing. They also hope to launch a sewing club in the coming months.

Project Coordinator, Jean-Matthieu Gaunand said:

“The fashion industry is a great contributor to climate change. The industry emits as much greenhouse gas as all of Russia. At Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council, we encourage people from diverse communities to repair and re-sew their clothes rather than constantly buying them new.

“Our clothing repair service is run by an expert Kurdish tailor who has over 15 years of tailoring experience. She has done wonders and the feedback from participants has been excellent. I invite everyone to drop in.”

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People can take their clothing to Edinburgh & Lothians’ Regional Equality Council’s weekly drop-in to ve

Elsewhere in the city, one student is pro-active in push against fast fashion. Edinburgh College of Art Jewellery and silversmithing student Daniela Groza is the curator of an annual ethically-conscious

fashion show, R Sustainable Fashion. She has recently been appointed the student ambassador for the Ethical Making Pledge, founded by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths. She explains what the group’s objectives are:

“We want to ensure that the materials used in our workshops not only come from ethically sourced roots, but also that we are creating a safe environment for ourselves, such as eliminating chemicals such as citric acid and finding substitutes.

“Also, thinking about recycling and reusing precious metals – re-melting and turning into a new piece, creating multi wearable jewellery, thinking about the material flow; where it came from, digging to its roots, but also considering where it will end up, putting emphasis on a circular economy.

“As a jewellery student who is interested in fashion, it is my responsibility to take these issues into consideration given the damages produced to our world by both the textile and the extractive industry.”

In the quick isn’t quick enough society of today where everything is available at the simple click of a button, the temptation of ‘buy now, wear tomorrow’ can be hard to resist. However, next time you are about to hit ‘checkout’, perhaps stop to ask yourself – do you really need another Boohoo dress? Your purse and the planet might just thank you for it.

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