Buy, wear, bin, repeat. The mantra of the fast fashion industry is drilled into us from an early age with popular culture promoting disposable clothing attitudes, but there is another way.
Staying current comes with certain pressures. As new trends emerge, being in a position to be able to adopt them is important, but is it possible to do this while also breaking with the traditions of fast fashion? What if quality clothing, footwear and accessories became investments into not only your own image and comfort levels, but also the planet?
Would you be surprised to learn that this way of living does exist? If so, let us open your eyes to the beauty of the circular fashion model.
Why is fast fashion bad?
As with everything, there is a sliding scale in place here, with certain brands being synonymous with the worst behaviour of this subset of the wider industry and others being, generally, not negatively regarded. An example of this disconnect would be the assumption that popular online-only retailers are a totally different entity to high street chains. Though the pricing structures may differ, the model of operation is identifiably similar, as is the chief motivation of both: to sell to customers frequently.
Quality reduction is an observable trend in the fashion industry, leading to less attention to detail, multiple drops of new items per season and less focus on garment lifespans. The implication of these issues translate to far-reaching environmental consequences that the buyer has all but removed and shielded from.
What are the aims of the model?
A circular fashion economy is thought to be one of the most effective ways to reduce and even reverse the far-reaching impact we, as the human race, have had on the planet. By consistently removing resources but failing to replenish or replace them (landfill waste doesn't count!), the planet is heading towards becoming unrepairable. One of the most selfish industries, in terms of stripping the earth of natural resources and in return, simply polluting, is fashion.
By encouraging a move beyond fast consumerism and disposable garments, the circular fashion model will see reusing, repairing and recycling being more vogue than buying new and simply wearing once. It will also, if rolled out into the consciousness of every consumer, help to shut down the fast fashion model entirely.
Fast fashion’s legacy
Towering landfill sites, enormous carbon emissions, chemical pollution and inhumane working conditions are some of the main side effects of the fast fashion industry but despite being openly discussed, even exposed in the case of dangerous conditions, change is still slow. The reason? Brands placing a higher value on cost savings and not being willing to invest in educating shoppers as to the long-term benefits of conscious consumption.
Until the industry as a whole turns it back on unsustainable manufacturing methods, creating a level playing field in terms of garment costs and traceability, ethical companies will always be seen as niche or expensive. Regardless of how much longer a pair of shoes crafted with recycled rubber and PET will last than PU sneakers for under £10, it’s that initial figure that grabs the attention of buyers and overshadows the dark nature of how they were made.
Because sector-wide change isn’t an overnight process, continued discourse is the only way to highlight the importance of various slow fashion movements. From here, an awareness and appreciation of the cause can filter into everyday buying habits. The somewhat glacial pace is frustratingly appropriate as a backlash against fast consumerism and instant gratification but as everybody knows, real change takes time.