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  • Writer's pictureRachel Matthews

It's time we took on fast fashion. Lockdown may have made it possible

Updated: May 22, 2021

A year trapped at home, many of us have spent that time in loungewear and its changed the way we’re shopping. That’s partly because we’re now all buying leggings (the sale of loungewear and leggings were up 1,303% in 2020 according to data from John Lewis at the end of last year) but, with nowhere to go, some of us have reduced how many clothes we buy, making it the perfect time to rethink our relationship with fashion.

The conversation around fast fashion has been growing over recent years, with a move towards sustainable shopping often discussed, but we’re still a long way off to achieving sustainability. According to a UK parliamentary report, global apparel consumption is projected to rise by 63% by 2030, from 62m tons in 2019 to 102m – that is equivalent to an additional 500bn t-shirts.

We’re shopping more and more and the impacts that’s having globally are huge. Everything we wear has an impact on the environment; from energy and water used in production, the land required to work and the products used – many clothes contain microplastics. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that textile production is a major contributor to climate change, with the industry having a reported annual carbon footprint of 3.3bn tones of CO2 equivalent.

As consumers are picking up on this, during a time where fighting climate change is more important than ever, it’s necessary for the brands we buy from to move towards more sustainable business models – they supposedly are.

This week Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams tweeted about her new role as H&M’s global sustainability ambassador. She said she would be ‘working closely with experts within H&M to drive sustainability initiatives and shape the path towards an accessible and circular future. The long-term goal is to use 100 per cent recycled or other sustainably sourced materials’.

This isn’t the first time H&M have committed to using recycled materials, with their recycling scheme which encourages shoppers to take back old clothes in exchange for a discount voucher, however, allegations soon followed regarding how little of the clothes donated were actually recycled.

Consequently, the brand has been accused of greenwashing (the process of conveying a false impression about how environmentally friendly a company is in order to please consumers), but they’re not the only ones.

So, relying on brands may not be the answer at the moment when it comes to tackling fast fashion, so instead, with a year of changes to our shopping habits, there are some actions we could continue to take to reduce our own impact.

If we’re already buying less, continuing to do this, combined with buying better will help to change the global impact we have with fashion, as clothes will last longer and lead to less waste.

Alternatively, if you don’t like to rewear clothes, borrow them. In response to the move towards sustainable fashion rental services have appeared, such as Hurr, ByRotation and Onloan. There are also regular events where you can go to swap clothes, so that your unloved pieces become someone else’s new outfit, and vice versa.

That way we can come out of lockdown with a new look, without contributing to fast fashion.


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