Fixing fashion: clothing consumption, addiction and sustainability

January 21, 2020

Image created by Finn Souter

Aloki Rochelmeyer and Sara Rourke explore the implications of fast fashion

Fast Fashion is a new approach to producing clothing that emphasises making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.

The growth of online shopping and the emergence of new brands like Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing and Misguided has caused fashion to become more readily available to us all.

With the phenomenon of social media influencers infecting the minds of young people, overconsumption has been normalised. We can feel peer pressure to constantly keep up with the endless turnover of fashion fads.

Since the prices are so low, this encourages mindless shopping and soon it can become an addiction where people feel compelled to buy cheap and wear once.

New research by environmental charity Hubbub finds; “One in six young people even say that they don’t feel they can wear an outfit again once it’s been seen on social media.”

In recent years, the awareness of mental health issues has grown rapidly and the fast fashion industry has boomed, which begs the question of how fashion is affecting our mental health?

Shopping can become an unhealthy coping mechanism for many to deal with stress, anxiety and depression which are common among teenagers. Fast fashion’s wide availability accentuates these issues. The repercussions can be severe; ranging from stress to shame to skint!

Sara and Aloki on snapchat

Not only is fast fashion draining our bank accounts, it can have a profoundly negative effect on the body image and self esteem of young people, as it promotes constant comparison to unreasonable and artificial beauty standards.

Hubbub research finds a whopping “300,000 tonnes of clothes are discarded annually in the UK due to our ‘throw-away’ culture”, which is not only poisoning our collective mental wellbeing but the environment too.

And according to the Environmental Audit Committee; “Three in five garments end in landfill or incinerators within a year – that’s expensive fuel! Half a million tonnes of microfibres a year enter the ocean. Doing nothing is not an option.”

On a global scale, children are being exploited in sweatshops; working long hours for low pay, their human rights violated and their futures sabotaged. This breeds a vicious cycle of poverty, driven by fast fashion, in developing countries – something we just don’t consider when buying yet another pair of jeans.

An estimated 1 in 10 children are engaged in child labour, says a report by the International Labour Organisation.

It is not all pessimistic as we discover ways to halt fast fashion by making the most of what we already have. Online market places like up-and-coming Depop, established in 2011, provide second-hand and third-hand clothes and accessories. Depop proves that it is possible to take pride in clothes that have already been owned, a healthier alternative to mindless fast fashion buying.

Some celebrities are using their platform to promote ethical fashion. Emma Watson has found a potential cure, endorsing the #30wear promise; before you buy something, ask yourself, “Will I wear this more than 30 times?” And only buy it if the answer is yes!

This is the type of influencer we need, encouraging us to buy sensibly.

Sara is studying Psychology, History and English literature at A level. She likes running, hanging out with friends and keeping up with current affairs.

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