The Cost of Fast Fashion
I’ve recently come to the realisation that every time I have a quick scroll on Instagram, or go for a quick stroll around town, I will want to buy something. My social media feeds are full of super cute outfits that are calling my name, and I can’t help noticing storefronts changing their displays every few weeks.
But I’m not alone in this bombardment of incentives to consume more and more. Experts have even estimated that in 2020, we were exposed to at least 6,000 advertisements a day, and this figure can go as high as 10,000. And don’t forget that these are cleverly targeted and tailored to your taste! Are you panicking? I’m panicking.
This creates an insatiable demand for new items, and who better to provide them than big fast fashion brands. Always readily available, high quantity and low quality, fast fashion is relatively inexpensive. And why should it cost money? After all, it’s purposefully built to not last - fast fashion retailers need you to need more clothes so they can profit off of constant demand.
Although we don’t expect perfection from anyone trying their best at minimising their consumption, it’s worth remembering that dirt cheap clothes come at a dirty cost (both environmentally and socially). The speed at which fast fashion delivers its products means that there is an increasing amount of stress on production resources to deliver on short fashion cycles. This often results in supply chains that put profit ahead of human welfare.
Not to get too Marxist, but globalisation has outsourced production and labour to developing countries that are carrying the economic and ecological burdens of fast fashion. This is actively widening the wealth disparity between countries. Cheap clothes reflect poor business conduct, and the bare minimum in terms of salaries for the garment-makers. Oh, and 80% of apparel is made by women so this is also a deeply gendered issue. The real cost of cheap clothes is that people are not being paid fair and equitable amounts for the work they are doing.
Here’s the annoying truth: quality clothes are often more expensive. But they are worth the investment in the long-term, as high-quality fabrics can last for decades when they are shown the TLC they deserve. And if you think about it, impulse buying £20 tops every month that will disintegrate within a year isn’t exactly wallet-friendly either. It’s also always worth checking out charity shops or resale websites for relatively affordable high quality items.
The benefit of having a core wardrobe that looks great styled with tons of different outfits will make your life so much easier (and getting dressed in the morning a whole lot faster). Also, nice fabrics are… well, nicer. Have you ever been to a summer picnic in a polyester dress, sweating under the fabric? Me too. Breathable and comfortable fabrics really matter.
Finally, paying more for clothes means that you will not compromise on your ideal wardrobe. I know I have bought something that wasn’t quite right because it was on sale or seemed like a bargain, and chances are that it is one of the least worn items hanging in my closet. But I’m not alone, according to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, British people are currently hoarding £46.7 billion of unworn clothing in their wardrobes. That’s roughly 3.6 billion unworn clothes, or an average of 57 items per person. Yikes.
So here’s a reminder to love the clothes you already own, mend and repair them if they get worn, and focus on buying better clothing (ideally resold or ethically made).