Is fast fashion finished?

The idea of sustainable fashion has become increasingly popular over the last number of years. The rise of second-hand clothing sites has coincided with fast fashion brands facing increasing scrutiny on social media platforms. With the ever-increasing pressure on society to become more environmentally friendly, is fast fashion finished? 

Younger people seem to be the driving force behind the push for more sustainable fashion. This is due to the fact they are now more aware of the harmful damage that mass production can have. Social media has played a huge part in this. There is widespread information on sustainable fashion across different platforms. 

“Social media has made this education accessible, as the damage caused by fast fashion isn’t exactly front page news”. 

Social media accounts have been created to spread awareness of these issues and have become a popular way to share information. Emma Quin, a student living in Belfast, created her Instagram page “Ethical Emma” last year. The page promotes sustainable fashion and ethical clothing choices. Emma tells me that she initially started her page to document the unique bargains she found, but when she started to “find out about the environmental and social impacts of fast fashion” her page evolved into what it is today.  She tells me that she believes social media has “done wonders for popularising sustainable fashion” as it allows “creators to make graphics, citing statistics about fast fashion, and publish them allowing them to be easily shared by viewers.” She also tells me that in her opinion “social media has made this education accessible, as the damage caused by fast fashion isn’t exactly front page news”. 

Depop has seen an increase of 130% in sales over the last two years.

As many now search for a more responsible way to consume, there is a sea of websites selling secondhand clothing. Depop, which is one of the most well known and popular sites for reselling clothes, was first introduced in 2011. Since then its users have steadily increased. The latest statistics from Depop show that the website now has over 15 million users worldwide. These users are mostly young people, with 90% of users under the age of 26.  The idea that fast fashion maybe finished is evident in how the sites sales have steadily increased each year. The site had an increase of 130% in sales from just 2017 to 2019. 

Along with people now choosing to buy second-hand clothing, many are now demanding transparency in the sustainability of their products. Popular sites such as ASOS now have large sections for “responsible” shopping, dedicated to ethically sourced, and environmentally conscious clothing. Emma believes this is due to people realising “the damage behind supply chains and how garment workers are being treated.”   She also believes that “consumers are now demanding so much more of brands”. She tells me that “brands have essentially become people, they must have a moral code, ethics and be transparent.” Emma believes “this shift towards sustainable fashion has shone a light upon how unethical big high street fashion brands can be.”

35% of women said they were planning to buy fewer clothes after lockdown.

During the pandemic, many kept busy by upscaling old clothing and organising their wardrobes as high street stores were closed. Research carried out on behalf of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA) found from polling that during the pandemic, 28% of people are recycling or reusing more clothes than normal. In addition to that 35% of women said they were planning to buy fewer clothes after lockdown. The same study found that only 19% of people think the industry should go back to normal after Covid-19. Additionally, 50% of those surveyed believed the industry should do whatever it takes to become more environmentally sustainable. 

Is fast fashion finished?

As younger generations become increasingly informed about the environmental damage that fast fashion has on the planet is fast fashion finished? Emma tells me that she believes “younger generations coming up are more passionate about environmentalism” but adds that she also “has  to be cynical and realise how clever fast fashion companies are with their marketing in manipulating consumers to appear sustainable.” She also notes that “sustainable fashion is undoubtedly more expensive than fast fashion, so a lot of people cannot afford it.” However overall she believes “the era of fast fashion is definitely losing its edge. It’s being exposed and rightly so.” 

With ever increasing knowledge on the impact fast fashion can have on the environment and coronavirus changing the way we shop for the foreseeable future it is becoming increasingly likely that this could be the beginning of the end for fast fashion.

Emmas Instagram can be found here.

The RSA research into the impact of Covid-19 on fast fashion can be found here.

Check out our recommendations for thrift and vintage clothing shops in Ireland here.

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Aoife McDowell

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