Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 12 months, you’ll have heard of the concept of fast-fashion. I’m sure almost everyone living in the western world owns at least one item of clothing from a fast-fashion brand and, chances are, 99% of the clothes you own are from fast-fashion stores. Zara, Topshop, Urban Outfitters, Brandy Melville, ASOS, PLT, Boohoo… you name it, they’ll be it. Whilst this post is not meant to shame people for wearing fast-fashion clothing – I also own and wear it – I do want to raise awareness about the broader conversation surrounding it whilst focusing on some sustainable alternatives.
First things first, fast-fashion has come under fire recently because consumers are starting to realise how harmful such brands are for the planet and for society. According to Fashion Checker, 93% of the brands they surveyed don’t pay their garment workers a living wage (2020). In order to keep prices at a minimum, fast-fashion brands pay their factory workers a pittance and, what’s more, they often work inhumane hours in barbaric conditions. They aren’t called sweatshops for nothing…all so that western consumers can pay £1 for a bikini.
Furthermore, more than $500 billion of value is wasted every year from underutilisation of clothing and inadequate recycling (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). Shocked? To be honest, I’m not. The amount of people who wear something once before throwing it out is astonishing. Rather than giving away surplus stock to charities or people in low-income brackets, fast-fashion brands choose to incinerate it – because heaven forbid anyone should get a freebie.
As Greta Thunberg famously said, “no one is too small to make a difference”. You might think that boycotting fast-fashion as an individual will have no impact on the environment; that it will cause you more inconvenience than it will benefit the planet. Sorry to tell you, but you’re wrong. Because, if everyone collectively chooses to opt for more sustainable options, this will have a seismic effect on the environment. Already, a new era of sustainable and ethical shopping is arising, with the likes of Depop, Etsy and Vinted taking precedence over fast-fashion retailers. There is still a long way to go and I know too many people who have opted in to ASOS’ (or similar) Premier Delivery scheme which, for “only £9.95 a year”, gets you free and unlimited next day delivery…no wonder we can’t resist the urge to buy, buy, buy.
And so, what can you do? Below is a list of some of my favourite boutique discoveries on Instagram and Etsy, as well as some more sustainable alternative brands if you really do need to buy an item first-hand (like socks and underwear). Supporting small businesses – whether fashion or jewellery – is a great first step to toppling the huge fast-fashion retailers. Most importantly though, we need to learn to be satisfied with what we already own and stop itching for the instant gratification earnt through online shopping.
The cutest handmade clay jewellery you ever did see – follow her Instagram for regular restock updates and prelaunch sneak-peaks. She also makes one-of-a-kind, zero waste pieces using leftover clay from other designs. What’s not to love?
Manda makes the most gorgeous sterling silver and gold-filled jewellery – all from scratch. She’s Sussex-based, so might even be local for any of you spending lockdown at home.
Another jewellery option, with some of the cutest beaded jewellery you ever did see. My bestie got me some matching sets for my birthday last year and I’ve received so many compliments on them.
Slow-fashion that’s made-to-order – it doesn’t get much better than that. Megan specialises in handmade “no fog” face masks (especially good for glasses wearers).
To use her own words, she is a “sustainable designer with a dreamy aesthetic”. And the aesthetic really is dreamy. If you’ve just finished watching Bridgerton, then some of her pieces will be right up your street.
This shop aims to put sustainability at the centre of every article; they have various ranges made from recycled materials as well as an annual impact report detailing their environmental footprint. A more sustainable option for basics such as underwear and activewear.
I love this brand. As the name suggests, they only make 100 of each item. Ever. So, there’s no danger of anything being incinerated or wasted and, as a bonus, only 99 other people will be wearing your item – so it really is unique.
Hand embroidered cotton socks (and face masks too) that will add a unique touch to any outfit. Trust me when I say their work is adorable.
Finally, let me reiterate that you can make a difference as an individual. Reducing your consumption, buying second-hand, supporting small and local businesses are all great first steps.
Image: cottonbro via Pexels