The garment factories in the UK that feed the fast fashion industry are under fire right now. Yen Goo, at Paguro Upcycle, shares her thoughts.
Boohoo, which owns an array of other brands such as Nasty Gal, Pretty Little Thing, Oasis and Karen Millen, has been caught in a crossfire in the last few weeks after it emerged that it has links to some of Leicester’s garment factories which have been accused of modern slavvery.
While consumers enjoy the accessibility and affordability of fast fashion, sobering numbers have been released. It is estimated that less than 2% of people who make clothes earn a living wage.
People are beginning to hold back and take stock of their fast fashion habits and their impact on supply chains and the wider world.
Leicester’s recent local lockdown after a surge in Coronavirus cases has been linked to the garment factories which have been alleged to have poor social distancing measures.
Brands can’t hide their practices in plain sight anymore.
People are shopping less, and with Coronavirus still prevalent, don’t want to associate with brands who cause further cases and more restrictions on our lives.
Couple that with the fact that fast fashion is second only to oil as the world’s largest polluter, and it’s clear something has to change.
It’s important to remember, that fast fashion isn’t all fashion, so how can we reduce the dominance that it has on wider fashion industry?
It’s important to remember, that fast fashion isn’t all fashion, so how can we reduce the dominance that it has
How to stop supporting fast fashion
There are three steps that brands and consumers can make today.
1. Brands need to cater to new spending habits
The pandemic, and its sequential financial crash, has caused many British people to be more cautious of spending, and save more. In fact, 85% of people are spending less right now.
We’re still very much in the unknown, even as lockdown restrictions begin to ease.
Consumer habits have changed, and people are more mindful on where their money is going.
If they can purchase a pair of trousers which are going to last years instead of a cheaper pair which may rip after a few wears, it’s going to be far more beneficial on their bank balance, and the world in the long term.
Some brands, such as H&M, have been accused of ‘greenwashing’, the act of conveying a false impression on how environmentally friendly a company’s products are.
But instead of adding unsubstantiated claims to your advertising, this is a chance for fashion brands to be more creative and promote choosing quality, not trying to get their consumers to buy one outfit for every night of the week.
Brands are scared of doing the wrong thing, but by doing this, they’ll help to reduce throwaway culture.
2. Everyone can play their part to keep the momentum going
While fast fashion is in the headlines now, it can easily slip down the radar once the next big news story happens.
This is not just a today problem, brands with poor ethics can just be quiet for a few weeks until the speculation dies down.
Change does not happen without perseverance, consistency and motivation.
This situation won’t be in the headlines forever, but scrutiny and action needs to continue to have long-lasting effects.
It’s important to think about the circulating economy, when thinking of what you can change.
Someone has to pay the price for a £3 top, and it tends to be the workers and the environment.
From big fashions brands generating big profits, and consumers wanting cheap clothes, we’re all adding to the modern slavery issue.
When you’re about to buy a skirt, just think, does it match with your beliefs?
Also, if you buy from a more unknown ethical fashion brand, you’re less likely to bump into someone else wearing the same thing as you (for now, at least!).
3. We need to hold influencers to account
Some influencers have come forward to say they won’t be working with specific fast fashion brands until they get better, but there’s still thousands out there promoting fast fashion.
While they rely on these brands for income, it works both ways – the influencer is just as crucial to the fast fashion brand as the brand is to the influencer’s pay.
Fast fashion relies on Instagram posts, with OOTDs, clothes hauls and style challenges to promote its new lines and get their hard earned followers to buy from them.
But choosing to work with more ethical suppliers can also have benefits to influencers.
Their followers who are aligning more with conscious consumerism will empathise, and may in turn be more likely to buy from an ethical brand they promote, increasing the affiliate fees they earn.
It can also be great for their personal PR, increasing the number of followers they get.
Sustainable and ethical brands do often have smaller financial resources to pay influencers, but with more influencers willing to help make ethical fashion brands be known, it can only have a positive domino effect.
One fashion influencer, Chloe Plumstead, recently wrote on her blog, The Little Plum, that she feels ‘ingrained conflict’ when ‘sharing content on Instagram.
She wrote: ’“I want to reduce the potential risk of encouraging someone into debt or causing harm to the planet and the people producing our items.
“For a long time I’ve thought that I wanted to steer people towards shopping more sustainably, but what (I think) I’m understanding now is that I want to encourage people to consume less altogether. To be more discerning when buying things, not just for one night or one holiday away.”
Fashion isn’t the only issue with our global waste problem, but fast fashion, with its encouraged throwaway culture, is one of the biggest culprits.
I am glad that we’re finally beginning to see a change in the way people see fashion, but nothing changes just because one brand had a bad PR week.
We can all do our little bit to reduce how dominant fast fashion is in the world, and in our personal lives.
Yen Goo, is the founder of, Paguro Upcycle, a collection of the world’s finest upcycled products, focusing on quality craftsmanship and contemporary design.