Is fast fashion the cause of all our problems? Or the saviour?

A couple of articles have popped up in the popular press this week. Firstly in the Guardian Lucy Siegle wrote, ‘Why fast fashion is slow death for the planet’ as an intro to her new book, ‘To Die For’. Then a couple of days later the Ecologist wrote, ‘Greening the High Street: Marketing trick or real deal?’ They are both informative, general articles worth reading, and they got me thinking about ethical fashion from a wider perspective.

So is fast fashion slow death for the planet? I think so. In fact, I got thinking about just what fast fashion has done for us. It made us greedy, wasteful and frivolous. It made us demand more at less cost. The choice on the High Street is boggling and at the same time compelling. It made us reach for the credit cards, pushing us into debt. At the same time as we were buying more, we were making less. The manufacture of most of the garments we were buying on the High Street was done overseas. Although this has been happening with clothes for decades, other products and services have more recently been outsourced overseas leading to job losses. So increased debt + job losses = the recession. Did fast fashion play a major part in the recession? The turnover of goods was not sustainable.

Of course, although we don’t make many garments in the UK anymore, a huge amount of people are employed in retail, so in this way the fashion industry provides many jobs. And the choice our High Street offers has world wide appeal. But as Lucy Siegle tweeted last Sunday, ‘Fast fashion action responsible for a number of Sunday Times Rich List entries today. Garment workers still can’t afford to eat’. Your new dress might make you happy, but for how long? As much as I love Topshop, I think fast fashion has done us much more harm than good.

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