What is fast fashion best at? Keeping up with trends, finding what is popular for two months, and then never showcasing it again.
And what have the high street and fast fashion brands alike decided is trendy this season? Oh yes, sustainable fashion. Seems like an oxymoron really, the UN declared fashion to be the second most polluting industry in 2019. This is mostly due to the way certain companies promote and create “one wear” items that are no longer intended to last more than a season.
I don’t believe that vilifying those who wear fast fashion or shop in high street stores is the answer to this problem. In an increasingly worsening cost of living crisis, we cannot demand that everybody buys staple pieces or insist that poor people never buy nice things for themselves. However, we must scrutinize the validity of claims made by companies jumping on the sustainable bandwagon.
Boohoo has recently announced it will be launching a new line in collaboration with Kourtney Kardashian Barker. This collection will have an emphasis on sustainability with pieces made from recyclable fibres and traceable cotton. Vice also recently reported that Boohoo on average uploads 116 new individual garments every single day. Even if we take out of the equation the harmful materials that Boohoo now uses to produce its clothing, the sheer volume at which they produce will likely never be sustainable.
On the high street front, Primark has also taken a bid at being more sustainable. Launching a new line of jeans made from 100% sustainable cotton as well as an athleisure collection using recycled materials. But how sustainable is a company that cannot guarantee its worker’s human rights? In 2013 a factory in Bangladesh that supplied Primark, collapsed and saw the death of 1,100 garment workers. The collapse was due to a structural failure, which translates to unsafe working conditions. In March of this year, there were reports of 1,000 garment workers being locked in the factory they worked in during protests in Myanmar. 20 garment workers were fired at the same factory for missing shifts during the anti-military protests. The factory makes garments for Primark.
The sustainable fashion movement is about creating a greener and fairer world. If people in countries far away must be exploited in order to make our clothes, it is simply not sustainable. The term greenwashing was first coined in 1986 by environmentalist Jay Westerveld. He used it to call out hotels who were claiming they were re-using towels in order to be more eco-friendly when in fact it was to save money. The term seems even more relevant as time goes on and companies catch up with people’s views on the climate. The simple matter is that people are scared for their future and trying their best to make a change. But how can we do this when companies that have far more influence than an individual are effectively lying to us?
In some ways, they are trying to shift the blame onto the consumer and blame us for not choosing one of their ‘sustainable’ options while they continue to disregard people and the planet like they always have.
100 companies emit 71% of the world’s greenhouse gases, and now they are lying to us to make it seem like they’re trying. You cannot buy a more sustainable world. You can only work with what you have. Do not let them sell you a future that does not exist.