Fast Fashion

Emma Hogan 28 February 2019

What is Fast Fashion?

“Over-consuming and under-using”

Fast Fashion describes garments that are cheap to produce and quick to make. This clothing is targeted in particular to trend-focused Millennials. With low prices and new trends appearing on the shop floor daily, the wardrobe refresh is no longer once a season but a continuous cycle.

In the UK we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe as infamously budget-friendly bricks and mortar stores like Primark as well as online only retailers like and Missguided attract shoppers in droves.  Unsurprisingly, Fast Fashion has become the bread and butter of the UK fashion industry.

So how often are we actually purchasing clothing for ourselves? 

We polled 108 of our panellists to find out how many items of clothing they purchase in an average month. 39% stated that they purchase between 1 and 3  new pieces of clothing per month, whilst 18% are adding a whopping 5 or more items to their wardrobe!

Fast Fashion: The good, the bad, the ugly

The Good

  • The UK fashion industry growth rate is 1.6% higher than the rest of the economy.
  • We get the latest trends, quickly and affordably.

The Bad

  • Environmental impact:
    • Water1 kilogram of cotton is enough to make 2 pieces of clothing; a simple jeans and t-shirt. However the demand on crops to grow this small amount of cotton is 20,000 litres of water.
    • Chemicals enter our water supply40,000 – 50,000 pounds of dye are estimated to enter our water systems each year.
    • Destruction of ecosystems: more than 120 million trees are cut down each year to produce our clothes.
    • Landfill: over-consumption means that £140m worth of the clothes that we get rid of in the UK end up in landfill.

The Ugly

  • To keep costs down, retailers utilise supplier management companies – these control a network of low-cost network of suppliers / factories.  This means that workers in factories often have very little protection / oversight from the retailer themselves.


How can we reduce the impact of Fast Fashion?

On a national level, one option is the Penny Tax.  MPs on the Environment Audit Committee have recently announced that Fast Fashion retailers with a turnover of more than £36million should pay a 1p surcharge on every item sold.

But who will benefit from this tax?

MPs have suggested that the Penny Tax should be a social tax to contribute towards the new Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme (EPR).  This scheme focuses on getting manufacturers to think more strategically about the life cycle of the products they produce.   The tax funds could be given as a reward to companies who offer clothing repairs and are conscious of the impact that their manufacturing has on the environment as well as raise up to £35m to invest in better clothing collection and sorting in the UK.

Worried about Fast Fashion? What can we do ourselves?

  • Only buy clothing when you need it, not when you want it.
    • Easy to say – less easy to put down the dress you’ve been eyeing up that’s now in the sale…!
  • Recycle either by using recycling drop off points or dropping unwanted clothing off at a charity shop.
    • Supermarkets and even shopping centres often house recycling areas for clothes.  Some stores also offer opportunities to recycle instore. H&M offers a £5 off a £25 spend voucher when recycling a bag of unwanted clothing in any of their stores.
  • Think about the quality and longevity of clothing when choosing what to buy.
  • Shop at retailers with a sustainable supply chain.


Do you think that taxing Fast Fashion is a good idea?  Get in on the conversation and share your thoughts on Fast Fashion on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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