6 ways to boycott fast fashion

6 ways to boycott fast fashion by Sophie Johnson, blogger at Born Wild, Stay Wild

We live in a culture where replacement is king. Retailers make cheap clothes that are designed to break and need replacing, and they are well aware of this. Customers are conditioned to seek out the best price, so still buy into this model and keep the cycle going. 

Fast fashion is a term used to describe high street retailers such as Zara, H&M, ASOS, Topshop, Primark, Boohoo, Nasty Gal etc. that pump hundreds of new collections on to the market in a short time at rock bottom prices, with Instagram influencer endorsement to boost consumer demand. 

Fast fashion brands make up to 500 garments a minute but they aren’t selling at that rate. The industry is the fastest growing category of waste in the UK, with almost 300,000 tonnes of clothes ending up in landfill every year.

As consumers, we buy, wear, dispose, and repeat far too often – and it’s driving us towards ecological bankruptcy. Our shopping behaviour needs to change. Here’s how you can boycott fast fashion:

  1. Get off the trend train

Right now, the fashion industry is contributing more to climate change than the aeronautical and shipping industries combined. If we continue to get sucked into shopping ‘on trend’, the industry could account for a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050.

In order to change a corporation (in this case, the fast fashion industry), we have to first change the consumer. That’s all of us. For fast fashion brands to change, we have to stop giving them our money. Only then, will they not be able to afford to make 500 garments a minute. While the profits are being hit, there’s no incentive for a company to become sustainable.

Think about your personal style and perhaps create a ‘capsule’ wardrobe, selecting a limited number of garments, specifically ones you wear most often (T-shirts, jeans, a go-to black jacket), while minimizing the amount of other clothing. 

Combining practicality and authenticity in your wardrobe will make you less vulnerable to the insta-trends sold at fast-fashion shops. It also makes it a lot easier to keep your wardrobe organized.  

  1. Don’t be fooled by Greenwashing

Greenwashing is when a company or individual influencer, attempts to make their business seem more environmentally friendly than it really is, fooling consumers to invest thinking they are doing good. 

I’m not saying influencers are bad people at all, as at the end of the day influencing is their full time job.  However, as consumers, we have the power to decide who to invest our time and money in, so choose your Instagram role models wisely. 

There are eco-conscious influencers changing the world for the better. However, many may post ‘Sustainable Fashion Hauls’ and claim to be sustainability advocates yet still get paid to promote fast fashion brands. At the end of the day, it’s a money making opportunity, but if you’re going to tell your followers to shop sustainably, you have to follow through.

Retailers are also culprits of Greenwashing. ASOS’ ‘Responsible edit’ collection and H&M’s ‘Conscious Collection’ are prime examples, persuading customers to shop from them in order to feel as if they are investing in the good of the planet whilst making the purchase.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if a fast fashion brand has an eco-line, or is contributing some profits to sustainability. Until it stops making 10 lines a year, it will always be unsustainable. 

  1. Shop secondhand

The carbon emissions from new clothing bought in the UK every month are greater than the emissions from flying around the world 900 times.Shopping second-hand will make a difference to the 11 million garments that go to UK landfill every week.

Next time you’re in town for your next fashion purchase, browse your local charity shops first. Often, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve found some gems in the last few months and I can safely say I’ve got a lot of wear out of my Oxfam M&S camel coat. 

Online vintage sites like Depop and thredUP are also fantastic, and have such a huge variety. I’ve been a big fan of Depop for a while, and you won’t believe what you can find on there, from Adidas trainers, to running shorts, to a new book. Payments are made securely through PayPal, and you can keep in touch with the sellers to track postage. So, before going out and spending £70 on your next pair of Adidas, see if you can find what you’re looking for second-hand for a fraction of the price – I got mine for £15!

  1. Rent your party clothes

Let’s be honest, many of us live in the Instagram generation where it’s almost criminal to wear the same thing twice. We all want to look 10/10 for our birthday bash, and even though in reality no one is going to bat an eyelid if we wear that same jumpsuit we wore a year ago for our best friend’s wedding, there’s no better feeling than buying and wearing a spanking new outfit. 

Renting your party outfits has the potential to include the thrill of the new, the joy of getting dressed up, whilst saving yourself the guilt of rinsing your salary and choking the planet. It slows down relentless production lines and in turn requires far less material than if we were to all buy each item as new.

There are plenty of online sites including Hirestreet and HURRCollective, where you can lend, rent & exchange both high-street and designer outfits for all sorts of occasions from black tie ball gowns to holiday beach dresses. 

  1. Shop small & sustainably

When investing in new clothes from now on, prioritise quality and simplicity. Shop from smaller brands, enabling the fashion industry to continue without great harm to the planet. 

I want to touch on two companies that not only really impressed me with their commitment to the environment, but are also proof that businesses can grow without causing our planet to choke.

Teemil

Teemil was founded by two brothers, Mart & Rob Drake-Knight, who from the age of 5, had worries over where ‘away’ was when clothes were being ‘thrown away’. 15 years on, clothing brand Rapanui and T-shirt platform, Teemil was born in a shed with £200 on the Isle of Wight in 2008. In the process of building a brand, the brothers realised that if they were going to do it right, they’d have to do it themselves. Their vision was not to dissuade people from buying fashion, but change their shopping behaviour.

Teemil is a platform that lets you build your own online store and sell t-shirt designs online. It prints & ships direct to your door and sends you the profit. The best part – it’s free to use. FREE.

So far, over fifty thousand store owners, start up brands, YouTubers, Charities, and students have joined to build sustainable brands. 

It’s contributing towards a better world through: 

  • Use of GOTS certified organic cotton & plastic-free packaging
  • Use of renewable energy throughout supply chain
  • Contributing to circular fashion through making new t shirts out of old 
  • Zero waste – every part of cotton plant is used, real-time printing, recirculated water
  • Guaranteed fair price to cotton farmers

Teemil is the perfect example of individuals thinking outside the box, to inspire big corporations to change. 

Finisterre

Finisterre is a pioneering sustainable outdoors clothing brand based in Cornwall and inspired by a love of the sea. It was founded by surfer and lifeboatman, Tom Kay, and exists to help facilitate and connect people to the sea through designing fashion to enable and inspire that connection.

It’s broad product range from knitwear and jackets to swimwear, wetsuits and accessories is designed through circular sourcing, which includes renewable and recyclable textiles and biodegradable natural fibres and finishes.

For example, Finisterre’s bikinis and boardshorts are made from ECONYLⓇ, part-recycled fishing nets and office carpet tiles, rather than traditional nylon, which is quite a dirty material. This also addresses coastal and marine pollution, with an estimated 640,000 tonnes of discarded fishing nets floating around the ocean.

They’ve also launched their own marine biodegradable packaging called ‘Leave No Trace’. Unlike biodegradable packaging, which can still cause harm if it makes its way into a marine environment, ‘Leave No Trace’ fully dissolves in water and is harmless. 

In addition to the packaging, Finisterre offers a repair service with free shipping on all its clothes to encourage us all to own not consume.

Finally, but perhaps most excitingly, Finisterre is collaborating with the Natural History Museum using designs from library collections of Maria Sibylla Merian, a woman from the 17th Century who explored the seas of the world. This collaboration draws on a shared vision of protecting our planet, and illustrates how learning from the past can impact future generations.

  1. Protect & Repair

According to UK charity WRAP, keeping clothes just 9 extra months reduces carbon, waste and water footprints by 20-30%.

Protect

The first thing we can all do to protect our clothes from the need for repair is to read the labels. Don’t ignore washing advice and bung everything in on a high heat together, because inevitably some of your clothes will suffer. We should be washing clothes as little as possible at lower temperatures.

There are plenty of ways to refresh clothes without shoving them in the machine e.g. spot-cleaning tricky stains, or taking whiffy clothes into the bathroom while you shower, to steam them. This will not only help to make your clothes last longer, but is also more environmentally friendly. The average washing machine uses 13,500 gallons of water a year which is as much as you drink in your lifetime.

You can also treat your clothes and shoes to protect them. Brands such as Polygiene use silver chloride technology, which is antimicrobial, to put a finish on fabrics. This means you could wear a tee for five years before it starts smelling.

Repair

Getting out a good old sewing kit, following a YouTube tutorial and patching your clothes back together can seem like a momentous chore, but once you’ve figured out how to do it once, it’ll be a skill for life. And the environment will thank you for it too.

If the repairs are not a simple thread and needle fix, some clothing companies offer warranty on their clothing, and free repairs. Patagonia, which makes 40,000 repairs a year at its service centre, enables customers to send in their clothing for repair for free to ensure their clothing isn’t wasted. You can also support your local tailor or cobbler to sew up your favourite pair of jeans or resole your staple black boots.

When something can’t be fixed, think of alternate uses for it. Old T-shirts make the best cleaning rags, and cut up swimsuits could be just the ticket when you’ve lost yet another hair band around the house!

If the fashion industry is to have a future, it needs to grow sustainably stronger, not financially fatter. We all have a role to play – boycott fast fashion.

Read our beginner’s guide to charity shopping