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Will fast fashion survive the COVID-19 crisis?

By Delilah Kealy Roberts

Jan 30, 2021

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There are many reasons why people choose to invest in high-quality, long-lasting garments, but regardless of this, the fast fashion industry has grown exponentially over recent years. Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, it was easier than ever to buy a £1 bikini from a high street store, or order clothes online that had been crafted using cheap, man-made fibre and exploitive labour. However, many major fast-fashion brands rely on worldwide supply chains and therefore the global pandemic, paired with changing attitudes towards unsustainable fashion, are likely to spell disaster for the industry.

So, what’s the alternative? Sustainable fashion that champions quality over quantity is already seeing a resurgence, and thanks to economic factors, environmental fears, and human rights activism, high-quality heritage brands are likely to define the future of fashion. Let’s take a closer look at where fast fashion made some wrong turns, and why sustainable and high-quality garments are more important than ever.

The effect of COVID-19

Not only has the COVID-19 outbreak had a major economic impact on fast fashion outlets, but it has resulted in a change in popular opinions surrounding some well-known brands. Many fast fashion retailers chose to keep their outlets open for the majority of March 2020 despite clearly fitting into the ‘non-essential’ category. A great number of these brands also faced criticism surrounding the treatment of their employees who have faced mass lay-offs.

Naturally, the economic fallout that will inevitably follow this crisis will affect all fashion outlets, big and small, cheap and luxury. However, if we refer back to the outcomes of the 2008 financial crash, we have reason to believe that high-quality fashion brands and luxury goods will bounce back more quickly than fast fashion will. According to Vogue Business, “The economic downturn of 2008-2009 shaved 9 per cent off the value of the luxury goods market, although it recovered quickly.” And this recovery will be key during the months and years following the global pandemic we are living through now.

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Environmental impacts

The fast fashion industry is currently one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis. Due to global supply chains, inadequate recycling systems, and throw-away culture, the industry makes up a shocking ten per cent of global CO2 emissions.

What’s more, these garments that require so much energy to create and ship are likely only worn a few times. In fact, in the UK the average item is only worn 14 times before being discarded, a figure that motivated GLAMOUR to introduce its #30Wears challenge last year.

From excessive plastic packaging to returned items heading straight to landfill, there are countless environmental issues with the world of fast fashion. This leaves us turning to the alternative: quality garments and ethically sourced clothing.

Why quality is key

From locally sourced materials to sustainable supply chains, high-quality fashion houses are thriving. Brands such as Walker Slater, a traditional heritage fashion house specialising in Harris tweed jackets and waistcoats, are now proving that quality garments will always demand respect and deliver customer satisfaction. Such companies have built up customer loyalty over years and shoppers will stick with them through thick and thin, rather than opting for a high street brand. High-quality brands champion the importance of buying clothes for life instead of just singular events, combatting throw-away culture and striving to put an end to the mounting piles of clothes ending up in landfill.

In addition, sustainable companies take each stage of production into account, minimising their environmental impact at every opportunity. When analysing a brand’s sustainability, check that it uses locally sourced, sustainable fabrics such as wool, tweed, and sustainably sourced linen. What’s more, local supply chains are of vital importance when it comes to sustainably. Make sure your new item hasn’t racked up too many air miles before it reaches your wardrobe!

High-quality companies are also likely to take more care in making their production lines eco-friendly. Walker Slater, for example, prides itself in using LED lighting in all locations alongside centralised recycling of paper and packaging, glass and plastics. A number of its main manufacturers also use solar energy to power their factories. It also works to support other sustainable mills and knitwear companies.

Choosing quality pieces over hoards of fast fashion items that will likely fall apart within years of their purchase will benefit both the environment and your wardrobe. What’s more, it is important to support such ethical business get back on their feet after the coronavirus pandemic so that they can continue doing their part for the environment. Investment pieces may be more expensive in the short term, but they will serve you well for years to come proving themselves to be a worthy investment.

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Will fast fashion survive the COVID-19 crisis?


By Delilah Kealy Roberts

Jan 30, 2021

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Opinion

Digitalisation is the future of fashion and it is fast

By Maddy White

Sep 5, 2018

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Fashion

Sep 5, 2018

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Social media is an extremely influential part of our everyday lives. From Instagram to Snapchat and more, today’s fashion retailers are using these online spheres to encourage ‘fast fashion’: the quickest possible turnaround from design to manufacturer to consumer. And that’s really detrimental to our waste issue, isn’t it? Actually, not necessarily. Digitalising fashion is probably a crucial step to the survival of the sector, particularly in Britain.

The British high street is in peril; more shops are closing and many brands have gone into liquidation. This is due to several reasons, one being consumer spending has decreased and another is the rise of digital giants—like Amazon—who have entirely dominated the market. This trend aligns with the fashion industry too. Founded in 2006, online fashion retailer Boohoo claimed in their 2018 financial report to have 6.4 million users, up 22 percent from the previous year. The entire company had a pre-tax profit of £43.3 million for the year leading to February, which represented a 40 percent increase on 2017 figures, with revenue hitting £580 million, almost double last year’s £295 million.

The British high street is in peril; more shops are closing and many brands have gone into liquidation. This is due to several reasons, one being consumer spending has decreased and another is the rise of digital giants—like Amazon—who have entirely dominated the market. This trend aligns with the fashion industry too. Founded in 2006, online fashion retailer Boohoo claimed in their 2018 financial report to have 6.4 million users, up 22 percent from the previous year. The entire company had a pre-tax profit of £43.3 million for the year leading to February, which represented a 40 percent increase on 2017 figures, with revenue hitting £580 million, almost double last year’s £295 million.

The increased speed of fashion because of a digitalised process has enabled companies like Boohoo to reap massive benefits as proven in their financial report. Hundreds of styles are uploaded every day to the website, with likely just as many discontinued and sent to the sales page. The company reportedly sources 50 percent of its production from U.K. factories—a very high proportion, as for example ASOS produce around 3 percent of products in the U.K.—and distribute these garments from a central warehouse in Burnley. This is impressive as less than half a century ago, the clothing manufacturing industry in the U.K. employed 900,000 people, by 1999 this was down to 130,000 and now it is less than half. Companies like Boohoo are bringing textile manufacture back to the U.K. in a more innovative way.

Fast fashion also doesn’t have to mean cheap, however with examples like ASOS and Boohoo, the two seem to work in tandem. Fast fashion needs to be locally produced in order to make the production ethical, reduce air miles and at face value, be the fastest method. The process cannot be completed so quickly halfway across the globe; it is just not viable.

Despite the rise of fast fashion, this is an industry that produces waste, a lot of it, and consumers are more aware of this than ever. According to EDGE, a company that connects and supports emerging designers, about 15 percent of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor and it takes more than 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture just one t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Surely though, creating products via fast fashion would only act as an antidote to the above? Retailers do not have to order products in large amounts, they can instead order smaller numbers, see how they are received and then purchase more. This is a more ethical approach to a potential overproduction problem. Yet, this doesn’t counter the idea that consumers could be ordering more clothing, therefore likely throwing them away more regularly.

Fast fashion that it ethically sourced and produced could be the U.K.’s chance to revive the textiles sector, which has been in decline for decades. There are many constraints however on implementing an ethical version of fast fashion and it is not what consumers might initially think. Fast fashion is reacting to trends, increasing production line speed, and not overproducing. ‘Fast’ could certainly be the future of fashion, as it offers huge opportunities like garments to be locally produced rather than being created and shipped from offshore sites. Utilising the internet, social media and collecting data enables a digitalisation of the fashion industry, which will only continue to grow as the high street fades and online giants soar.

Digitalisation is the future of fashion and it is fast


By Maddy White

Sep 5, 2018

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