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Updated: Sep 9, 2022

Blog by Grace Campbell for Circular Economy Wardrobe

I first found myself taking an interest in sustainable fashion during the coronavirus pandemic. Admittedly, during the lockdown, it was tempting to partake in the overconsumption of fast fashion due to the circumstances of being stuck at home, bored, and being offered extremely cheap prices for trendy items as seen on Instagram or TikTok. However, it was during this time where I first began to notice the obviously harmful trend cycles that emerge amongst my age group and fashion influencers, which are again propelled by social media. In turn, it became clear that due to the amount of constant new fashion trends being pushed out week by week, that people are feeling inclined to purchase each of these trendy items - only for them to be out of style by the next week. I decided I was going to try and avoid partaking in these fast fashion trends and have since been very interested in minimising my fast fashion intake and attempting to buy sustainably - even if it means I can’t buy the newest jeans from Shein or PrettylittleThing!

During the coronavirus, online shopping skyrocketed especially with fast fashion brands such as BooHoo, Shein, or PrettylittleThing, unlike street brands like H&M or Primark who suffered fatal losses. These online companies, (living up to the name of ‘fast’ fashion) were able to quickly shift their target market from young girls who want a quick and cheap fix of the latest fashion trends to suit the same girls who are now stuck at home in quarantine due to Covid, searching for a bargain in these trying times - from party dresses to pyjamas. It is no surprise however that this quick change in clothing and fashion trends came at a cost.

While we were all safe from the virus at home, it was a different story for the factory workers making the garments. According to LancsLive, they were told by a Boohoo worker that people were ‘breathing in each other’s faces’ due to how closely they were working in such a tightly packed space.

Coronavirus rules in the UK are strictly enforced in order to keep the citizens safe. Why aren’t these people given the same health and safety standards as us?

The supply and demand for fast fashion and the newest trend is what keeps these companies and in turn, these horrific factories with terrible conditions afloat. As long as people keep ordering from these brands there is unlikely to be any change; it took the Rana Plaza Primark factory fire of 2013 to really encourage Primark to make any difference in their production methods and provide more care for their workers, after more than 1000 of their workers were killed.

Not only does fast fashion have a bad effect on the labourers creating the clothing, but also the environment: not only can frequent online shopping can lead to more packaging waste but also due to the amount of energy used to deliver and ship items can contribute to Co2 emissions; IPCC has calculated that 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year are produced by the fashion industry. Fast fashion is also using billions of litres of water due to the growth of water-intensive cotton, and also the use of microplastics have been known to cause pollution.

It is clear that we need a solution: when researching circular fashion, I discovered that it offers a potential solution for most problems caused by fast fashion. The circular economy encourages reusing and recycling materials, and products are kept in use for as long as possible. This means that clothes are made from recycled and renewable materials which will put less waste into the environment. The goal is to make fashion durable and less disposable.

Greenhouse gases could potentially be cut globally by 39% if circular economy strategies were implemented, according to the World Resources Institute. This could help tackle global warming and climate change. A circular economy could help protect not only the environment but also human and animal life - millions of deaths are caused by pollution every year, and a leading cause of this pollution is due to the fashion industry. By cutting out the amount of waste we produce through clothing we could help save the planet.

Furthermore, a circular economy could not only just help the world and the environment but it would also benefit workers. Millions of new jobs could be created in areas like repairing and recycling - according to the International Labour Organisation, twenty four million new jobs could be created by 2030 if a greener economy is put into place.

When researching the circular economy, I realised that it seems like the only clear solution to the global fashion industry at the moment. A circular economy could solve a majority of the problems caused by fast fashion. However as a 17 year old student, it is easy to feel slightly helpless and as if my own actions don't matter too much in the grand scheme of things. But as a young person, we need to collectively understand that we are the future and our consumption of fashion does have an effect on the world. As somebody living in a wealthy country such as the UK, one thing that is important to consider is how much we consume and if it is really necessary - according to, the richest countries consume 10 times more than the poorest countries. We consume unnecessarily large amounts while other countries are unable to consume enough for their basic needs.

Furthermore, we need to try and consume better. For somebody my age, shopping second hand or vintage is probably the most accessible and sustainable way to buy clothing. However, there is only so much we can do as consumers when the reality is that systematic change is needed. The world collectively needs to work to become better consumers and as a result, the circular economy will be worth it to allow the environment, the economy and humanity to thrive.

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