Slow down fast fashion

TRAID (London)
The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest polluters. Carbon emissions from new clothing bought in the UK every month are greater than flying around the world 900 times. The damage is far-reaching: extensive use of water in production; water pollution from textile dyeing; poor pay and conditions for workers; micro-plastics that end up in our drinking water.

Things need to change, and fast.
But fast fashion is making things worse: it’s all about getting the newest styles on the market as fast as possible, so we can snap them up while they are still at the height of their popularity, and then discard them after a few wears. It plays into the idea that outfit repeating is a fashion faux pas and that if we want to stay relevant, we have to sport the latest looks as they happen. The result? We buy more items of clothing per person in the UK than any other country in Europe.

This system of overproduction and consumption needs a makeover and second-hand retail is one way that we can change our shopping behaviour to make a difference to the 11 million garments that go to UK landfill every week. Second-hand retailers are expanding – growing 21 times faster than the wider retail market in the UK over the past three years. Nottingham leads the way in slowing down fast fashion as vintage stores and charity shops dominate the high street. The city has the most thrift shops in England, just behind London, frequented by trend setting local shoppers.

In London, textile recycling charity TRAID runs 11 charity shops, offers free home collections and manages a wider network of over 1500 clothes donation banks, to keep wearable clothes in use. Campaigners like Love Not Landfill encourage young Londoners to be true to their own style – buying second-hand, sharing and swapping. Trends such as #OOOTD (Old Outfit Of The Day), where social media users post a picture of their styled, vintage and excess stock finds, are constantly gaining in popularity. Online swap platforms such as Nuw help individuals let go of clothes as well as find items new to them.

Swapping is one of the most sustainable ways to get dressed, keeping clothes in use whilst changing what you wear. It’s a great alternative to fast fashion: you’re not just changing what you buy, you’re creating an opportunity to do it in a social setting which encourages people to talk about it.
Love Not Landfill, London Love Not Landfill, London
Start something new…

Thrifting is a better way of shopping that helps to reduce the overproduction of garments (and is on trend!), so check out your second-hand shops first. Host a clothes swap event, at your school or community centre or a place of worship.

Inspired by doing more with less? Check out lots of great circular economy initiatives.

… or join an existing community project:

Browse your local charity shops first when you’re looking for that new piece of clothing - and don’t forget to visit vintage shops or dress agencies: the clothes they sell are second hand, too.

Environmental charity, Hubbub, has a helpful, online information sheet describing a range of different ways that you can recycle any old or unwanted clothing.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert in fashion or sustainability: a whole range of skills is needed to guarantee the success of projects like these and it’ll also be possible to learn as you go.

Other related community actions: Use less plastic, Borrow don’t buy, Repair instead of recycle

What do we mean by community action?
23 community actions