Ok, it’s time to talk about fast fashion. What is it? Which brands? Why is it bad? Despite writing for almost 6 years, and sharing 600+ posts on this sustainable fashion blog, not one of them covers any of this. That changes today!
The reason I’ve never written on the topic of fast fashion (directly) is because I tend to write about sustainable brands I love, whose values align with my own. And for fast fashion, I don’t like giving air time to brands that I would never shop with.
However, as Boohoo is hit with illegal wage allegations, I realised how important it is to highlight that they aren’t the only fast fashion brand out there. Ironically, brands like ASOS and Next are now dropping Boohoo due to these allegations, but they themselves are fast fashion brands too.
And what’s often left out of the headlines is that fast fashion is accepted by shareholders and society more generally, so long as it turns a profit. So long as the exploitation of people and planet is kept out of the limelight, it’s all fine (apparently).
For this reason, I think it’s important to educate ourselves on which brands are fast fashion, and to ask for better. And they could really do a lot, lot better.
What is Fast Fashion?
The term ‘fast fashion’ describes any form of fashion that is produced at high speeds and low cost. Designs often follow trends, sometimes copying or mimicking outfits seen on catwalks, in magazines, or on influencers, as well as smaller boutique brands. Certain fast fashion brands have been known to launch new collections every other week, making upwards of 20 seasons per year.
6 Reasons To Avoid Fast Fashion
Last week I shared why I’m taking part in Slow Fashion Season, and the many issues of fast fashion as it stands. For the record, here’s six key reasons why fast fashion should be avoided:
- Low-quality clothing that is not designed to last
- Unfair treatment of people (mainly women and people of colour) in fast fashion supply chains, even in the UK
- No transparency around the sourcing of materials, environmental impact, or even anti-slavery practices
- Zero responsibility for the social and environmental cost of clothes
- Lacking support and uptake of sustainable clothing schemes
- False messages around mental wellbeing, body positivity, female empowerment, and anti-racism
I’d like to go into that last point a little further: for a long time now, I have had issue with the predatory marketing techniques these brands employ. Many market their cheap products against a background of luxury living – fast cars, parties, swimming pools, villas. They prey on so many of us who work hard for our livings, and wish for a better life. Some brands will also talk about mental health, female empowerment, body positivity, etc. However, these brands are the same employers who pay their workers as little as possible, with no support for physical or mental health, or even respect for the work they do.
And when looking at the anti-racism sentiment, during the backlash against police brutality in May 2020, so many of these brands took the time to post ‘blackout’ Instagram pics and sell their clothing alongside charitable donations to anti-racist organisations, yet their support was all performative. The reality is, the majority of fast fashion garment workers are women and people of colour, and they are exploited on a daily basis by these same brands.
These Brands Will Never Be Sustainable
The main issue I have with all fast fashion brands is that the work they are doing to be more sustainable, both socially and environmentally, is done after issues arise. Their policies are defensive, and reactively implemented when they are called out in newspaper headlines and by whistleblowers. In most cases, they strive for the most basic working conditions legally possible, and the most basic materials, while throwing money at a few CSR organisations and initiatives to remove their own responsibility to care for people and planet.
It’s for this reason that I believe fast fashion will never be sustainable. It’s easier for these businesses to close, than to continue hoping they will ever improve.
71 Fast Fashion Brands in the UK
So, let’s get into the list of fast fashion brands. When compiling this, I was surprised at the huge number of fast fashion brands operating in the UK – the list just kept growing and growing.
To ensure the facts included here are accurate, I have used the following sites for information on each brand:
- The brands’ own websites
- The brands’ corporate websites and reports
- Companies House for British businesses’ accounts and filings
- Transparency Rating: Fashion Transparency Index 2020
- Sustainability Rating: Good On You directory
Within this list, you can click on each brand to find out why I class this brand as fast fashion, as well as details on the brands’ founders, worth, scandals, and ratings:
- & Other Stories
- Banana Republic
- Cheap Monday
- Dorothy Perkins
- Edinburgh Woollen Mill
- F&F at Tesco
- Fashion Nova
- Femme Luxe
- Forever 21
- Free People
- George at ASDA
- In The Style
- I Saw It First
- Jane Norman
- Karen Millen
- Massimo Dutti
- Miss Selfridge
- Missy Empire
- Nasty Gal
- New Look
- Oh Polly
- Old Navy
- Pretty Little Thing
- Pull & Bear
- River Island
- Tu Clothing at Sainsbury’s
- United Colors of Benetton
- Urban Outfitters
P.S. Brand not on the list? If you have a question mark over a brand, try checking to see whether they sell hundreds of items, pushing low costs, discounts, and sales. More often than not, they’re fast fashion. You can also comment below with the brand you’d like me to check out, and I’ll be sure to add them to the list!
Don’t Feel Guilty About Past Purchases
I also wanted to share a note on feeling guilty, because I can imagine some of you reading this found out horrible things about your (now ex-) favourite brands.
Before you feel guilty or upset about the fast fashion items in your wardrobe, please know that the responsibility of these poor labour conditions, the low pay, the high speed of production, and the large environmental impact, lands squarely at these brands’ founders’, directors’, and shareholders’ feet. This small group of people profits from these unethical practices, and I’m talking billions of pounds each year. Not you.
I still have some fast fashion items in my wardrobe, and I gave up shopping with many of these brands years ago. The photos show some of the labels I still own and wear. But also, now I know better than to trust these brands. And I now know how to avoid fast fashion while still enjoying my clothes…
4 Simple Steps to Avoid Fast Fashion
To round this guide off, I wanted to share a few ways that you can still enjoy fashion, but move away from fast fashion.
Second, try sussing out your style. So many of us are led by trends we see in magazines, TV, adverts, Instagram etc. Whereas so many great dressers actually avoid these trends! Finding your style takes time, trial and error, but it’s so much more worth it.
And for fast fashion-aholics, I have a harsh truth to break to you: it’s time to reduce how much clothing you buy. In the UK, we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe – on average, a suitcase full of clothes each year. That’s too much, and it’s harming the planet and millions of people.
If you’re an emotional shopper like me (I used to shop when I felt sad, shop when I felt happy), it may be time to address what has you feeling the need to shop, and work on that. Work on self-esteem. Work on body positivity. Find your tribe online. We love you, promise.