Updated: Apr 17
Extinction Rebellion takes on fast fashion at Penneys ᶦ
Extinction Rebellion Stages Protests at London Fashion Week ᶦᶦ
Let’s be honest, in the last year, most of us have spent large amounts of time (and probably money) browsing through and buying outfits we hope to one day wear out in the real world. Fast fashion businesses have seen a considerable increase in profits over the last year, which is good news for business, but bad news for the planet. Fast fashion is the term coined for “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass market retailers in response to trends” which is highly destructive, unsustainable, and makes for a continuous cycle of wardrobe turnover in a world where clothing items are now considered perishable goods.ᶦᶦᶦ
Fast fashion is deeply rooted in unethical and unsustainable practices often found in large commercial enterprises which specialise in seasonal attire such as large retail brands like Boohoo, Primark, Misguided, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters. Fast fashion retailer Boohoo has had a 40% increase in profits since the beginning of lockdown and although they have claimed to cut off 400 supply chain retailers for affiliations with modern slavery,ᶦᵛ this utimately contributed nothing to the sustainability of their business model.
Even with increasing importance being placed on more sustainable practices, in 2019 alone, the fashion industry’s carbon output was more than that of France, Germany and the UK combined. “The fashion industry also has poor environmental track records, from deforestation to soil degradation, water consumption to waste production.”ᵛ Putting this into perspective, the fashion industry is the world’s second-largest polluter of water, and the equivalent of one garbage truck worth of textiles is either disposed of in landfills or burned every second!ᵛᶦ It’s clear to see that fashion retailers and consumers both need to take action to tackle this issue.
ASOS, one of the biggest fast fashion retailers, has slowly been adding eco-friendly materials into its clothing and packaging in line with increased consumer awareness of the unethical nature of fast fashion. Consumers are shifting away from buying high-end products and towards thrifting (buying from second-hand or vintage stores), posing a cogent threat to the ASOS consumer base. Despite the company’s move to eco-friendly material into its clothes, there is no evidence the company is minimising its textile waste ᵛᶦᶦ.
Social Influencer Grace Beverly, who has her own sustainable clothing line called TALA, which is marketed as ‘Sustainable Fashion’ or ‘Slow Fashion’, has recently made plans to expand her business by partnering with fast-fashion captain of industry ASOS. TALA’S partnering may be seen as controversial, especially as a self-declared sustainable brand. Is this a sign of TALA changing its image by moving from “disrupt[ing] the fashion industry” to disrupting its own brand integrity? ᵛᶦᶦᶦ Grace Beverley knew that when this partnership would be announced there would be raised eyebrows, which is why shortly after the announcement, she made a statement about the partnershipᶦˣ. Grace Beverley states “We [TALA] KNOW we are not the most sustainable option, no brand will be, whatever the composition of their clothes and whatever they say”ˣ. This statement alludes to the fact that striving for sustainability in this industry is doomed to be a dreamer’s endeavour and although the brand’s integrity will be compromised, there simply are no other options.
Does this mean we can no longer trust sustainable brands, or worse, that sustainability in the fashion industry is merely a performative marketing tactic to tempt eco-conscious consumers?
TALA’s entire brand was formed around the ideas of sustainable fashion and despite ASOS agreeing to the company’s non-negotiables including having 100% recyclable poly bags and each product containing seeded paper tags.ˣᶦ At the end of the day, ASOS is still a fast-fashion brand and it appears TALA is just another fast-fashion brand in disguise, maximising exposure and sales beneath the mask of sustainability to draw customers. Although ASOS agreed to partner with a sustainable brand and introduced more eco-friendly products within its clothing and packaging, ASOS is still damaging the planet. One partnership won’t solve the continuous damage being done and instead risks removing the redeemable sustainable qualities from the smaller brand it subsumes.
Fast fashion is one of the biggest unsustainable practices still flourishing today fuelled by society’s ignorance, sustainability in the clothing industry has become highly performative and retooled as a marketing strategy. We need to be more active in holding both ourselves and the places we shop at accountable rather naively taking the bait of feigned sustainability.
ᶦ Aoife Moore, ‘Extinction Rebellion takes on fast fashion at Penneys’ The Times (London, 10 October 2019) <https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/extinction-rebellion-takes-on-fast-fashion-at-penneys-m0600nts9> accessed 29 March 2021
ᶦᶦ E Chochrek, Climate Change Activists Group ‘Extinction Rebellion’ Stages Protests at London Fashion Week (Footwear News, 15 September 2019) < https://footwearnews.com/2019/business/features/extinction-rebellion-protests-london-fashion-week-1202837290/> 29 March 2021
ᶦᶦᶦ Oxford University Press 2021, Fast Fashion, OxfordLanguages < https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/ >
ᶦᵛ James Sillers, Boohoo cuts hundreds of suppliers to fashion new future after factory scandal, Sky News (London, 25 March 2021) <https://news.sky.com/story/boohoo-cuts-hundreds-of-suppliers-to-fashion-new-future-after-factory-scandal-12256064 > accessed 27 March 2021
ᵛ Global Goals, Why the Goals Matter to the Fashion Industry (2 March 2021) < https://www.globalgoals.org/news/goals-goals-and-fashion-industry > accessed 27 March 2021
ᵛᶦ UN enviroment programme, Putting the Brakes on Fast Fashion (12 November 2018) <https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/putting-brakes-fast-fashion> accessed 27 March 2021
ᵛᶦᶦ Lara Robertson, How Ethical is ASOS? (good on you, 28 October 2020) <https://goodonyou.eco/how-ethical-is-asos/> accessed 26 March 2021
ᵛᶦᶦᶦ TALA, TALA x ASOS: Our Exclusive Collection (8 March 2021) <https://www.wearetala.com/blogs/tala-talks/tala-x-asos-our-exclusive-collection> accessed 27 March 2021
ᶦˣ Grace Beverley, LinkedIn (8 March 2021) <https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6774652224262955009/ > accessed 26 March 2021
ˣ Ibid., 1.
ˣᶦ TALA (5)