Monday, April 19News For London

The issue with holiday deals: fast fashion is not sustainable

Shoppers walk around central London. Credit: Lubna bin Zayyad

Black Friday and its follow up – Cyber Monday saw retailers markdown products in a bid to get consumers to purchase items leading up to the holiday season.

Online retailer Pretty Little Thing caused a commotion over the weekend after introducing their ninety-nine percent off sale. Consumers everywhere expressed their disappointment over missing out on such a huge sale – where clothes were going for as little as fifteen pence. However, many expressed concern over just how sustainable and ethical the major sale was considering the brand is one of many fast fashion retailers on the market.

Fast Fashion is cheap- but at what cost?

In a bid to both create and keep up with demand, businesses follow a model of producing hundred’s of different fashion items a week- or even a day, all at very low prices. They’re able to keep costs low by outsourcing production to textile factories in countries with poor labour laws. Oftentimes workers are underpaid, exploited and are even underage.

Fast fashion is tempting because it offers many the chance to wear fashionable clothing at a cheaper price. Lucy Woods feels her shopping has increased since the first lockdown and she is more inclined to purchase clothing items when brands offer incentives like free shipping or discounted merchandise.

“I am a bit more aware now of sustainable brands – because of Instagram. I know brands like Pretty Little Thing are under fire for sustainability, but considering my money at the moment I would be more inclined to go with [these brands].”

Shilpa Bilimoria, founder and designer of House of Bilimoria feels differently. While she is sympathetic towards consumers’ concerns of affordability she is more critical of fast fashion brands.

Credit: House of Bilimoria and Amanda Rose Photography

House of Bilimoria is different from other high street brands as its core pillar is based on ethics and sustainability. “When I launched my label in 2008, there was no question about being sustainable and ethical,” she says

“I don’t understand and I can’t comprehend how businesses can create practices that are so unsustainable and so unethical.”

Sustainable and ethical practices aren’t only problematic amongst the fashion industry, it also impacts the cosmetic industry. Last week the associated press released details of an investigation linking top beauty brands to allegations of rape and abuse in palm oil fields.

Where do we start?

“There’s definitely alternatives,” says Lucy, “but when you have things like ninety-nine percent off – people are going to do it. And that mentality of sustainability and environment comes second.”

As for Shilpa, she feels that it takes one step at a time to create change. As a mother, she knows it is not always easy to shop sustainably but as a business owner and world citizen, she knows it is important.

“One piece of advice I would give is to choose one thing you are passionate about – whether that be animal cruelty or ethics and fair trade. Choose one thing and with that, you will find a lot of other things that come with that package. Don’t try and do it all in one get-go because it is very hard. But that one change you make…it makes a difference.”