For those of you who like to keep track of fashion news, the term ‘fast fashion’ won’t be a particularly new phrase. The basic concept has been gaining momentum since the 1800s.
However, this month it has hit the headlines. Fast fashion has increased rapidly with the internet in the last few years, but now MPs in the UK have raised concerns about the environmental impact that it’s having.
Fast fashion refers to the short amount of time that it takes for fashion to move from the catwalk to retail. Products are manufactured quickly and cheaply in order to capture the current trends, often at the expense of quality and appropriate working conditions.
With a constant supply of new, on-trend products, the amount of purchases that people make is increasing which has contributed to a throw-away attitude.
What’s the Environmental Impact?
MPs aren’t completely wrong to be concerned about the impact that this culture is having on the environment. Here are just a few effects that fast fashion is having.
Large amount of clothes sent to land fill
The amount of clothes that end up in landfill in the UK is huge. In Spring 2017 alone, it was predicted 235 million items of unwanted clothing were expected to end up there.
Fibres lost in the wash go to sea
Just the act of washing clothes has an environmental impact. It’s suggested that a single wash has the potential to release around 700,000 fibers to wastewater.
Consumption of UK new clothes
It was found that the average consumer is now purchasing 60% more items of clothing than 20 years ago. This adds up to around 26.7k of new clothes per head.
[All statistics from The Enviro Audit Committee]
Why is this relevant to you?
It’s tempting to brush this concern away and say that it’s irrelevant to small printing and embroidery businesses. Except that even small, local companies have reported that customers are raising concerns and asking whether printed t-shirts are environmentally-friendly.
The public’s plastic concern has been at an all-time high since Blue Planet II highlighted the amount of plastic waste that’s polluting our oceans. This has lead to a need for us all, and businesses especially, to be seen doing our part for the environment.
How can you contribute
The garment decoration industry is growing rapidly making it important for us all to play our part in protecting the environment and minimise the impact that we’re having. Helping to minimise this impact within your business isn’t overly difficult. Here are a few simple ideas that you could implement:
Attach Washing Labels
Ensuring that your garments will last as long as possible will help to reduce the amount of items that are thrown away. This can be done by attaching recommended washing instructions to every item that you sell.
You could also do your part by looking further into the companies where you buy your blank garments. This can reveal whether you’re getting decent quality products and what the working conditions for the workers are.
Sometimes your designs don’t go quite right – it happens to all of us. But what do you do with the garments that aren’t quite right? Rather than throwing them away, why not consider taking them to a charity shop or send them to a clothes bank.
Should we be worried?
Smaller scale garment decoration companies are in the fortunate position that overall what they do is relatively environmentally-friendly.
For starters, contrary to the belief of MPs, people don’t actually wear clothes only once. As long as your customers wash their garments correctly, they should get long-term wear from them.
Then there’s the fact that in most cases, garments are printed on-demand. This means that businesses only print the items that they need rather than holding stock and needing to throw items away to make room for the next biggest trend.
While the impact for small garment decorators won’t be immense, we should all be considering what the impact is of our businesses. We don’t think that the war on plastic will be going away anytime soon so you might as well start looking at your environmental impact now.
This is definitely a topic that will be worth keeping an eye on to see how it progresses in the future.