What is the problem with fast fashion and a challenge for you all!

My next challenge on My Year of Eco Challenges will be all about slowing down fashion.  I am writing about it early, because I want to invite you all to join in with this one!

Sustainable gift wrap course
Why do I want to slow down fashion?
These days very cheap fashion items are readily available.  Why mend, repair or embellish something, when it is so cheap to just buy something new?  Why buy only what you need, when at those prices you can wear something new every day? 
Well some of the problems with constantly buying new low quality clothes are as follows:
  • Many clothes contain cotton. To produce cotton takes a large volume of pesticides – according to this site cotton ‘soaks up 11-12% of the world’s pesticides. Pesticides can be very damaging to the environment and to those that work with them. The same site also claims that most of the cotton grown in the US is genetically modified.
  • New fashion trends are being turned around so quickly that it is putting tremendous pressure on factory workers, who in some cases are being locked in factories with no regard for health and safety, until the work has been finished e.g. Rana Plaza (read more here). 
  • Clothes are being chucked out at a fast rate and a large proportion of them are ending up in landfill – according to WRAP ‘Around £140 million worth (350,000 tonnes) of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year’, ‘More than 30% of our unwanted clothing currently goes to landfill’ and ‘More than 60% of householders in the UK say they have unwanted clothes and textiles stored in their homes’ (see here for more info).  There are a large proportion of clothes being recycled too, but recycling puts pressure on the environment too.
When I stopped buying new things and started shopping in charity shops, although it is a more eco-friendly way to shop, I had the same attitude. It was so cheap I felt that I could buy as much as I liked and I didn’t take quality into account at all. Last November I decided to take things further and haven’t bought any new clothes new or secondhand for myself (read more here), but I think I can do more. 
Just because I’m not buying any new clothes it doesn’t mean I can’t have any fun or look good, so I am going to set myself and anyone who wants to join in a new challenge. 
The challenge:
Over the course of a month (beginning on the 1st June 2014) I am going to try and create an outfit from my wardrobe i.e. without buying anything new, that fits in with the latest fashions. I don’t plan to buy new things, I just plan to modify or embellish things that I already have.
I appreciate that not everyone will have time for or will want to do this exact challenge so I have the following alternative suggestions for anyone who wants to join me in slowing fashion down for the month: 
  • Wear the same pair of shoes every day for a month
  • Thin out your wardrobe and choose a set number of clothes to wear for the month – how low can you go?  Do you need 20 items or could you cope with 5 or even less?
  • Get creative and embellish just one unloved item of clothing, shoes or accessories. You could even make an accessory like a brooch with scraps you find around your home..
  • Mend something that wouldn’t otherwise
  • Take on the Passion Fashion DoAction in support of my Year of Eco Challenges – see more info here
  • Or join me and create a whole new outfit – it doesn’t have to fit in with the latest fashion trends, it could just be a reflection of your own personal style!
In case you are wondering what the latest ladies fashions are, I have been doing a bit of research (sorry guys, I didn’t get as far as men’s fashion). Apparently pastels, culottes and ripped denim are in this spring. There is a whole article about wearing ripped denim here, with some of the jeans pictured looking like they might not make it until the end of the day! I feel so much better about letting my kids run around with massive holes in their trousers now! It’s hard to tell in the picture at the top, but there are holes in both kids trousers.  The Metro has an article with spring / summer trends here, which features some patchwork Karen Millen jeans – I think I can rustle up some patchwork jeans without the £99 price tag! 
Thanks to Nancy Carter who blogs at Mum-Ra (you can read her blog here) for inspiring this challenge! Nancy and Emma Northcott (who blogs here) have both agreed to join me in this challenge and there may be some more bloggers joining in (I will keep you posted about this).  Everyone is welcome to join in and I would love to hear about how it goes for you.  Keep me up to date on Twitter or Facebook (or even by email) and I will share what you are all up to (probably in a round up at the end of the challenge on the blog, but I will also retweet what you are up to on Twitter and share on Facebook).

I am currently undertaking a Year of Eco Challenges . If you have a moment I would really appreciate it if you would consider sponsoring me with an action (no money involved) on my DoNation page. Also if you liked this post please click like on Facebook and follow on Twitter – thanks so much!


  1. This is what I'm growing more interested in, too. I want to drastically reduce the amount of new clothing we buy. We visited a nearby city last week. A few years ago I would have jumped at the chance of cheap clothes in a certain fashion chain store, but this time I stood outside and decided not to go in. I remembered that cheap prices are unlikely to mean good working conditions/wages and that the more 'stuff' we buy, the more 'stuff' is produced – simple supply and demand – so even buying a couple of cheap tee-shirts has an impact that is both cultural and environmental… probably more of an environmental impact than we'd care to imagine. In the past few months I have darned socks, crocheted table mats from recycled cotton, crocheted a kid's jacket, stitched a belt back on to a torn dress and sewn a hem around a piece of reused cloth to make a tablecloth. I also managed to get hold of an old flat sheet with a flower print which I have now turned into a throw. Making do and mending is great fun if you're at all creative or practical. I will await future posts with baited breath 🙂

  2. Zoe

    I am impressed with all your making and mending Sandy! I haven't worked out how to darn socks yet, and have an ever accumulating pile of worn out socks!

  3. I agree with all points about fast fashion, it is ridiculous and wasteful, although I have only really recently realised this thanks to your and other blogs/sites.

    However… I will pass on the challenge this time around! This is due to:
    1. I'm a guy, I'm motoring my way into middle age, and to be honest I don't really care whether I am in fashion or not 🙂
    2. I'm doing very well with the whole "Not buying clothes" right now anyway, so I am just going to carry on doing that.

    Mrs TFS wanted me to buy a new shirt the other day for example, saying I didn't have anything nice to wear, I took her to the wardrobe and counted out 21 shirts!!!! I said if I can't find anything nice to wear out of those then I must have dreadful taste and it's not worth buying anything new as it will likely be just as bad… 🙂

    All the best for your challenges, I will sit on the sideline and spectate – looks like you got a lot of interest on twitter so I will be interested to see what people come up with.

  4. Zoe

    You are doing really well with not buying clothes. I don't care about being in fashion either, but a lot of people do and I want to see how easy it is to emulate the latest trends without buying anything new.

  5. This sounds like a great challenge. The whole ethics of cheap, disposible clothes bothers me. I like charity shops, because at least some clothes are getting a second life, but I do like to make or upcycle as well. My challenge is finding fun, ethical clothes for my two tween daughters, who have a whole different kind of peer pressure than adults do. Much easier with son. We'll win.

    Looks forward to following your challenge.

  6. I completely echo what Sandy said. A couple of months ago I ended up buying £5 jeans for my girls from a well known v cheap High Store shop and then felt SO bad about buying them that I began to think more about the actual cost of fast fashion. Have since been trying to mend as many clothes as possible and rethink my wardrobe.

  7. Zoe

    That does sound like a challenge Cheryl and I like your positive attitude!

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