Choosing to invest in high-quality, long-lasting clothing has many benefits, however in recent years, the fast fashion industry has grown exponentially. Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, it was easier than ever to buy a £1 bikini form a high street store, or order clothes online that had been crafted using cheap, man-made fibre and exploitive labour. However, many major fast-fashion brands rely on worldwide supply chains and therefore the global pandemic, paired with changing attitudes towards fast-fashion, are likely to spell disaster for the industry.
Sustainable fashion that values quality over quantity is a great alternative to this and is already seeing a surge. Thanks to economic factors, environmental fears, and human rights activism, high-quality heritage brands are likely to define to future of fashion. Let’s take a closer look at where fast fashion made some wrong turns, and why sustainable and high-quality garments are more important than ever.
COVID-19 and the Fashion Industry
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it has changed the opinions surrounding many popular brands, it has also had a major economic impact on fast fashion outlets. Many fast fashion retailers chose to keep their outlets open for the majority of march despite clearly fitting into the ‘non-essential’ category. A great number of these brands have also faced criticism surrounding the treatment of their employees who are now facing mass lay-offs.
Regardless whether fashion outlets are small, big, luxurious or cheap, the economic effects after this crisis will inevitably take its toll. However, if we refer back to the outcomes of the 2008 financial crash, we have reason to believe that high-quality fashion brands and luxury goods will bounce back more quickly than fast fashion will. According to Vogue Business, “The economic downturn of 2008-2009 shaved 9 per cent off the value of the luxury goods market, although it recovered quickly.” And this recovery will be key during the months and years following the global pandemic we are living through now.
Fast Fashion and the Environment
Currently one of the biggest contributors to climate change is the fast fashion industry. Due to global supply chains, inadequate recycling systems, and throw-away culture, the industry makes up a shocking ten per cent of global CO2 emissions.
In even worse news, these clothing items use up so much energy to make and then be shipped all over the world, only to be used a handful of times. In fact, the average item in the UK only is only worn 14 times before being discarded, a figure that motivate GLAMOUR magazine to introduce their ’30 wears challenge’ last year.
From unnecessary amounts of plastic packaging, to returned and unwanted items piling up on landfills, there are multiple environmental issues with the fast fashion industry. This leaves us turning to the alternative: quality garments and ethically sourced clothing.
Remember, quality is key
High quality fashion stores thrive in locally sourced materials. Brands such as Walker Slater, a traditional heritage fashion house specialising in Tweed Waistcoats and jackets, are now proving that quality garments will always demand respect and deliver customer satisfaction. Such companies have built up customer loyalty over years and shoppers will stick with them through thick and thin, rather than opting for a high street brand. High quality brands champion the importance of buying clothes for life instead of just singular events, combatting throw-away culture and striving to put an end to the mounting piles of clothes ending up in landfill.
“The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fact that sustainability is key and must be inherent in everything we do. Working with high-quality, locally sourced fabric, such as wool, allows clothing retailers to continue offering durable pieces during this difficult time, rather than facing the problems of disrupted worldwide supply chains. We offer clothing that our customers want to wear season after season. A true measure of sustainability.”
– Paul Walker, Co-Founder of Walker Slater
To help minimise the harm caused to the environment, high quality sustainable companies take into account each stage of the production process. When analysing a brand’s sustainability, check that they use locally sourced, sustainable fabrics, such as wool, tweed, and sustainably sourced linen. Wool is especially sustainable, as it is a 100 per cent natural fibre that is also renewable and biodegradable. In addition, wool is a natural insulator and a breathable fabric. Because of this, wool garments are versatile and you can get some good wear out of them no matter the season — forget the concept of a ‘summer wardrobe’ and a ‘winter wardrobe’, instead, opt for high-quality, multi-climate fabrics that you can wear all year round.
To add, local supply chains are highly important when striving to be more sustainable. Make sure your new item hasn’t racked up too many air miles before it reaches your wardrobe!
It is likely that high quality companies will be more lenient to use eco-friendly production lines too. Walker Slater, for example, pride themselves in using LED lighting in all locations alongside centralised recycling of paper and packaging, glass and plastics. A number of their main manufacturers also use solar energy to power their factories. They also work to support other sustainable mills and knitwear companies.
Since fast fashion items are more likely to fall apart within years of their purchase, choosing quality over quantity items can benefit both your wardrobe, and the environment. What’s more, it is important to support such ethical business get back on their feet after the coronavirus pandemic so that they can continue doing their part for the environment. Investment pieces may be more expensive in the short term, but they will serve you well for years to come proving themselves to be a worthy investment.