In recent years, the fashion industry has grown exponentially, and there are several reasons why people prefer to invest in high-quality, long-lasting garments. 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.
What is the alternative to this? Well, the likes of sustainable fashion options that favour quality over quantity has seen a rise in recent years, and thanks to environmental fears, human rights activism and other economic factors, high-quality heritage brands have taken their toll over the fashion industry. 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 Effects It Has Had
Covid-19 has not only resulted in a change in popular opinions surrounding some well-known 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.
Whether fashion outlets are big, small, cheap or luxury, the economic results of the pandemic will naturally affect them all. 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.
What about the environmental impact?
Currently one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis, 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.
Although these items are most likely only worn a few times, they require so much energy to create and ship. 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 returned items heading straight to landfill, to excessive plastic packaging, there are numerous ways the world of fast fashion is having negative effects on the environment. This leaves us turning to the alternative: quality garments and ethically sourced clothing.
Quality is Key
High quality fast fashion businesses are thriving, from sustainable supply chains to locally sourced materials. Brands such as Walker Slater 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 minimise the environmental impact at every opportunity they have, sustainable companies take each stage of production into account. 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.
When it comes to sustainability, local supply chains are of vital importance. Make sure your new item hasn’t racked up too many air miles before it reaches your wardrobe!
As for eco-friendly production lines, high quality companies are also likely to take more care in assuring this. Walker Slater, traditional heritage fashion house specialising in ladies tweed jackets, 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.
It will likely benefit not only your wardrobe, but the environment too, by choosing quality pieces over hundreds of fast fashion items. 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.