9 July 2019

Is it time that fast-fashion brands take accountability for their own waste?

Missguided and Boohoo were named two of the least sustainable brands in the UK.

Whether you like her or not, Kim Kardashian’s influence on fashion and trends is undeniable. With over 140m Instagram followers, she can pretty much sell anything she wants, from makeup to waist trainers – and get an incredible response. Throughout the years, she has been the inspiration for many fast-fashion brands which have managed to build empires by simply producing cheap and affordable dupes of her outfits.

In February, she shared a photo of herself wearing a gold dress for a fitting with the caption “Going through old fitting pics & found this gold look that Kanye made for me for my Miami trip last summer (I went w the neon vibes instead) P.S. fast fashion brands, can you please wait until I wear this in real life before you knock it off? 😂”

Within hours, fast-fashion brand Missguided posted a photo on Instagram (now deleted) with a model wearing the same dress with the caption: “The devil works hard but Missguided works harder.

The same month, she was seeing out and about in a vintage Mugler black dress. This time, e-tailer Fashion Nova was the one producing a knock-off of her look. However, on this occasion, Instagram’s favourite fashion police account Diet Prada alleged that the TV reality star had, in fact, a deal with the brand.

Kim Kardashian denied any allegations explaining that it’s “devastating to see these fashion companies rip off designs that have taken the blood, sweat and tears of true designers who have put their all into their own original ideas.”

Last week, news broke that Kim won £2.1m from Missguided US for using her likeness to sell its products. The company has been banned from using her trademarked likeness for the sales or distribution of its products in the future.

But will a lawsuit stop these fast-fashion brands from producing inexpensive and bad quality items? The issue goes way beyond Kim Kardashian all the way to what these companies are doing to the environment.

Boohoo’s buying director once commented in a Vox interview: “Speed is absolutely critical to the shopper today. People see Kim K. wearing something one day, and they want it the next.”

What exactly are the repercussions of such ‘speed’?

According to the UN, the fashion industry produces 20 per cent of global wastewater and 10 per cent of global carbon emissions, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping. As if that wasn’t enough, textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally and it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans.

Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned and, if nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.

In autumn 2018, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) wrote to sixteen leading UK fashion retailers asking what they are doing to reduce the environmental and social impact of the clothes and shoes they sell and later on, named Missguided and Boohoo as two of the least sustainable brands in the UK.

The report concluded that the current UK business model for the fashion industry is unsustainable, that exploitative practices must end, retailers must lead change through labour market and environmental sustainability practices as well as showing leadership through engagement with industry initiatives.

Let’s not forget that only last month, Missguided release a £1 bikini that had everyone taking. Apart from being extremely problematic due to the very low price tag (which makes you wonder just how little they pay their workers), it is also a product which will definitely end up in landfills.

However, not everything is as bad as it seems. Young people are way ahead of the game in many ways and their use of apps such as Depop to trade clothes has definitely made an impact. According to Mintel, nearly half of consumers have said they prefer to buy clothing from companies trying to reduce their impact on the environment – data that rises to 60% among under-24s.

With that said, more and more brands are committing to a more sustainable way to produce clothes. In a world where socials are known to set trends on a daily basis, isn’t it time that fast-fashion companies start taking accountability for their own waste before it’s too late?

  • words Alice Ierace
  • cover image Missguided via Facebook

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