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Fast fashion hasn’t said its last word (yet)

Even if the younger generation swears by making sustainable choices when it comes to clothing, which is laudable in itself, there’s a long way to go between words and deeds. Just one figure to convince you: the Chinese giant SHEIN is able to add 6,000 new pieces to its website every day, as a symbol of a fast-fashion industry that doesn’t want to be sacrificed on the altar of saving the planet. The fashion industry, it has long been said, is one of the world’s biggest polluters, responsible for some 20% of the planet’s wastewater and around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s an enduring scandal, and one that the European Union is attempting to tackle with some courage.

In July 2023, it adopted strategic recommendations, including policies to make clothing more resistant, repairable and recyclable. It also backed regulations that “suggest” that production should respect human, social and labeling rights, animal welfare and the environment throughout the supply chain. A step in the right direction, but one that comes up against both structural resistance (the linear, globalized clothing market) and situational resistance.

How can we ask people on tight budgets, hit by inflation, to pay more for very cheap, almost disposable fashion? What’s more, we know that there’s a business in disposable clothing that more or less benefits poor countries like Ghana in Africa. No, fast fashion isn’t lowering its flag just yet.

However, fast fashion does not define the entire world of clothing. In fact, there are still designers who believe in sustainable, respectable work, especially during Fashion Week. During these events, showrooms are set up with ultra-quality pieces. And let’s not forget that fast fashion is not only inspired by, but above all copies, these designers’ collections, eradicating the quality of the pieces.

So, do you prefer a timeless original or a thousand ephemeral copies?