Is Controversy Enough To Crush Fast Fashion?

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Fashion retailer Pretty Little Thing has once again faced backlash and uproar on social media after selling their clothes for as little as 6p during their 2020 Black Friday Sale.

While the PLT sale boomed and items sold out in the snap of a finger, many on Twitter were eager to express their excitement at bagging such a bargain. Some managed to snap up a £70 coat for 7p whilst others got lucky with a £6 crop top for only 6p. Others were in outrage. A chorus of Twitter users were eager to point out that Pretty Little Thing is anything but pretty: 

https://twitter.com/plantmaw/status/1332307066334142464

 

Most of the criticisms around PLT’s Black Friday sale ultimately come down to the climate crisis and sustainability – but fast fashion brands are still refusing to acknowledge the problem. The negative impacts are not hard to find; studies have shown that in 2015, the global fashion industry produced nearly 1.2bn tonnes of carbon emissions – totaling a larger production of greenhouse gasses than international flights. In fact, the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world, second only to the oil industry. Moreover, the waste in the water produced by dyes not only inflict serious harm on our aquatic life, but also to us as humans. Factory wastewater contains mercury, lead and arsenic among other toxic chemicals which can have disastrous consequences for those living in the surrounding areas and even worldwide once the toxic water reaches the sea and evaporates.

But the trouble doesn’t stop once the clothes have been made – non-biodegradable fabrics can take anywhere between 20 and 200 years to decompose. With all the devastation and natural disasters that have occurred across the globe this year, we simply cannot allow it to suffer any more. We must put a stop to fast fashion and the brands who make it so cheap and ‘appealing’.

In an open letter aimed at fast fashion brands, Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee stated that “people can’t wear the same thing twice, you buy something, wear it once, take a snap and get rid of it. Things have to change.”

The obstacle, as so often seems to be the case, is ourselves. In a world where we expect convenience – such as speedy next-day delivery and the lowest possible price – we create a demand. We’re all guilty of it. But this flagrant price slashing, exposing just how cheap their materials and production really is, might just be the visceral wake-up call that drives PLT’s customers to the end of their tether; eventually, making PLT a long forgotten brand.

However, PLT is not the only behemoth we would need to topple to combat fast fashion. Shein, Nasty Gal, Primark, and Boohoo – to name a few – are just as guilty. Ever changing fashion trends are glorified by mainstream media and social media alike. Instagrammers and influencers are often eager to promote clothes sent to them for free by big brands seeking effective advertising. They contribute to significant social pressures to keep up to date with the throwaway culture that places importance on being trendy than sustainable. Love Island star and social media influencer Molly-Mae can make an eye-watering £12,000 per sponsored Instagram post. Should we hold social media influencers responsible for this? It could be argued that their vocal endorsement makes them as to blame as the fast fashion brands themselves. 

Social media has permeated almost every corner of our society. We therefore cannot allow people to tolerate this unethical marketing. Information about how damaging fast fashion is to the environment is so widely accessible that influencers have no reason to claim ignorance. The burden of responsibility falls on them, as well as the customers, to curb damaging trends. The backlash which has damaged PLT’s reputation will surely encourage this change. 

The pandemic, though devastating, has brought with it an environment of consideration. People have, for the first time in a long time, stopped to evaluate the systems around us and asked whether the the world is the place we want it to be. Race relations and the climate crisis are two examples of where the answer to that question was a resounding ‘no’. Our tolerance for harmful practices is lower than ever.  

We therefore need to keep creating noise and hammering home the need to end fast fashion. We must start demanding brands like PLT are held accountable for their practices. In turn, we must also be doing more to make people question whether their 6p ‘bargain’ is really worth the indisputable damage they’re causing to the environment. Calling out PLT is just the start of the cycle – one we must take seriously, before it is too late.

Words by Milica Cosic

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