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The costs associated with ultra-fast fashion


In 2022, the UK fashion industry is estimated to be worth around £60.1 billion.


In 2022, the UK fashion industry is estimated to be worth around £60.1 billion.

This has been driven by the growth of the fast fashion industry with consumers locked into a cycle of regularly purchasing trendy but inexpensive clothing in an attempt to keep up with the latest trends.

The term fast fashion was coined in the early 2000s to describe the rate at which catwalk designs were being replicated and mass produced by mass-market retailers and the term ultra-fast fashion, is, essentially, fast fashion but on a gargantuan scale with clothing made quicker and cheaper than ever before.

But despite clothes costing pennies (or £0 as was the case in Pretty Little Thing’s 2021 Black Friday sale), what are the costs associated with ultra-fast fashion?

In this article, we’ll outline the costs associated with ultra-fast fashion and why its dangers go far beyond that of the financial variety.

You could write off up to 81% of your unsecured debt today


The financial cost

The UK fashion industry grew by over £5 billion between 2021 and 2022 with the population’s appetite for fast fashion growing stronger.

But with consumers tossing garments within a couple of weeks and less than 1% of textiles produced for the fashion industry recycled, the total cost of materials lost is in the region of £140 million per year.

Boohoo attracted 17 million active customers globally in 2021 and recorded profits of £945.1 million as high street stores struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fashion giant’s business model also operates as an online-only retailer and bases the majority of its operations in the UK in an attempt to keep overhead costs and delivery timeframes as low as possible.

This, coupled with the rapid growth of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) companies like Klarna and Clearpay, however, has meant that whilst ultra-fast fashion brands are getting richer, consumers are getting poorer with 35% of young adults admitting to spending more on celebrity clothing collaborations than on savings.


The labour cost

This week, ultra-fast fashion favourite, Missguided, collapsed under the weight of its unpaid debts with 80 members of staff immediately made redundant and 260 further jobs at risk if the company fails to secure a rescue bid.

It highlights the disposability of the ultra-fast fashion industry with garments only worn a couple of times before being tossed in the trash and garment workers more often than not the first to be dismissed when financial trouble looms.

In 2019, a study into working conditions in the UK also found that garment workers in Manchester were only paid for 16 hours per week regardless of the number of hours worked and earned only £4 an hour which is less than half of the current UK National Living Wage of £9.50.


The environmental cost

Purchasing a £5 dress or a £3.99 top might not seem like it would have a major impact on the environment but with ultra-fast fashion brands attracting millions of customers every year, such seemingly small actions are contributing to a global environmental catastrophe.

This is because, whilst the garments might only last for a couple of wears, the synthetic fibres used in the production process, such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon, can take anywhere between 20 years and 500 years to decompose.

If that wasn’t bad enough, synthetic fibres are produced from fossil fuels which contribute to CO2 emissions with the fashion industry responsible for a whopping 10% of global carbon emissions through material sourcing, supply chains, and washing and waste, according to the UN.

The trend of renting clothes has long been hailed as the answer to the ultra-fast fashion crisis but with higher delivery, packaging, transportation, and cleaning costs, a recent study has found it to have the highest environmental impact compared to other clothing recycling methods.


What can you do about ultra-fast fashion?

The unstoppable rise of the ultra-fast fashion industry can be hard to ignore but there are steps you can take to shop savvy and, more importantly, sustainably.

It might cost slightly more to shop from so-called slow fashion brands but with garments built to last and materials sourced with sustainability in mind, you could end up spending less in the long run.

To fight ultra-fast fashion at home, only buy clothes from sustainable retailers, purchase with purpose, and donate any unwanted or outgrown garments.

You could write off up to 81% of your unsecured debt today


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