With Extinction Rebellion Demanding That ‘Fashion Act Now’, What Can We Do To Help?   

Holly Watts

Right now, we are buying more clothes than ever before. With new collections dropping every week, suspiciously low prices and next-day delivery, it’s never been easier to order something for a night out. Even if it’s only for it never to be worn again. Fast-fashion retailers now produce up to 52 micro-seasons a year, so it’s hardly surprising we are constantly playing catch-up to stay ‘on-trend’ by buying large quantities of low-cost clothing.

In fact, over 100 billion units of clothing are produced every year, with global consumption doubling from 2000 to 2015. This rapid increase in the rate of production has had severe social and environmental repercussions, something that certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by many within the fashion industry.

The activist organisation Extinction Rebellion (XR) have been putting constant pressure on fashion industry experts and big brands, urging them to commit to combatting climate change and reducing their carbon emissions. According to their website, fashion contributes to “10% of greenhouse gas emissions, 20% of freshwater pollution and 35% of microplastic pollution in our oceans”, not to mention the colossal amount of waste that ends up in landfill each year. 

Previously, they initiated #BoycottFashion, which encouraged the public to buy nothing new for an entire year, disrupting the industry’s economy. Not stopping there, for the past two years the group have asked the British Fashion Council to “Cancel Fashion Week”, branding it unsustainable and threatening events with creative disruptions.

Now, XR have launched a new project, ‘Fashion Act Now’, an urgent appeal to launch a global summit with industry experts, campaigners, garment workers and policy makers. One that will be dedicated to tackling climate change with clear action-plans, instead of relying on pledges and empty initiatives. For example, lots of major brands have promised net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but sustainable fashion consultant and XR activist Alice Wilby said “no one’s going fast enough” to keep global warming below the Paris Agreement target.

That’s why this campaign needs to move quickly to galvanise the industry. The group have started a Crowdfunder page, aiming to raise £30,000 to kickstart the first summit within the next six months. Previous summits have been funded by large fashion corporations, undermining the environmental and social aims by prioritising profits above all else. So, by asking the public to donate, not only do they bypass corporations, they also generate cultural awareness.

They need the public to help disrupt (and put an end to) the culture of fast fashion

XR plan to create an alliance of industry professionals who can transform the fashion world from the inside out and challenge traditional business models. Then, the summits will act as opportunities for these people to present plans for reducing emissions. They also want to produce a ‘code of conduct’, allowing them to hold the industry accountable if they do not fulfil their pledges. Their plan will only work if there is enough pressure for change. They need the public to help disrupt (and put an end to) the culture of fast fashion.

But how do we do help? We have a large role in how the fashion industry flourishes through the ways in which we choose to consume. According to a recent study, a third of people consider an item of clothing to be ‘old’ after only three wears. Yes, really. We are buying cheap clothing as though it were disposable, wearing it once and moving on to something new. A habit that costs us unthinkable amounts in the long run. And this behaviour is heavily encouraged (be it subconsciously) by fast fashion brands churning out new and improved seasonal collections, selling us the latest disposable trends.

Committing to cutting your fashion footprint does not have to mean boycotting shopping (unless you’re feeling extreme)

However, there is hope! There are so many ways we can practice slow-fashion that are inexpensive, sustainable and fun. Before buying anything new, look to your own wardrobe for inspiration. Organise what you already have, try things on and ask yourself what you actually wear (and no those sparkly shoes you wore once in year 9 don’t count). What excites you in your wardrobe and what has been sitting gathering dust for years? Everyone has those clothes that haven’t been worn since 2015 that we keep ‘just in case’. Say goodbye! Once you’ve donated all the clothes you don’t wear, it’s so much easier to buy purposefully.

Committing to cutting your fashion footprint does not have to mean boycotting shopping (unless you’re feeling extreme). There are countless places to shop sustainably for all styles and budgets. Charity shopping is an amazing way to find a bargain, support the community and stop unwanted clothing going to landfill. There’s nothing like finding a hidden gem. In Nottingham there’s a great selection of charity shops, including a massive ‘Sue Ryder Vintage and Retro’ store in Hockley. Or, why not take it one step further and attend a clothes swap.

White Rose is another great option for second-hand shopping. They handpick recycled items from high-street brands and sell them to raise money for Aegis Trust’s campaign, #fashionpeace. The clothes are in such perfect condition that it feels as though you are shopping new. You’re essentially getting that ‘new clothes excitement’ without the negative environmental impact. There are five (yes, five) of these shops in Nottingham city centre and they now also have an online shop!

If you’re willing to pay a little more, vintage shops like COW or Braderie are also good places to cut your consumption and find unique pieces that are often better quality than fast-fashion garments. A lot of high-street retailers are basing collections on vintage looks, so why not get the real thing? And if rummaging around isn’t for you, there’s a treasure trove of vintage clothing on sites like Depop and eBay to make the search for one-off pieces effortless. 

The best thing we can do to support the XR campaign is simply be more conscious of our consumption habits. We need to think more about what we buy and where it’s coming from. Unsubscribe from mailing lists tempting you with sales, practice slow fashion and remember, it’s always good to outfit repeat.  

Holly Watts

Featured image courtesy of  Scoobyfoo via Flickr. No changes made to this image. Image license found here

In-article images courtesy of  @Whiteroseshops and @Fashion_act_now via Instagram. No changes made to these images. 

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