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Speeding Ticket for Fast Fashion

...I see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man.

--William Shakespeare

Even as lovers of cheap chic on this side of the pond eagerly await the arrival of the U.K.'s Topshop in New York, the House of Lords has officially frowned upon fast fashion.  In its report on "Waste Reduction," the Science and Technology Committee noted:

This problem [of a throwaway society] is particularly apparent within the textile industry, where the culture of "fast fashion" encourages consumers to dispose of clothes which have only been worn a few times in favour of new, cheap garments which themselves will also go out of fashion and be discarded within a matter of months. Mr Paul Ozanne, National Recycling Co-ordinator at the Salvation Army Trading Company commented that these garments "are quick to produce; the turnover is very fast; and the length of time they are able to be worn is very short.". Furthermore, the rapid production of cheap clothes involves the use of low quality materials in garments of high complexity, which makes it difficult to capture any value from the material at the end of the garments' lives. Mr Alan Wheeler, National Liaison Manager at the Textile Recycling Association, commented that "fast fashion" items were "harder to re-use" and that there was "not much thought about how recyclable an item is at the end of its useful life."

The Daily Mail immediately took up the debate, pitting its own style expert (anti-fast fashion) against the editor of British Vogue (pro-cheap chic).  Interestingly, none of the discussion -- in Parliament, in the newspaper, or on Jezebel, which followed with another analysis -- brought up the issue that has caused Counterfeit Chic to applaud the growing slow fashion movement:  namely, that fast fashion is fraught with fakes.  (Yes, even Topshop goes a bit to far with its designer "inspirations" on occasion.)  Given that not only counterfeit labels and logos but also unauthorized copies of fashion designs themselves are illegal in U.K., surely initiatives that not only promote sustainability but reduce lawbreaking would be welcome.

The committee report itself was a bit vague on legal solutions, though it did applaud a private initiative by Marks & Spencer that rewarded donations of clothing to Oxfam with M&S gift certificates.  Still, it seems that most of the poorly constructed, last season fast fashion out there is likely to end its short life in a landfill alongside its own plastic bags. 

Or on the floor in the back of the closet. 

Thanks to the ever-alert Larry Abraham for the tip!

P.S. On the same day that the House of Lords report appeared, the New York Times offered its own subtle indictment of fast fashion.  Worse than the exploitation of child labor, worse than the destruction of the environment, worse even than the violation of intellectual property law, it's the dreaded whisper of one's own internal fashion critic:

You can rationalize blowing your rent on Gucci’s $1,900 swinging fringed boots — by telling yourself you’ll spend only $89 for Zara’s copy of Gucci’s mini peasant dress. But you would know immediately that your cheap-jack Doctor Zhivago outfit wasn’t working, and then what?