Despite fast fashion’s increasing vilification in the media spotlight—think the Environmental Audit Committee’s “Fixing Fashion” report, the BBC program “Fashion’s Dirty Secrets” and horrified headlines about Missguided’s one-pound ($1.25) bikini—more than half of British women aged 16 to 24 are buying new clothes every month, according to a new survey.
Turns out, most women admit to knowing little about fast fashion—which is to say, cheap, disposable clothing produced prodigiously on razor-thin factory margins—or its social and ecological ills. Conducted by Hubbub, a London-based environmental charity, on behalf of knitwear label WoolOvers, the poll found that just 6 percent of women consider themselves well informed about fast fashion’s impact. In addition, 86 percent of respondents said there was “not enough information on the issue.”
Hubbub’s research revealed a demographic divide that is all the more surprising because Gen Z-ers, who were born 1995 and 2010, have long been touted as the “woke” generation for their more finely honed moral compasses. (Look at 16-year-old climate crusader Greta Thunberg, for example.)
Yet according to the survey, 58 percent of women aged 16 to 24 don’t know what “fast fashion” even means; for 29 percent of respondents, the term refers to clothes that can be purchased “more conveniently.” In comparison, 67 percent of women aged 65 and over were able to correctly define the concept of fast fashion.
The gap widens when it comes to how different age groups care for their clothes. Only a third of women aged 16 to 24 say they will repair an item, compared with half of women aged 54 and over.
“Polling suggests younger women view clothing as short-term and disposable with less than half expecting clothes to be of a good enough quality to last many years before they need replacing or repairing,” Hubbub noted.
The decline of sewing skills, once near-universally taught in schools, is much to blame. “Young women said that the language around repairs was confusing, leaving them unable to search online to find easy solutions,” Hubbub said.
But the dialogue around textile recycling needs amplification, too. While the organization’s findings indicated that women aged 16 to 24 are the “most likely generation” to wear recycled fabrics, they’re not currently recycling their unwanted garments.
“The public need to be well informed on the benefits of textile recycling and access to recycling points need to be made more available,” Hubbub said.