Fast Fashion & Charity T-shirts

13 May 2020

The dichotomy between fast fashion charity T-shirts is unavoidably obvious but equally irresistible. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people, like me, are spending our lockdown days in baggy t-shirts and leggings. What even are jeans please? I've been reaping the benefits of my Boohoo premier membership and have kitted myself out with a variety of over-sized t-shirts, leggings and some shorts (for that day when we had summer). There has been some uproar about fast-fashion over the past couple of years with people arguing the ethics and environmental consequences of being able to buy low quality products at exceptionally low prices and receive them the next day. Don't get me wrong here, I frequent the Boohoo app more times than I care to admit and the fact that I have a premier membership says enough doesn't it. 



That being said, I'm still more than aware of the damaging affects of fast fashion. Let's start with the financial aspect of it all - fast and cheap fashion is all my budget will allow. As much as I'd love to be able to buy higher quality clothes and call them "pieces", I can't. Boohoo and the like are quick, cheap and easily accessible but that doesn't mean that it doesn't come with a host of issues. Buying clothes online means constantly guessing sizes and learning what specific items will be true to size and what won't. I'm at a privileged advantage of being a size eight which means that I can mostly and arguably easily use the models as a point of reference (providing I imagine what the item of clothing would look like not pulled tight with a huge bulldog clip) and 90% of the time I win the size lottery. Those who have normal bodies - not the super slim, gravity defying smooth AF ones that the media would like us to think are average types, aren't given a visual point of reference and have to play clothes size roulette every time they pop something in that virtual shopping basket but... the low prices, constant sales and discount codes flashing about on the homepage like a NYE firework display make the gamble much more worthwhile. (I have to add here that although Boohoo and the like do have  a plus sized range, and the models are plus sized, they're still not representing the average plus sized body and don't even get me started on the ridiculous poses - I want to see how an outfit looks when I'm opening the door to my Amazon delivery driver and not when I'm doing taking three feet wide steps and dislocating my shoulder to try and seduce the camera). 

As I said, for me, the gamble mostly pays off and my baggy T-shirts and leggings almost always fit and are acceptable to wear, even outside the house; but when things don't fit, can I be arsed to go through the returns process? The answer is for the most part, no. Despite it being an easy process to print off the returns label and send that fanny-flashing dress on it's merry way to back to the warehouse to trick someone else, the ease of shoving it it at the back of my wardrobe in the hope it might grow a few inches far outweighs the ease of returning and it the mentality of "it was only a fiver" justifies it. 



Quality is another issue when it comes to fast fashion. In 2018 Boohoo launched a £5 dress range and the press reported that the quality was so low "even charity shops would turn them away". With fast fashion you predominantly get what you pay for, there's a vast difference between a £5 dress and a £25 dress and you're fool to think that anything under £7 isn't going to disintegrate in the wash or spontaneously combust in the sun. The cheapest items are usually made of synthetic fabrics, often being 100% polyester which we all know is horrendous for the environment but on a more narcissistic level, it almost never sits well on anyone's body, is often see-through and a magnet for sweat patches - if you think you're going to look like goddess after a night on the tiles in that £5 dress you need to not wear knickers and get some botox on your pits so that you never sweat again. Again the low cost price justifies the low quality and in turn justifies the arguable waste of money. 

The ethical and environmental factors when it comes to fast fashion are uncomfortable to say the least. The majority of Boohoo clothes are manufactured in factories across the UK which is why they're so easy to get via next day delivery as transporting them distribution centres can take just hours it also means that brands can churn out new lines in fast-fashion times and provide new collections at a click of our virtual fingers. Sounds great but it's been largely reported that the manufacturers working in the factories are often paid less than minimum wage and whilst this is something that government is trying to tackle, according to the Guardian in 2019 "MPs found that the Modern Slavery Act was not robust enough to stop wage exploitation at UK clothing factories. There was a lack of inspection or enforcement, allowing factories – none of which are unionised – to get away with paying illegal wages." Environmentally, the cheap fabric used to create many fast-fashion items from across the scope (I'm not just talking about Boohoo here) wreak havoc when it comes to pollution, with synthetic fabric causing up to 35% of microplastics in the ocean and unsold or used items being thrown away at alarming rates the wider impact that the use of these fabrics are having on the globe is not ok hun. 

So where do charity T-shirts come into this? Well mate, let's start at how quickly a fast fashion brand can chuck a charity T-shirt at us. After the Manchester bombings Bee T's were popping up all over the shot, when Caroline Flack tragically died, within days there were and still are T's being sold depicting a quote she fairly recently shared on her Instagram (in my opinion this is somewhat bad taste, making someones suicide a fashion statement so soon after her death and regardless of the profits going to charity just made me feel a bit, bleh) More recently, an NHS range has been produced with all profits going to, yeah, you guessed it, the NHS. The cheapest item is a T-shirt sold at a reasonable price of ten of your english pounds and what is it made of? yep you guessed again, 65% polyester and 35% cotton and let me tell you now, that little tinker needs to go on a cold wash or it'll be a cropped T-shirt before you can say "next day delivery". You're probably wondering if any of this matters because it's raising money for the NHS right? well, kind of but you see, the slight issue with this is that the T-shirt is in fact made in Pakistan and you can bet ten of your finest english pounds that the person who made it does not get a fair deal in this. 



However, I'm not one to knock fundraising and I did buy a charity T-shirt (as well as some other items to tide me through lockdown) and god knows the NHS needs all it can get and let it be known that I feel quite proud wearing my rainbow T knowing that I've contributed in chucking some dosh at the NHS but I also think it's really important that we're aware of the wider consequences of endorsing fast fashion. Will I be cancelling my Boohoo Premier membership and boycotting all fast fashion brands? absolutely not, it's convenient for both my grabby-need-it-now mentality and my bank balance. There's no doubt that if I could afford to I would invest in more sustainable stuff and does this make me a raging hypocrite? probably but I'm a conscious one....if that's even a thing.



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