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2020 has brought about a significant shift within the fashion industry. The pandemic has exposed fast fashions' unethical practices, whilst consumers have been demanding change. However, as global income is at its lowest, fast fashion sales still remains high. 

This year we've seen physical retailers struggle with no online presence, with in-store sales dropping by nearly 70 per cent. (Bootle, 2020) Online retailers have boomed with Boohoo's profits jumping by 51% in the first half of the year (Butler), despite facing criticism around the ethics behind their UK Supply chains.

COVID-19 has also exposed the unethical practices of many fast fashion brands. For example, Boohoo's workers were reportedly paid less than half the minimum wage and made to work when tested positive for Coronavirus (Labour Behind The Label). 

Since, Boohoo has cut ties with two factories and are setting up their own factory that 'will have the latest capital equipment and promote the highest standards of health and safety throughout the facility” (John Lyttle)

This move may lead to the company being more directly accountable for the working conditions behind some of its clothes, but nowhere near all, and still fits in with their ultra-fast fashion model. (Ethical Consumer)

Whilst some unethical accusations were addressed by fast fashion brands, and some changes were made. UK’s fast fashion habit is hard to break, as we  send 11,000 items of clothing to landfill every week. (Nazir, 2020)

Affordability of fast fashion is one of the reason demand is staying high. This. year we've seen an estimated 10.7% loss in global labour income (International Labour Organisation), with an estimated 60% of us spending less on fashion (McKinsey). 

Many have had significantly less disposable income this year, so demand for fast fashion brands has remained. This makes it harder for fast fashion brands to embrace permanent ethical practices and change for good.

Here are some ways to demand change from unethical retailers with your purchasing habits > 

Don't Over Consume

Whilst fast fashion garments are ‘cheap’, and easy on our bank accounts, the rate of consumption is undoubtedly faster. With 1 in 3 young women considering a garment ‘old’ after being worn once or twice (Darmo), consumption is higher than ever.

Invest in Key Items

Buying a pair of £10 jeans each week may seem cheap, but that consumer would still spend over £300 a year on this habit. Investing in a truly sustainable way, invest into certified ethically-sourced pieces which can last a lifetime.  Although this will inevitably come with a higher price tag, the initial cost will balance out over time.

Support Sustainable Brands

This will show fast-fashion brands that they need to step up their game. You, as a consumer, determines where the demand is, and fast fashion brands are going to meet it.

Change Habits

At Know The Origin, the ‘cost per use’ feature lets customers see the true value of an item through its lifetime. This feature hopes to inspire consumers to change their mindset on the affordability of sustainability and how purchasing habits can be altered easily.

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Imogen Rowley

Writer’s Bio: Imogen is a Fashion Buying and Merchandising Student at University Of Manchester.

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