Sustainable Fashion

Boycotting Won’t End Fast Fashion, But Access To Sustainable Alternatives


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Boycotting won’t end fast fashion, but access to sustainable alternatives.

As the fast fashion industry continues to pollute the environment and drive our waste epidemic, consumers are becoming ever conscious of where they spend their money.

Search #BoycottFastFashion, and you’ll find thousands of people pledging to give up their wasteful shopping habits for good.

Fast fashion boycotts, driven by the power of the purse, have become the preferred peaceful method of protest to raise awareness about the industry and inspire large-scale change.

Why Boycotting Fashion?

Boycotting London fashion week

Many of those boycotting believe their previous purchases made them complicit to an industry that thrives on pollution, animal cruelty, and labour exploitation.

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Shoppers are increasingly seeking to purchase and showcase cruelty-free and eco-friendly labels that resonate with their ethical beliefs.

Research carried out by Cone Communications found that 76 per cent of American consumers would boycott a product if the company’s values did not align with their own.

In the words of author and educator Anna Lappé:

“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.

But is ‘voting with your wallet’ such a straightforward solution? A boycott is a means to pressure a company into change.

How Successful Is Boycotting?

Boycotting Won’t End Fast Fashion

However, it is rather difficult to measure the success of boycotts.

Yet, there has been precedent; when Ivanka Trump assumed the role of White House adviser, her fashion brand was forced by the masses into closure.

The alleged conflict of interest saw the brand’s sales fall dramatically as successive retailers dropped her merchandise.

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Nevertheless, experts see this as an exception because, generally, boycotting a fashion brand has little impact on its sales.

For one, boycotts get minimal national media attention. Then, only one in eighth boycotting campaigns leads to a company making a public concession. A more substantial effect comes from the correlated detrimental impact on the company’s reputation“, said Brayden King, the Management professor at Northwestern University.

As consumer demand for sustainable alternatives is growing, so are the numbers of greenwashing claims.

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Rarely impacted by fast fashion boycotts, brands will seek to improve sales via collections marketed as sustainable.

In most cases, without real restructuring and commitment to sustainable development, their eco-friendly claims are unsubstantiated, diverting attention from genuinely sustainable labels.

But, some experts insist that in the long run, this strategy pays off. As a brand’s profit is the crucial driver, in time, the change demanded by consumers will become the real incentive to invest in sustainable alternatives.

Yes, it may not be the perfect solution but ‘infiltrating from within’ prioritises working with fast fashion brands to create a fairer, cleaner future.

Stella McCartney’s Effect

Stella McCartney sustainable fashion alternatives

When Stella McCartney launched her fashion label in 2001, she was laughed at for blending animal welfare with luxury values, and called a hypocrite for giving Gucci Group a 50% stake.

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Though, McCartney was not compromising her ethical values but rather showcasing that it is possible to be both, luxurious and cruelty-free in fashion.

Ever since Stella’s business model has become a global success, to an extent that other fashion houses, such as Gucci, Versace and Burberry houses, have started to follow the ethical model and go fur-free.

The Real Solution To The Fashion’s Problem

Stella McCartney sustainable fashion collection on Paris fashion week

If boycotting fast fashion doesn’t work much, what might work is more ‘Stella McCartney’. That’s not to say that you can’t personally boycott those brands who don’t align with your values – just don’t expect systemic change!

Giving conscious consumers access to more sustainable fashion alternatives might be what’s really going to create a solid, long-lasting change.

Roberta Lee, a sustainable stylist and founder of the Ethical Brand Directory, sees some merit in this step-by-step approach:

We need to encourage brands to be fully transparent about what they’re not doing and why, see what the barriers are and where they would like to be if they had the right support and resources,” says Roberta.

Present calls to boycott fast fashion require consumers’ support. However, when sustainable fashion alternatives are not available, many consumers will find such calls unwarranted and return to old shopping habits,” agrees the CMO of Wardrobe of Tomorrow, Rueen Amiriara.

Nafeezah Padamsey is going to be a bridesmaid later this year. While she is a conscious consumer, it’s very likely she’ll turn to the high street once again. Finding sustainable fashion that caters for her size has been an impossible task so far; “I’m super petite and have always struggled to find outfits that fit me. This time, I’ve checked everywhere, even in charity shops.”

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Moreover, boycotting fast fashion does not take into consideration the people behind the brands:

Fashion-making serves multiple purposes. To all of us, clothes act as functional objects. But, fashion is also a form of art. It is a skilled craft. It is a medium of self-expression and cultural identity,” explains Ruth Macgilp, an ethical fashion blogger and digital marketer.

But, at the same time, fashion is an industry that employs millions of people and contributes billions to the world’s economy. Therefore, you can’t just ‘boycott’ it away“, adds Ruth.


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I’ve had a few new followers recently, so I just wanted to say HIYA! 👋⁣ ⁣ I’m Ruth, I’m from Birmingham I’m nearly 6 foot tall and I treat charity shopping like its a sport. I live in Edinburgh, and my day job is that I’m a freelance copywriter and social media/digital marketing manager for lots of lovely folk in the fashion and art space. I’ve also been a blogger for many years and create various types of content for social media and my website. I occasionally write articles about the intersection of fashion and sustainability for other publications. While I do bits & bobs with @fash_rev_scotland (see last post) ~and~ finally finish off the last bits of my degree in fashion marketing. I am very busy but that’s how I like it, most of the time. And I will never, ever shut up about ethical fashion. (Or politics, or climate change, or my cat)⁣ ⁣ You might have found me from some pretty cool press I’ve had recently- I wrote an article that got published in @cosmopolitanuk (eep!), I got featured in @lcflondon_’s BAFTA sustainable style guide, and @the.independent just included me in their sustainable fashion influencer roundup. So thank you for joining my adventure, it means the world to lil old me!⁣ ⁣ 📸 Photos by the talented @regenweibchen ⁣ 👗 Outfit a mix of old + second hand⁣

A post shared by Ruth MacGilp (@ruthmacgilpblog) on Feb 7, 2020 at 9:40am PST

The economic argument is a powerful one. Boycotting fast fashion endangers the jobs of workers – of which 80 per cent are women.

Moreover, as 98 per cent of these workers don’t earn a living wage, their survival depends on this source of income.

The toppling of the fast fashion sector may seem them migrate towards equally unsafe working places and factories.

Thus, it is argued, boycotting fast fashion, would only create a new issue.

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However, some experts disagree. According to them, the world won’t stop buying fast fashion overnight, forcing millions of workers into unemployment.

Moreover, the idea of holding onto unsafe and underpaid jobs as an alternative to poverty is morally questionable.

Giving consumers access to sustainable fashion alternatives free from greenwashing is the only happy medium to date.

It is a solution demanded by those not willing to support an industry that violates their beliefs.

Another solution, to those who cannot afford to purchase sustainable brands, is second-hand shopping.

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With between 80 and 100 billion pieces of clothing produced each year, there are plenty of pre-loved garments to be found.

Emily Atkins volunteers as a marketer for her local Red Cross in the hopes of raising the profile of charity shops.

For Emily, shopping second-hand has proven “extremely liberating” because there’s no longer a pressure to wear what everybody else is.

Moreover, her experimental style has gained friends’ attention asking for advice.

The rise of second-hand clothing

According to ThredUP’s annual fashion resale report, the secondhand market is soon expected to overtake the global apparel market.

These findings send a powerful message to brands and policymakers that customers want radical change towards sustainable fashion.

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