City AM debate: is fast fashion ethical?

London Fashion Week is drawing to a close, but does fast fashion stand up to ethical scrutiny?

Bill Wirtz, senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center, says YES.

Every few weeks, there is a new environmentalist quest to ban something that consumers like. While activists in the UK are protesting “fast fashion”, their German counterparts are shouting about SUVs, in the hope that a week of media attention will move someone in parliament to overreact and outlaw it.

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The truth is this: certain consumers want to follow fashion trends on a seasonal basis, and that remains their prerogative. Hardly any consumer renews their entire wardrobe twice a year (mostly for financial reasons). They merely complete it with a new sweater or jeans. And they should be allowed to.

Sustainability is not ignored: many of the brands accused of contributing to climate change are already running sustainability commitments, and even have in-store recycling programmes.

Yes, some consumers follow trends as a way to express their personal style or artistic expression, while others opt for long-term and more durable options. The choice is key – and it would be unethical to limit that.

Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, says NO.

In the last two decades, we have seen the amount of clothes bought per person in the EU increase by 40 per cent, while more than 30 per cent of clothes in Europeans’ wardrobes have not been used for at least a year.

This has been enabled by cheap fashion readily available, with clothes whose price tags do not show their hidden costs in terms of sustainability.

From climate change and pollution to resource exploitation and appalling working conditions, fast fashion has a destructive cost.

In a climate emergency, we need our government to take bold, radical actions to reduce our impact on the planet.
Stopping fast fashion by enabling a repairing culture and ensuring that companies report their impact is an important first step.

The government needs to create a system whereby fashion is sustainable and long-lasting. Its aim should be protecting the environment, enabling consumers to be more environmentally-friendly, and making clothing companies pay for their reckless use of our planet.

This debate was published by City AM.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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