Guest Blog: A Gen Z View on Fast Fashion | OpinionPanel x YouthSight

Guest Blog | 05 Jan 2021

OPC X YSIs the fast fashion industry facing tough times ahead? Gen Z are savvy to the sector's impact on the environment and are putting increasing pressure on retailers to act more ethically. But will their desire to save the planet be enough for them to boycott fast fashion entirely?

We recently released an eBook where we reflected on just this. We found that whilst 54% of Gen Z feel bad about buying fast fashion, almost one in 10 young adults buy more than 10 items a month from a fast fashion online retailer (download the full eBook).

In this month's guest blog, panel member India Briars discusses her view on the topic and offers advice on how young people can satisfy their thirst for new clothes, whilst acting ethically. 

Can Fast Fashion Exist in a More Sustainable World?

By India Briars


The answer is complicated...Fast Fashion surrounds us and has boomed recently with the popularity of some online fashion stores. It creates ‘wear it once’ culture, which ultimately fuels the idea that fashion is disposable. Can we really have a new #ootd every day while being sustainable?

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

That’s the advice that the Environmental Protection Agency gives to consumers to help save the environment. So, customers shopping H&M’s Conscious or Zara’s Join Life collections are doing their part, right? Well not exactly. Let’s take a vegan jacket from Zara. Sure, it may be more animal friendly than one from a high-priced fur store, but the fact remains that these retailers use polyurethane, an adhesive used in building insulations and solid plastics. In simpler terms, this means that this £60 jacket won’t biodegrade anytime soon. But, look on the bright side it’s better for the environment… That is if you don’t look at the shiny label and see that it is still 87% polyester and 13% cotton. The only part that’s polyurethane is the coating on top of the coat. Therefore, around 4,000 gallons of water has been used to produce an item that will eventually collect dust in your wardrobe after you decide that brown is just not your colour.

How did we get here?

We’re in this symbiotic relationship… how have we managed to become obsessed with these blindingly fast-paced brands? Think back to 2012, the year of glitter pumps and statement pants. But, most importantly the birth of the influencer. The rise of this culture and marketing has opened up a niche for fast fashion brands, specifically online retailers, to flourish.

Thanks to social media’s constantly changing, visually-driven nature, brands have joined with popular celebrities, like the Kardashians, who can turn whatever they wear into an instant trend. In turn, this steers people to ‘exclusive’ fashion brands like Fashion Nova. Brands like this have previously been seen on online safety pilot websites for stealing bank details and having chemical-smelling clothes. But, it’s okay now because Kylie wears those stretchy, oddly see-through leggings so we must trust these brands. Not only has Kylie made us buy scratchy pants but she has also helped change the way we view clothes.

According to a 2017 survey commissioned by the London sustainability firm Hubbub, 41% of 18- to 25-year-olds feel pressured to wear a different outfit every time they go out. Fast fashion, then, appears to be the simple solution to appease our desire for novelty. It’s much easier to avoid outfit repetition when you can get a full outfit for under £30.

So, where do we go from here?

Fortunately, we are not too far gone that we have to take up our bedroom carpet and wrap it around us in a sort of avant-garde style dress. But we do have to be more conscious in buying clothes which could be seen as just as humiliating and painful to shopaholics like Rebecca Bloomwood. A sustainable life recommends that when we’re thinking of buying a new outfit, we ask ourselves “Will I wear these 30 times? And if you won’t, then don’t buy it.” Well in the case for most people, this advice is not very effective when it comes to convincing them to not to buy a dress. However, we can find a wormhole in this by looking on either eBay or Depop for the same item. In turn, preventing the garment from going to landfill and the embarrassment of having to search through our purses for the correct change.

Our ongoing challenge, then, will be to negotiate our thirst for new clothes and the future of the planet while still looking Instagram worthy, perhaps there might be a place for DIY carpet dresses after all!

Download the Fast Fashion eBook

Our new eBook is available to download now - an essential read for marketers who want to immerse themselves in the worlds of their young audiences.

In this new issue you will gain insight into Gen Z's moral dilemma: does their love of fast fashion conflict with their desire to save the planet?

Our team of  specialist youth researchers reflect on Gen Z's diverse attitudes and behaviours, how this impacts their shopping habits and what they're willing to compromise, in order to buy from ethical brands. 

Download the eBook

Read more about the OpinionPanel 

The OpinionPanel Community is the UK's largest youth research panel with over 150,000 highly engaged 13-30 year olds ready to take part in your research project.  

Our Community is more than just a research panel; it's a platform for young people to express themselves, share their thoughts and experiences with peers, learn from thought-leadership articles and hear alternative views on topical subjects. 

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