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Blog | 02 October 2023

Why Fast Fashion is a Feminist Issue?

Team member Emily picks apart the threads of fast fashion under our feminist microscope and makes some suggestions on how we can make a difference.

As intersectional feminists, it’s vital that our life choices – including our fashion choices – do not contribute to making the lives of women of colour worse.


So let’s start with some facts. 93% of the people making our clothes don’t earn enough to cover life’s necessities, and 80% of textile workers are women of colour. There are multiple ways that the fast fashion industry aids the exploitation of women and girls and reinforces gender inequality. It’s not a coincidence that the majority of garment workers are women:
“Women can be made to dance like puppets, but men cannot be abused in the same way. The owners do not care if we ask for something, but demands raised by the men must be given some consideration. So they do not employ male workers.” – Bangladeshi factory worker. 

Clean Clothes Campaign reports that women working in textile factories are frequently subjected to verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment. They work under the fear of being assaulted or raped on their way home from work late at night.

More than two tonnes of clothing are bought every minute in the UK – more than any country in Europe. Ultra-fast fashion brand Shein adds over 6000 items to their website every day and has been accused by numerous small designers of stealing their designs. This is having a massive impact, not only on textile workers but also on the environment.

According to experts, the fashion industry is the third most polluting industry in the world, producing a larger carbon footprint than international flights and maritime shipping combined. You may think that ordering and returning clothing items is harmless, but up to 40% of returned online orders go directly to landfill or are incinerated (Waste Association). We also know that women and girls are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which is rapidly worsening.

So, what can consumers do?

  1. Buy less. This is a simple but important place to start. Do an inventory of the clothes you already own, take some time to create new outfit combinations, and get excited about your favourite pieces all over again. We need to fight the attitude that clothing is disposable, so stop to consider the impact of your consumer choices before buying.
  2. Avoid fast fashion. Instead, head to charity shops, second-hand websites and apps and shop at sustainable and local brands. There are now loads of great options for buying or renting clothes right across the price spectrum.
  3. Get educated. Read up on the impacts of clothing consumption and pay attention to the voices of impacted women, especially from an intersectional perspective. Understand when fashion brands are using greenwashing techniques to continue selling clothes without making meaningful changes to their business models. Follow and support the work of experts and campaigns, such as Aja Barber, Venetia La Manna, Remake Our World, Oh So Ethical, Fashion Revolution, Labour Behind the Label, No Sweat, and many more.
  4. Share clothes with your circle. Why not suggest a clothing swap event amongst friends to get items that are new, but not environmentally detrimental? Or pop along to the Survivors’ Network Clothing Swap (on Thursday the 19th of October at Sea Lanes).

Interested to learn more? Survivors’ Network is hosting an online panel event on the 12th of October at 6 p.m. with a collection of activists and experts on “Who pays the cost for fast fashion?” – Tickets HERE.