Cheap thrills: Will I ever quit my fast fashion habit?

current affairs 800x400
Have you been to Primark recently? Checked out their latest must-haves? Wandered around grabbing jumpers and marvelling at the prices, while wondering if you’ll have time to queue before your toddler has a (justified) boredom meltdown?

Yes, me too.  

I’m a sucker for Primarni. And H&M, Zara, George at ASDA, etc.

I used to be worse. In my 20s, when I lived in London and worked in a trendy Soho office, my limited spare cash was spent on going out and cheap dresses. I bought a new outfit most weeks.

Occasionally, I’d take clothes to the charity shop after they’d been relegated to the back of the wardrobe. Often, they’d end up being thrown out with the rubbish.

It occurred to me the other day that some of those clothes, the cheap outfits of my 20s, will still be sitting in landfill sites now: a horrifying thought.

These days, I don’t buy quite as much stuff, cheap or otherwise. I’d like to say it’s because I’m more conscious of the impacts of my consumerism, of the environmental damage and the awful working conditions of the fast fashion industry.

Honestly, it’s more to do with being a work-from-home mum. In a house filled with my son’s toys and clothes, I don’t have the space to own an obscene number of coats anymore, and I don’t ‘need’ a new frock every week.

Yet still, whenever I nip into Primark or H&M, I usually can’t resist buying something.

It’s the thrill of the new that lures me. All of the promise that new clothes hold – the brilliant times I’ll have in them and the wonderful places I’ll go.

It’s that special buzz of netting a bargain and it being coveted and complimented: “This? Primark. A tenner [smug face].”

It’s the fact that fast fashion allows us this delicious boost even when budgets are tight. A cheap little hit of serotonin that is contributing to our destruction of the planet.

Last week, a report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee warned us, again, about our deadly fast fashion habit.

British shoppers buy far more new clothes than any nation in Europe – twice the amount we bought a decade ago. Every year, we send 235 million items of clothing to landfill.

Greenhouse gases created from the fashion industry are overheating the earth, while billions of microfibres released into the sea – 700,000 after a single clothes wash – are destroying our oceans.

So what’s the solution? The industry itself is being called on to act fast – to create longer life garments, increase recycling and stop dumping clothes in landfill.

But what about individual action?

I know it’s crucial that I – indeed, all of us – overhaul habits and behaviours that are harming the planet. This week, a UN report predicted catastrophic consequences if we don’t dramatically alter the way we live.

Addressing our clothes-buying patterns seems almost trivial, then, when the extent of the damage is underlined, but it’s a start.

So yes, I’ll endeavour to buy less. To save up for better quality clothes that last. To seek pleasure from things that don’t cost anything – in terms of monetary value and otherwise: a walk, a chat with a friend, reading, writing, etc.

But I’m already mourning the thrill of the new. Because old habits die hard, don’t they? Even when there’s a planet at stake.

Share Button

About Laura O'Donnell

Laura is mum to Ted and partner of Graham Norton (yes really, and no, not that one). Laura left a glamorous life working in PR – first in London, then Sydney, Australia – to return to her less glamorous hometown of Hull, Yorkshire. She set up a PR consultancy and writes a column in Hull Daily Mail, which used to be about culture and going out; it’s now about culture and attempting a social life with a sleep-averse one-year old. Laura blogs at Only Teethin’, loves good guitar pop music and can be bought with donuts. Find her on Instagram @TheLauraOD.