How Cardiff businesses are taking on the fast fashion industry one stitch at a time

Promoting slow fashion or repairing clothes we already own are the aims of various businesses in the Welsh capital, especially during the festive period

It’s time to shop our own wardrobes, before we shop with fast fashion brands. Image credit: congerdesign via Pixabay

Fast fashion is causing a vicious cycle of buying clothes, wearing them once, then discarding them, which contributes to the climate crisis we are living in. But in Cardiff there are businesses are fighting against this toxic pattern of overconsumption.

This has been highlighted in the recent COP26 summit, where world leaders discussed how to reduce global emissions. There was a whole day dedicated to how the fashion world is impacting the global community; it contributes up to 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Now with Christmas on its way and the inevitable parties in the city, buying an outfit from a fast fashion brand is easy, quick and cheap, but the impact is long-lasting, overwhelming and devastating.

We need to stop wasting resources on things we do not actually need

Sophie Anderson

Climate activist Sophie Anderson said she doesn’t support the industry due to the lack of ethical and sustainable practice within it. She explained, “The mass consumption of clothing is unnecessary; to buy and throw away clothes in an endless cycle is unsustainable, and at a crucial point in the fight against the climate crisis, we need to stop wasting resources on things we do not actually need.”

Particularly with the festive season in full swing, which a time where excess takes place in life, this is when fast fashion businesses can profit.

However, the environmental situation has recently been defined as an emergency. How can fast fashion continue to be the norm with this crisis becoming overwhelming?

Find it, fix it, flaunt it

Cardiff offers people alternatives to fast fashion brands. From vintage stores to charity shops, secondhand sales to clothes swaps, the city offers something for all savvy sustainable shoppers. But with lockdown giving us the chance to shop our own wardrobes and get creative, the attitude of make do and mend returned.

Businesses like Twin Made and Repair Cafe Wales are now helping the public to rework their wardrobes, saving them money, and reducing waste.

Twin Made was set up in 2014 and runs workshops in Canton to help Cardiffians make their own garments. Head of creativity Charlotte Peacock explained the business prompts sustainable practices by trying to use every scrap of fabric and produce no waste, and the materials sourced are predominantly secondhand. She also said how Twin Made is a Cardiff business tackling fast fashion. “I teach people how to make their own clothes. You can’t get much slower fashion than that!” she said.

Apart from making your own clothes from scratch out of secondhand fabric, another way you can reduce the impact your clothes are having on the environment is by fixing up garments you already own. This therefore saves money, and gives you a new skill, which can be used again and again, unlike the clothes bought from a fast fashion website.

It’s hugely important for us to rethink our levels of overconsumption when it comes to clothing

Phoebe Brown

Repair Cafe Wales runs drop-in sessions for the public throughout Wales to bring their possessions that need fixing, including clothes, handbags, and jewellery. Director Phoebe Brown explained volunteers will then fix the clothes for free, which is preventing them from being thrown away and adding to the huge levels of waste. She said, “Each year the UK alone sends 350,000 tonnes of clothing to landfill and the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world so it’s hugely important for us to rethink our levels of overconsumption when it comes to clothing.”

The community interest company said its mission is to empower society to come together to reduce waste, share skills, and strengthen our communities. Phoebe said having a needle and thread is a good place to start to do basic repairs and having a sewing machine is also a great resource. “Our volunteers are able to teach you how to use your sewing machine and how to repair it, if necessary. You could also consider borrowing a sewing machine from your local Benthyg Cymru Library of Things rather than buying one,” she said.

Learn how to patch your own jeans here:
Fashion for the future

Looking to the future of fashion, fast fashion should not be included. There’s no need for it in this city, or in fact the world. The damage caused is not worth it for the short time the item is worn. Especially as there are so many alternatives, fast fashion is redundant in today’s society and beyond.

Dr Alida Payson of Cardiff University, whose research interests include everyday life and material culture, explains the alternatives available to Cardiff customers. She said, “I think secondhand clothing can be a powerful part of the way forward – as well as charity shops, there are really exciting projects out there working on clothing swaps, for example, or projects that repair and repurpose clothes.”

She also said how showing our clothes love will make us appreciate them more. Dr Alida said, “Clothes can be so emotional, too, so full of memories, and in going back to clothes, spending time mending, patching, or altering them to work, I have found myself deepening my attachment to the garments I already have.” This type of memory cannot be attached to every new item from a fast fashion brand, especially as they notoriously don’t last very long or are worn more than once.

Fast fashion comes and goes as quickly as the Christmas holidays, but its global impact will be seen for generations to come. Cardiff businesses are fighting back though and creating a new cycle of rework, repair, and restyle. 

Places to go for a sustainable shopping trip

Cardiff businesses for shopping opportunities and events to gain knowledge about the problems with fast fashion

How to find out more

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