Fast Fashion Bill | A Vote To Slow Fast Fashion Down



Fast Fashion might have finally met its match. A bill, recently approved by the lower house of the French Senate, threatens to impose a harsh environmental levy on fast fashion products, while also placing bans on their advertisement. The “Fast Fashion Bill” will likely make fast fashion less appealing to consumers and put other, more sustainable brands on a comparable playing field.


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Scrolling mindlessly through the congested pages of the Temu site, one can easily understand the hypnotic effect of what appears to be a never-ending supply of goods – a $17.99 camel trench; a pair of embossed black stilettos for $9.54; 35¢ plastic cuffed earrings with a cheap “gold” sheen (but a gold sheen, nonetheless). These are the fruits of the industry’s misplaced glamor. Grounded in the precedent of idealism – where ephemeral tastes are often something of an aspiration, a goal to strive for – our fashion economy has watered the overgrown vines of fast fashion, a platform which has allowed consumers to “roll with the punches” dealt by mainstream media, partaking in trends as they appear (High-waisted denim is out of fashion? No big deal, I bought them online for just under $7.00). As fast fashion solidifies its reign as a lead production model, it has, however, become unequivocally apparent that what we do not pay directly out of our own pockets we pay in other, perhaps more devastating ways. 

In her “Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes,” Dana Thomas reminds us that we are in a most compromising position – “in the last twenty years, the volume of clothes Americans throw away has doubled—from 7 million to 14 million tons. That equals 80 pounds per person per year.” Magnified by fast fashion’s speedy manufacturing and speedier turnarounds, production rates have nearly doubled the last 20 years, accompanied by a dramatic shortening in the lifestyle of products. Garment usage reportedly dropped to 36% over the past 15 years, with many pieces worn only 7-10 times before ending up in landfills. Because statistics can sometimes be hard to internalize in a meaningful way (the 92 million tonnes of fashion waste we generate each year may be hard to physically wrap one’s head around beyond, simply being, a lot), environmentalists have laid the facts of the matter out plainly, in comprehensive terms – every second of each day, we discard the equivalent of a truckload's worth of clothing. Collectively, and at the leisure of fast fashion companies, we have succumbed to what Thomas calls “fashion bulimia” – we are bound by our finely tuned habits of overconsumption and waste. Excess generated by the mass-production models of faster fashion companies allows us to indulge wholeheartedly in our sinister conventions – it feeds and fuels the belly of the beast (the beast being modern philosophies of consumption).




It is rather obvious, then, that something somewhere has got to give – we cannot possibly sustain ourselves on the never-ending, all-encompassing merry-go-round that oscillates between overproduction and overconsumption. Sarah Kent, in an article for Forbes Magazine, begs the question of “What Would Happen If Fast Fashion Were Taxed Like Cigarettes?” The comparison is surprising, yet poignant – either is a vessel for damages greater than oneself (effects trickle into the lives of bypassers on streets; children sitting in cars; sweatshop laborers; our environment), and neither is by any means an essential tool. Thanks to some groundbreaking work by the French Parliament, consumer spending habits might soon illuminate an answer to this same question.

Earlier in March, in a call for social and environmental justice, the lower house of French Parliament agreed unanimously on a pioneer bill to curb the growth of fast fashion companies. Hailed as a historic step towards reducing the industry’s excess, the “Fast Fashion Bill” is deliberate in its demands, requiring that low-cost items be accompanied by an environmental levy and banning advertisement for cheap textiles. Environmental impact fines will be enforced on a sliding scale – potentially reaching €10 per item. These funds can be reallocated to sustainable efforts, such as waste management campaigns, and will help even the playing field for more sustainable brands. 



Of course, the expectancy is not to dismantle fast fashion altogether, but the bill sets forth a path of least resistance towards lessening our dependence on these companies. The bill will target emerging Chinese superpowers – specifically calling out Shein in its proposal, which offers upwards of “900 times more products than the traditional French Brand–,” while also targeting internal retailers, for example, H&M and Zara (Zara being the world’s largest fashion brand with a slightly cultish following among the twenty-to-thirty-something fashion, but not environmentally, conscious shoppers. It produces 450 million clothing items per year, and once a product is designed it takes just under 15 days to appear in stores). The goal, similar to cigarette taxes, is to make fast fashion products less attractive to consumers.


Before the bill can be officially enacted, it must be approved by the Senate, as well, a fate which might take weeks to unveil. Although there are several other, similar-scale pieces of sustainability legislation across the EU and other countries to counter the polluting effects of major industries – fashion included – the “Fast Fashion Bill” is the first to acknowledge the devastating effects of fast fashion on our environment, specifically targeting these money-grubbing brands. The hope is that other countries will shape up to encourage similar policies within their own confines – of course, as fast fashion is a flourishing business model, generating billions of dollars each year, it is not yet clear which countries will prioritize social and environmental wellbeing over the cold, hard cash.



+ Highlight Image:
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+ Words: 
Tori Palone
Luxiders Magazine