These days, you can pick up catwalk-inspired dresses for as little as £3, or an entire outfit for the price of a takeaway coffee and a croissant — so is it any wonder Britons are buying twice the amount of clothes as the rest of Europe?
Indeed, a growing number of millennials snap up garments at the click of a button, only to wear them just once — sometimes merely to post a picture online — before throwing them away.
This quick fashion fix culture, driven by celebrities and social media, means an estimated 300,000 tonnes of clothes are buried in landfill or burned in incinerators for energy in Britain every year.
While clothing comes eighth on the list of household spending, it’s fourth in terms of its impact on the environment. Only housing, transport and food have a greater impact.
Samantha Brick spoke to four self-confessed throwaway fashionistas about their shopping habits, Seda Pir, 30, (pictured wearing Bershka; Blouse, £15, Forever 21, and trousers, £20, Topshop) from Surrey says her clothes are gifted for her job as an Instagram Influencer
Experts call cheap, one-click fashion ‘consumer catnip’ and it’s something the Government is keen to crack down on. Last month, the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee accused fast-fashion retailers of not doing enough to combat waste and the poor treatment of workers.
MPs said that Amazon UK, Boohoo, Missguided, JD Sports, Sports Direct and TK Maxx were guilty of ‘shocking failures’.
Mary Creagh, who chairs the committee, has said: ‘Instagram is fuelling this, as people are adopting a “look and chuck” mentality — we’ve got a lot more fast fashion.’ It’s hardly surprising, then, that one of the biggest problems facing the fashion industry is waste.
Creagh explains: ‘Less than 1 per cent of clothing is recycled into new clothes. When a garment is made, first the fabric is laid out. Then you make the pattern to make the sleeve pieces, the front and back pieces, and the rest is waste.’
Add to that the wear-once attitude and the problem escalates.
Stephanie Campbell, of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) Love Your Clothes campaign, says: ‘The single most important action we can all do to limit the environmental impact our clothes have is to prolong the life cycle, which starts by never putting them in the bin. Clothing is valuable and remains valuable even after we’ve had our wear out of it. All clothing can be recycled and textile collection banks ensure clothes are sorted, reused and recycled in a variety of markets.’
This March, Love Your Clothes will be running the Big Closet Clear Out to help people declutter — and recycle — in the best way possible. But it’s going to be a challenge to re-educate a generation who’ve been raised on a diet of seasonal trends — be it yellow, pink or leopard-print — and cheap, copycat clothes made to be discarded as quickly as they’re purchased.
Here, four self-confessed throwaway fashionistas reveal their startling shopping habits . . .
Lauren Denby, 30, (pictured wearing Jumper dress, £28, Femme Luxe) from Kent revealed she gets a buzz from the likes she receives from sharing photos in different outfits on Instagram
It’s my job to share my new styles online
Seda Pir, 30, an Instagram influencer, is married and lives in Weybridge, Surrey. She says:
My dad is mindful when it comes to the environment. So he wouldn’t be impressed if he knew I only wear things once. When I was growing up, clothes were bought so there was room to grow into them. I’d usually have an outfit for at least a year.
I promise I’m not vain, though. I fell into this line of work when I left my former job in a call centre, but as an Instagram ‘influencer’, with more than 65,000 followers, it’s my job to post images of myself in different outfits. People take inspiration from me. It’s like having my own fashion magazine.
Sometimes, I’m paid to wear certain items, or the clothes are gifted to me in return for coverage. It is crucial for me to wear different clothes in the pictures on my page. The commercial deals I have mean I can choose six different outfits every other week.
Seda Pir, 30, (pictured wearing Blouse, £25.99, Zara, and skirt, £10,) has more than 65,000 followers on Instagram and has the choice of six different outfits every other week because of commercial deals
Seda (pictured) revealed she doesn’t keep any of the clothes she’s worn as they don’t have any sentimental value to her
Seda (pictured) gives her clothes to followers, friends or charity after wearing them once – she says women put pressure on themselves to keep up with trends
I go shopping at least once a week. I browse the stores in Oxford Street and check out what’s in the High Street, including H&M and Topshop. I don’t keep anything I’ve worn. Clothes don’t hold any sentimental value for me. I even tried to throw out my long boho wedding dress until my husband stopped me.
Sometimes I buy outfits for a night out, but the bulk of my purchases are for Instagram. After I’ve worn them, I give them to my followers, friends or charity. I would never put any of them in the bin.
I recognise fast fashion isn’t good for the environment. The pressure on people to look good and keep up with trends is insane. We women put the pressure on ourselves, too.
I hate being seen in the same clothes
Lauren Denby, 30, is a beauty therapist and a married mother of three children, aged ten, four and one, who lives in Ashford, Kent.
Fashion is important to me. I love to look good. I put my outfits on Instagram and people ask where I source my clothes. I get a buzz from the number of ‘likes’ I get.
I rope in my husband or ten-year-old son to take the pictures for me, but they do get annoyed. It goes without saying that I’ll only wear evening outfits once. I don’t like the thought of people seeing me in the same thing twice — I have more than 500 followers. I feel more confident wearing something new.
Lauren Denby, 30, (pictured wearing £6, MissPap; Trousers and snakeprint body, £20, Missy Empire) has more than 500 followers on Instagram and hates for people to see her wearing the same outfit twice
Lauren (pictured) revealed the higher the cost of her outfit, the more likely she is to sell it on either Facebook or Ebay after it’s been worn
Lauren (pictured) revealed she gets her fashion inspiration from reality stars and would never contemplate buying something second-hand or vintage
The advantage of fashion today is that clothes aren’t expensive. My purchases can range from £8 to £40. The greater the price, the more likely I am to sell them on eBay or Facebook after I’ve worn them. If they don’t sell and they weren’t expensive, I’ll throw them out. Ninety per cent of what I buy is online, from websites such as Pretty Little Thing (where prices start at £3 for a dress), Missy Empire and Want That Trend. I look online in the evening when the children are in bed. Packages arrive at least once a week.
My husband, who’s happy to wear his outfits again and again, appreciates that clothes are my passion.
I get my inspiration from reality stars. I like to see what they’re wearing and will pick and choose accordingly. I would never contemplate buying something second-hand or vintage, as it isn’t my style.
I do care about the future of our planet, but I don’t know enough about the impact my shopping choices are having on the environment.
If it was catastrophic and contributing to global warming, for example, then I would look to see how I could change my shopping habits.
At £5, a dress can cost the same as lunch
Marina Mirgazova, 38, is a PA and single mum of a three-year-old son. She lives in West London.
There’s no denying I’m a shopaholic. If, after paying my rent and bills, I only have £20 left, I’ll spend that on a dress. I used to give most of my salary to my mum towards bills, and would limit my purchases to one top a month.
But, when I started working in London, I realised it isn’t the done thing to wear the same outfits day-in, day-out. It didn’t take me long to change my shopping habits.
Marina Mirgazova, 38, (pictured wearing stripey dress, £20, Primark) revealed her shopping habits changed after moving to London where she noticed the same outfits are not worn day-in, day-out
Marina (pictured) who mainly shops online from Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, Missguided, Shein and eBay says she feels zero guilt about her shopping habit
Marina (pictured wearing jumper £13, Primark, skirt, £12, local market) revealed she uses LOTD.com to buy a selection of clothes which each cost less than £5
I think my mum would be horrified if she realised how many clothes I buy and the fact that I only wear them once. But there is zero guilt on my part. I usually buy online from Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, Missguided, Shein and eBay. They specialise in affordable outfits and offer discounts, too.
Last year, a website called LOTD.com (Look Of The Day) ‘found’ me. It popped up on my Facebook page and, since then, every time I log on, it recommends more clothes for me.
LOTD is a gamechanger because it has a section of clothes of less than £5. That’s a cup of coffee and a croissant in Central London! It isn’t difficult to justify my purchases.
That’s why I’m able to renew my wardrobe regularly. I’ll spend about £30, which doesn’t sound much, but when dresses are £5, then it is.
I take a couple of evenings each month to look at trends and compare prices before buying. I like taking pictures and posting on social media. That’s why I don’t like to be seen in the same outfit many times. I know that sounds like a high-maintenance celebrity, but it’s just the way I am.
I don’t dwell on the environmental impact
Lydia Wheatley, 38, is a personal trainer and mother of three children, aged 21, 16 and eight, from Purley, South London.
My generation doesn’t wear clothes more than once. In the past, if I have done so, friends have pointed it out. So now, while I might put an outfit to one side as a keepsake, I wouldn’t wear it in front of my friends again. I’ve always been a size 8 to 10 and I dress to enhance my figure. My head is turned by bright colours, pretty dresses and sequins. When I had my children, my priorities changed but, luckily, so did the price of clothing. Thanks to the growth of online shopping, clothes just seem to get cheaper.
Lydia Wheatley, 38, (pictured wearing Dress, £15, Miss Selfridge) from London says her friends have made comments when she wears the same outfit more than once
Lydia (pictured) revealed her shopping habits changed when ASOS launched and since Boohoo came along she’s able to buy an outfit for less than £10
Lydia (pictured) revealed she adopts the same attitude as celebrities which is why she doesn’t wear the same outfit more than once
It was the Asos website (asos.com) that transformed my shopping habits about ten years ago. I can buy an item in one click on its shopping app. I find myself doing it at the gym, in the car or commuting on a train. It takes seconds.
Then the likes of Little Mistress and Boohoo came along, offering amazingly affordable clothes that are identical to what’s on the High Street and catwalks. I can buy a new outfit for as little as £10.
Cheap and cheerful is my mantra! I also buy dresses for £10 from Primark. It has daring styles that push me out of my comfort zone. There is always the chance I won’t ever wear it, but when the clothes are so affordable, I can take the risk.
A celebrity wouldn’t wear an outfit twice, so why shouldn’t I adopt the same attitude? I’m single and, if I am going out to a restaurant, I like something new to wear. A new outfit makes me feel confident. I don’t want to wear something that reminds me of a past outing: another time, another place.
My 16-year-old daughter is much the same. She’s almost the same size as me, so it makes life easier to shop on the same websites for us both.
I don’t dwell on the environmental impact of my buying choices, but I’d never put an outfit in the bin. I might put it in the recycling bin at a push, but I prefer to donate to charity. There’s a buzz that comes from that — not that I’d buy my clothes there.