For young people wearing the likes of H&M and Zara is increasingly unfashionable and a guilty pleasure without the pleasure. Even brands ‘conscious collections’ feel like soggy straws.
In our Gen Z & Corporate Activism report 38% of Gen Zs said that they have a negative perception of fast fashion compared to only 21% who have a positive view of it. 41% were neutral.
These negative perceptions are growing as more young people learn about its social and environmental impacts, greenwashing, and the urgent need for sustainability from influencers, businesses and formal educators across social media, workplaces, schools and universities.
“Not only does fast fashion contribute to millions of landfills, body dysmorphia, credit card debts, climate change and poverty, it is supporting the idea of anything you own being disposable!” a 21-year-old female from Queensland said.
“Fast fashion companies need to be demolished.”
With this wealth of knowledge, young people are choosing quality over quantity.
“How can a pair of earrings be as little as $5?” an 18-year-old female from NSW said.
“Surely the people making the products don’t even get paid the minimum wage. I always buy my jewellery from ethical designers and small boutiques. Yes, it may be more pricey but it is a lot better for the environment.”
A big key to undoing the damage is changing the culture of shopping and minimising consumption. But that can be especially challenging for young people who are fulfilled by novelty, self-expression through dressing up, and being seen on social media in different outfits.
There is a push towards a circular fashion economy, reusing and recycling as much as possible. It probably comes to no surprise the report found that 85% of Gen Zs buy secondhand clothes. Just 15% said they always buy new clothes; 45% said they mainly buy new clothes but some second hand too; 22% said a fairly even split; 16% said they mainly buy second hand but some new too; while 2% said they only buy second hand.
While secondhand shopping has its own ethical concerns and isn’t entirely sustainable either, young people do see it as an eco-friendly alternative to buying brand-new items. Just look at the recent rise of Depop, a peer-to-peer shopping app allowing people to buy secondhand items from each other. Since its inception in 2011, the platform has now claimed to have 30 million users across nearly 150 countries, with 90% of them under 26 that includes one quarter of Australians aged 15-25.
Looking ahead, new technologies could help save fashion, from bioengineered fabrics to innovative packaging solutions and building virtual samples.
But for now, like fast food, fast fashion leaves a bad taste for young people.