The Daily Telegraph
Gen Z struggles to practise what it preaches on fashion
GENERATION Z says it approves of sustainable clothing but largely buys fast fashion, according to research.
Concerns among under-25s that the fashion industry exploits workers and uses child labour were reflected by the study’s findings. Even so, nine in 10 of the participants admitted that they liked fast fashion, with 17 per cent of participants buying it weekly, 62 per cent monthly and 11 per cent annually.
Most students (63 per cent) interviewed by Sheffield Business School said they were concerned about the social implications of the industry and 48 per cent said they were concerned about its environmental implications.
Three per cent said neither concerned them, according to the research presented at a British Academy of Management conference on Friday.
Fifty-six students, aged 18 to 24, and four over 24, took part in the study. Of the six of who were asked about sustainable clothing, five could not name a brand that manufactured it or sold it.
Dr Marc Duffy, one of the researchers, said the findings demonstrated “a clear gap between pro-sustainability ideologies and observed behaviour”.
No month, these days, is allowed to pass without its good cause, and in September – appropriately for the month that sees the biggest issues of the fashion magazines – the focus is on our insatiable appetite for new clothes. Oxfam’s annual campaign, “Second Hand September”, urges consumers to buy only second-hand garments for 30 days.
“Not only are you helping to keep clothes out of landfill and refreshing your wardrobe without costing the earth,” declares the campaign mission statement, “you’re also helping to raise money to help people beat poverty.”
It suggests that images of the month’s pre-loved purchases should be posted online, using the hashtag Secondhand-september.
The face of this year’s campaign is the awardwinning actress Felicity Jones, whose roles include a 10-year stint as Emma Grundy, apex of The Archers’ most sulphurous love triangle, and Jyn Erso in the Star Wars prequel, Rogue One. A lifelong fan of charity shops, Jones loves “the mystery of second-hand shopping, and the narrative behind the clothes”.
But as we search the second-hand rails this September, doing our bit for sustainable style, we might query the campaign’s claim that such shopping is “kinder to people and the planet”. Next to good-quality donated clothing it is common to find garments with fast fashion labels, selling for scarcely more than they did when new and often destined to join the bales of unsold clothing shipped overseas to developing countries.
A Telegraph investigation in Ghana, the largest importer of such clothing, found waste clothes with tags from charity shops in poorly managed landfill sites and strewn across Jamestown beach, where local fishermen draw up clothes in their nets. As hashtags go, “SustainableishStyle” lacks the “amazing feel-good factor” promised by Oxfam’s campaign rubric, but it is closer to the truth. The narrative of clothes that enchants so many of us doesn’t end when we get rid of them. It might go on to delight someone else, or it might become part of an ugly story on a faraway beach.
Accessibility for all to places of entertainment is, rightly, a thing. Now, prompted by activists such as the comedian Sofie Hagen, fat accessibility joins the list. Venues such as the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury and the Old Fire Station in Oxford offer online details of seat sizes and seats without arm rests.
Some of our best-loved actors have been generously proportioned – the late Richard Griffiths, Hattie Jacques and Orson Welles come to mind – and it was once universally accepted that opera singers would be heftier than the tubercular heroines they embodied. One standard for the stage and another for the audience would clearly be unfair, particularly when government statistics record that a majority of the UK’S population (62.8 per cent in 2020) is overweight or obese.
Still, amid the celebrations, spare a thought for the slender minority. Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse
features a house-proud mouse whose home is invaded by a plus-sized toad, Mr Jackson. She finds him, to her dismay, “sitting all over a small rocking chair”. Anyone who has ever occupied an armless seat on a plane, train or theatre next to a Mr Jackson will struggle to suppress the thought that Mrs Tittlemouse, c’est moi.