Cheap clothes last as long as de­signer out­fits

Sci­en­tists find ‘fast fash­ion’ brands can be as durable as top of the range wear – and some­times more so

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By He­lena Hor­ton

CHEAP clothes can last as long as de­signer items, with many rea­son­ably priced gar­ments of­fer­ing bet­ter qual­ity than pricier ones, a study has found.

Tex­tile sci­en­tists at the Uni­ver­sity of Leeds car­ried out rig­or­ous dura­bil­ity tests on out­fits from all price ranges, from items cost­ing a few pounds through to de­signer la­bels.

The re­sults showed T-shirts and jeans from cheaper shops per­formed as well – and of­ten bet­ter – than sim­i­lar sam­ples from ex­pen­sive stores.

Dr Mark Sum­ner and his team tested four sam­ples of each shirt and seven sam­ples of each pair of jeans for abra­sion – how easy it is to wear a hole in the fab­ric – and strength: the length of time it takes to rip an item. The eightweek project also in­volved test­ing seam strength and colour­fast­ness. “Some of the gar­ments per­formed very well across a wide range of tests – more of­ten than not, the best prod­ucts were ‘fast fash­ion’ prod­ucts,” Dr Sum­ner told The Sun­day Tele­graph.

“A num­ber of fast fash­ion prod­ucts demon­strate sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter value for money than other brands – es­pe­cially when com­pared to ‘de­signer’ brands. Jeans from one fash­ion brand lasted twice as long as de­signer-la­bel jeans, but cost just a tenth of the price.

“For the T-shirt work the de­signer la­bel prod­uct was the worst per­form­ing prod­uct across all the tests we did – with an on­line fast fash­ion brand out per­form­ing all other prod­ucts.”

It comes af­ter MPs on the Com­mons en­vi­ron­men­tal au­dit select com­mit­tee con­demned re­tail­ers for sell­ing out­fits at low prices, say­ing it was lead­ing to a throw­away “fast fash­ion” cul­ture.

Dr Sum­ner ar­gued that clothes were not thrown away be­cause they were poor qual­ity, and most con­sumers did not wear clothes un­til they wore out.

He ex­plained: “We know that some cloth­ing will be thrown away be­cause it does ac­tu­ally wear out, but there’s no cor­re­la­tion to say that price will give you an in­di­ca­tion to say which prod­uct will wear out. What we know from talk­ing to some char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tions, an aw­ful lot of the cloth­ing has noth­ing wrong with it. It has no holes in it, it’s still func­tional. We sus­pect the con­sumer is of­fload­ing gar­ments be­cause they no longer like them or want them.”

Dr Sum­ner sug­gested hang­ing clothes in the sun­light to re­duce smells and re­fresh them in or­der to do fewer washes. “This will ex­tend the life of the gar­ment, save wa­ter and en­ergy use, save money and help to re­duce mi­crofi­bre re­lease,” he added. He re­com- mended check­ing the brands’ web­sites to en­sure they had signed up to the Sus­tain­able Cloth­ing Ac­tion Plan or the Eth­i­cal Trad­ing Ini­tia­tive.

More than £47bil­lion a year is spent on cloth­ing in Bri­tain, ac­cord­ing to the Waste and Re­sources Ac­tion Pro­gramme, with about 1mil­lion tons cleared out of wardrobes ev­ery year. Two thirds of cloth­ing in the UK is made from syn­thetic plas­tic ma­te­ri­als with up to 2,900tons of mi­croplas­tics pass­ing into rivers and es­tu­ar­ies when clothes are washed, ac­cord­ing a Friends of the Earth.

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