Back to Insights Back to Insights

Fast fashion has become a contentious issue due to its environmental impact. Fashion is the world’s third-largest manufacturing industry and is estimated to produce up to 10% of global emissions. The industry is also a significant contributor to water pollution (due to the use of toxic chemicals for production) and landfill waste.

This article will help you understand what fast fashion is and drive you through the different laws you must comply with if you set up a fast fashion business.

What is fast fashion?

As little as 30 years ago, it would have been unthinkable for all but the extremely wealthy to purchase an item of clothing, wear it once or twice, and then discard it. However, during the 1990s, clothing became much cheaper due to companies outsourcing manufacturing to developing countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. 

Fast fashion offers affordable prices and instant gratification for consumers, more profits for companies, and the democratisation of stylish clothing. On the downside, fast fashion is also associated with pollution, waste, the promulgation of a "disposable" mentality, low wages, and unsafe workplaces.

Are there any UK laws specific to fast fashion?

There are no specific fast fashion laws in the UK. However, there are many laws that you will need to comply with if you set up a  fashion business. These include the following:

How does fast fashion affect the environment?

You must also be aware of how the provisions of the Environment Act 2021 and other environmental legislation will impact your business. The UK government is also clamping down on greenwashing within the fast fashion industry. 

On 29 July 2022, the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) announced it is investigating ASOS, Boohoo, and Asda’s George label concerning potentially misleading claims that their fashion products, including clothing, footwear and accessories, are environmentally friendly.

A report from Greenpeace shows the UK as the country where more clothes per person are bought compared to any European country. Around 300.000 clothes are burned or buried in landfill every year. 

Fashion designer Stella McCartney is speaking out on the shocking waste of the fashion industry:

‘Did you know that the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is burned or landfilled every second? And right now, less than 1% of the material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing, meaning 99% of all is textiles waste’.

It’s thought that if nothing changes, by 2050, fashion will take up a quarter of the world’s carbon footprint allowed. The dangers to nature, the climate and all human life from out-of-control textile production are immense.

What is the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan?

The Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) brings together organisations from across the clothing industry. The plan sets out agreed stakeholder actions from the clothing/fashion industry and support organisations to improve the sustainability of clothing in the following priority areas:

  • Improving Environmental Performance across the supply chain
  • Consumption trends and behaviour
  • Awareness, media, education & networks 
  • Creating market drivers
  • Traceability across the supply chain (ethics, trade & environment)

Over 90 signatories and supporters signed up to SCAP, representing more than 48% of UK retail sales by volume.

What are the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015?

The UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 law sets out the UK Government’s legal requirements for how organisations must address and report on modern slavery. There are two main parts to the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act: 

  • Take action to identify, prevent and mitigate modern slavery in operations and supply chains
  • Publish an annual statement to report on these actions – within six months of your company's financial year-end

The exploitation of garment workers via long working hours, low wages, no breaks, and no sick pay can often be described in terms of modern-day slavery, forced labour and child labour.

Is setting up a fast fashion business a good idea?

It is not for us to comment on what is or is not a good commercial venture. However, there is a definite trend towards sustainable fashion as consumers become more aware of fast fashion’s negative environmental impact. 

Researching the market and pinpointing a gap that your business can fill is vital. You could find that in the long term, consumer demand for fast fashion brands will decrease and that the market for sustainable clothing, shoes, and accessories may provide a solid foundation on which to build your venture.

Get legal assistance from LawBite

LawBite has helped thousands of businesses achieve their commercial ambitions. Our corporate lawyers are experts in business law and can provide you with the advice you need to succeed. If you have any questions about starting or running a fashion business, please do not hesitate to contact us. To find out how we help your fashion business and provide affordable and easy to understand legal advice, book a free 15 minute consultation or call us on 020 3808 8314.


Additional resources

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

Free legal support for businesses

The LawBite Free Essentials Plan acts as your very own legal assistant, ready to provide expertise and guidance on the common legal issues that SMEs and businesses face.

Free Templates
  • X 3 legal document templates
  • Drafted by our expert lawyers
  • New documents added every month
Legal Healthcheck Tools
  • Business-specific surveys
  • Understand how compliant you are
  • Checks in, GDPR, IP, Brexit and more
Resources, Webinars and Articles
  • Access to the latest LawBite events
  • Legal guides for businesses
  • Smarter business law videos