Fast fashion is hard to avoid. From the TikTok Shein hauls and 100% off sales, to the countless scandals and expose documentaries. In some form or another, we've all experienced fast fashion.
It's a term used to describe cheap, trendy clothing, mass-produced at such a speed that it's both unsustainable and unethical. The only way to produce a high volume of clothing at such a low cost is through exploitation—of workers, animals, and the planet.
Fast fashion retailers have been sued left, right, and centre for their "misleading, illegal, and deceptive" claims about their "conscious clothing" lines being environmentally responsible.
By now, it's hard for any of us to pretend that we didn't know the £2 t-shirt we just bought was in any way ethically made. Regardless of whatever spin a brand tries to put on it.
Although fast fashion is being talked about a lot more, what often gets overlooked is jewellery. The jewellery industry is worth $4.64 billion in 2023 and just like the fashion industry, it has its own problems.
Transparency within the jewellery industry is a huge issue, with few brands supplying even the most basic information about their products. In particular, there is a severe lack of facts available about fast fashion jewellery.
Part of being a sustainable jewellery brand means openly discussing the jewellery industry, from working practices to sustainability policies to exposing misleading phrases.
What is fast fashion jewellery?
Each year, huge amounts of cheap jewellery is made to be worn alongside this season's hottest trend. These £5 necklaces and £10 multipack earrings, impulse purchased at the till, are made using poor quality materials and designed to be worn for only as long as the trend lasts. That's if the jewellery even lasts that long!
So what is fast fashion jewellery made from, who makes it, and why is it such a problem?
In the same way fast fashion clothing is produced; fast fashion jewellery is manufactured using cheap labour from exploited workers in poor working conditions.
Entirely based on trends, fast fashion jewellery is designed to only last for as long as the trend does. Once that's over, into the bin it goes.
The materials used to make the jewellery are cheap and poor quality, usually plastic or plated metals. It produces jewellery that is weak meaning it breaks easily but not before turning your skin green first!
The jewellery is so cheap to make, it's "not worth" the cost of repairing it. It can't be recycled either because the materials used are non-recyclable. So once it breaks it gets sent to landfill.
Just like fast fashion clothing, fast fashion jewellery is all about quantity over quality. It's easy to feel tempted into overconsumption when each week brings a new jewellery 'drop' with pieces costing less than the price of a coffee.
Although the price tag is cheap, the true cost is hidden. The environmental damage and harm caused to people, communities, and animals, is immense. It's important we move away from fast fashion and towards more ethical and sustainable shopping habits.
How to avoid fast fashion jewellery
The jewellery industry is rife with greenwashing. Popular buzzwords, like recycled gold and vegan jewellery, can make a brand appear more sustainable than they are. Don't take what any brand says about their products at face value. Learn how to spot greenwashing and avoid retailers who are vague about their manufacturing processes.
Shop Sustainable Brands
When shopping for new clothes or jewellery, look for brands who provide a details of their ethics and sustainability policy with transparent information on sustainable practices, recycling solutions, and end of life policies. These shopping guides will help find sustainable brands.
Buy Eco-Friendly Jewellery
When it comes to buying jewellery, look for handmade jewellery using fair-mined metals including recycled gold and sterling silver. As well as ethically-sourced gemstones and lab-grown or synthetic diamonds. This means you get better quality jewellery that was sustainably-made at a fair price.