France rightfully implements fast fashion fines

The French Parliament has recently proposed legislation against fast fashion brands, namely the well-known Chinese-operated company Shein, implementing an additional fine of up to half of the price of the item in hopes of offsetting the negative impact fast fashion has on the environment. The Parliament, or MPs, introduced this legislation in response to reports that show that fast fashion brands like Shein produce new clothing at an exponential rate in comparison to non-fast fashion clothing brands. 

Shein manufactures over 7,000 new products every single day and has over 400,000 products available for purchase on their site at any given time. The bill referenced the inherently fast cycle within the fast fashion industry and the consequences that can have, both environmentally and socially. Specifically, MPs feared that fostering consumer-driven mindsets that comes with fast fashion brands combined with increased volumes and low prices “is influencing consumer buying habits by creating buying impulses and a constant need for renewal,” according to Reuters. 

The bill projects the penalties of up to 10 euros or 50% of the original selling price per item sold to be put into action by 2030. Additional legislation regarding fast fashion and limiting its environmental impacts are also in the works in France. It would come with hopes to ban the advertisement of fast fashion companies and to incentivize customers to limit how much they shop by increasing prices while decreasing the price of more sustainably-sourced clothing brands. 

Companies like Shein are remarkably problematic from several different points of view. Environmentally speaking, fast fashion is a leading contributor to the degradation of the Earth’s climate. With the sheer amount of clothing they produce and the harmful chemicals used that allow for such low costs on their items, Shein is reportedly responsible for 6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Fast fashion in general makes up for 10% of global carbon emissions. 

Shein is also notably under fire for the treatment of its workers. Workers are subjected to conditions in the factories that are blatantly in violation of Chinese labor laws, with evidence to suggest that there are few safety precautions in place for workers. They are often also underpaid or not paid at all and subjected to extremely long working hours. 

Shopping habits, in general, have dramatically increased in only a short amount of time — between 2000 and 2014, the amount of clothing an average consumer purchases increased by 60%. Sites like Shein capitalize on this and the ever-changing fashion trends by encouraging people to keep buying cheap clothes as trends fade in and out. 

The number of new clothing items being made yearly has doubled in the past few decades and overall consumption of fashion has increased by 400%. Even though the rise in popularity of fast fashion companies has encouraged a significant spike in clothing consumption, they are still producing far more clothing than could ever conceivably be purchased, resulting in excessive amounts of waste — again emphasizing the environmental impact of unchecked consumption of fashion items. 

Although buying clothes from fast fashion sites like Shein may be cheap and convenient, the environmental and social costs far outweigh the convenience. With that, I think what France has proposed to do with their new legislation is a great step in the right direction towards making more sustainable choices within the fashion industry and moving away from a consumer heavy society. 

Other countries should absolutely make it a priority to enact similar laws surrounding fast fashion and consumerism. People, in general, should make a concerted effort to shop less fast fashion and maybe decide to start thrifting or upcycling old clothes they already have to give them new life. It’s more sustainable for the environment we so desperately need to protect, and maybe, the clothes will even look better.


Featured photo courtesy of FocalFoto, Flickr