School’s fast fashion-free initiative goes national

Highgate School’s Fast Fashion-Free February initiative, aimed at promoting sustainable apparel, has been embraced by the UK Schools Sustainability Network

A sustainable initiative launched by a London independent school has gone national.

Fast Fashion-Free February (FFFF) began at Highgate School four years ago, aiming to raise awareness about the detrimental impacts of fast fashion and promote sustainable apparel in its place.

What started as a school swap-shop event has been embraced by the UK Schools Sustainability Network. The collaboration will help spread the message beyond Highgate, encouraging student ambassadors across the country to go fast fashion-free this month.

“Many people buy clothes without carefully considering the environmental and humanitarian impacts of their purchases,” said year 12 students, Daphne and Mia from the Highgate Environment Committee.

“Fast fashion can be very tempting. It is easy to be drawn in by the low prices and constantly changing stock of brands such as boohoo, H&M and Forever 21. However, buying from these companies often has hidden and distressing consequences.

“For example, many items of clothing are made from synthetic materials, such as polyester, which can take centuries to biodegrade, while the dyes and chemicals used in the manufacture of fabric often directly contribute to water pollution.”

In 2015, Forbes found that the clothing sector was second only to oil in the league of industrial polluters, accounting for 10% of global carbon emissions.

Pupils enjoying a clothes-making ‘crafternoon’


“Other issues resulting from the cheap, rapid manufacture of clothes include the exploitation of workers in lower-income countries and the widespread use of insecticides and pesticides,” added the pair.

“By teaching people about the host of problems associated with the fast fashion industry, we hope to encourage everyone to think cautiously about clothing they buy in the future.”

The programme of events at Highgate this month includes a sustainable non-uniform day; oldest item of clothing competition; secondhand clothes bring and buy sale; knitting, mending and upcycling circle; and a scrunchie and face mask making workshop. The students said FFFF was a “highlight of lockdown” last year.

Sarah Mynott, lead teacher for the environment at Highgate, has been impressed by her charges’ dedication. “The pupils have so much enthusiasm and energy for Fast Fashion-Free February, and it’s such a joy to see them getting so stuck into this homegrown campaign.

“February sees the staging of the world’s big four fashion weeks, so running a simultaneous campaign to promote sustainable fashion is really appropriate and empowering for us all.”

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