Fast Fashion and Returns Policies that Overwhelm Landfill

Posted by Miss Chloe on

If you’re anything like us Dolls, you’re a busy human being and you have a job, commitments, and bills to pay. Like us, you’ve likely found yourself in a bit of a pinch when it comes to finding the time to go out and shop for new clothes. Going shopping, for most of us, tends to be a whole-day experience. We might arrange to meet friends and go for lunch whilst we hit the shops for a wardrobe update, or to stock up on the essentials. Unfortunately, owing to our hectic schedules, we don’t often have time to make shopping for clothes the whole-day affair it ought to be. It’s no surprise that many of us will choose to order clothes online in the interest of speed and ease, but does that always go as smoothly as it could, and is it the most sustainable choice we could be making? Read on to learn a little about how our unworn returns from online retailers often end up being sent to landfill, and what we can do to go from fast fashion to slow fashion.

It would be wonderful if trying clothes on were like in the movies: decadent dressing rooms, free champagne, a handsome shirtless butler… wait, no, that’s a different fantasy.  But it would be really nice if the changing room experience in most high street shops were even a little better than it is. It’s a little unnerving when the only thing separating your semi-dressed body and the cold, unrelenting stare of the general public is a thin curtain that gapes at the edges and wafts with the slightest breeze, taunting you with the prospect of displaying your wares to the world. Unfortunately, though, the lavish dressing room experience of the rich and famous isn’t available to most of us, at least not on your run-of-the-mill not-a-special-occasion shopping trip. At a quick glance, online shopping is just better… well, until it isn’t. it has become common practice to buy a size above and below our actual size (known as bracketing) in case of measurement adjustments and return items in good faith, hoping that they will simply be relisted and resold. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case with most retail giants. But did you know that a whopping 10,000 items of clothing are sent to a landfill every five minutes, and an increasing amount of those clothes are unsold and returned pieces from the fast fashion industry. It is simply easier for these big companies to dispose of returned goods rather than pay for the labour needed to process returns, when those same employees could be busy picking and packing fresh orders.

Clothing, new and used, often ends up in landfill. Image: San Honda/AFP/Getty Images

There has been a shift towards the online in recent years, and it definitely has its merits as we've seen. It’s wonderful that people who might otherwise have problems with accessing high street stores are still able to access fashion that makes them feel good. But there has been a sharp increase in the amount of online-only fashion retailers, and most offer unlimited free returns and tend not to ask questions about the condition of the clothes that are returned to them. These retailers often have a high turnover of products and release new lines weekly. This, coupled with the quality of these items is the very definition of fast fashion. What’s more, whatever we order must travel across the globe to get to us as many fast fashion retailers sources their clothes from manufacturers on the other side of the planet from them and who sometimes have questionable ethics regarding labour. This sets them up with a hefty carbon footprint, and a dubious moral one to boot. When we buy with the specific intent to return items such as when bracketing, we further increase the carbon footprint of those items.

A crowded factory environment where clothes are being produced

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not telling you to completely stop shopping online – that would be ridiculous! But there are a number of ways that we can all shop more sustainably, including online. Check the website for a sizing chart or individual items for measurements – if you don’t already have one, invest in a tape measure and make a point of knowing your measurements. You can jot them down in your phone somewhere and have them handy for when you next want to buy online. Or for when Prada decide they want to dress you for the red carpet event you’re not invited to yet, whichever comes first. I’m ready, Prada, if you’re reading this. Keep Britain Tidy, an initiative that aims to reduce waste in the UK, suggest that we also look for quality, not quantity when we shop for clothes. This means that we select items based on their composition, but also on their adaptability within our own wardrobe. Look for items made from sustainably sourced, organic cotton like many of our Palava dresses. Look for durable Tencel which is made in a scientific-sounding process by utilising the wood and cellulose of eucalyptus trees that have been sustainably grown. Look for items made from recycled materials like our Big Metal London accessories. Most importantly, plan your wardrobe and be on the lookout for items that you can mix and match with a variety of the clothes you already own – you could even consider creating a capsule wardrobe!

Our very own Miss Sam wearing the Rita Feathers Dress from Palava, which is made from super soft sustainable Tencel

There’s a reason we don’t offer unlimited free returns. Firstly, and in the interest of transparency, it’s because as a small business, we probably couldn’t afford to do that, and it would be a logistical nightmare for our already busy Dolls! More importantly, you’re probably already aware that we measure every garment that passes through our doors and assign it a name rather than a size - you can check out our sizing here. We do this so that you can be sure that, if you buy Clara in one dress, you’re most likely a Clara in all our dresses! Our unique sizing system will allow you to select a size online with the confidence that it will fit. This, we hope, eliminates the need for bracketing in our online store.  You can view our returns policy here (but we’ve summarised the process below for anyone who might not have time!)

First, a customer wishing to exchange or refund an item contacts us at with their order number and the item/s they wish to return or exchange within 14 days – this is an email we have set up specifically to deal with returns so that we can be as speedy as possible!

Our Tech Dolls then generate an ARN (Authorised Returns Number) and full instructions for return - we should mention here that sadly our dolls over in the boutique cannot accept returns without this number. Although we ask you to contribute the cost of returning an item that is not right for you, we will happily send out a different size if that is the issue. That’s how confident we our about our sizing.

The boring (but important) bit: For hygiene reasons we can’t accept returns on underwear/swimwear/hosiery and pierced earrings. Gift cards are also non-returnable, as are our special outlet Final Sale items. Unfortunately we can’t accept returns after 28 days.

We have some fair criteria we ask customers returning items to adhere to – this is so that we can avoid unnecessary waste and offer our returned pretties for sale again! Returned items should (pretty please):

  • Have all original tags attached
  • Be in the same condition as they were received
  • Be unworn (except to try on)
  • Be in saleable condition

As a small business we know that we are in a unique position. Our profits go back into growing the business and into paying our Dolls in the boutique and behind-the-scenes a fair wage, so the impact of being flippant about finance would be felt by us all. We are naturally more aware of these things, and we don’t buy such an exuberant amount of stock that any of it could go to waste. But it goes much deeper than that. It just feels wrong in every way to dispose of vintage fashion which is in perfect condition. As we’ve said before here on our blog posts, it’s about making small, manageable changes that will benefit us and our environment. We won’t halt the fashion industry in its tracks – nobody wants that – but by shopping consciously online, we can slow fashion down and enjoy our clothes for longer.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →