Princess Anne slams fast fashion & wants a return to traditional manufacturing

Princess Anne wrapped up her three-day tour of Sri Lanka a week ago, last Friday. I was trying to keep up with all of her events, and I would not be surprised if she knocked out something like 25 individual events, meetings and appearances in three days. She was practically sprinting through Sri Lanka. For the most part, Anne’s tours do not make much news, but this Sri Lankan tour was a bit different. First, Anne was praised for seeming so down-to-earth, and she even carried her own bags off the plane. Secondly, Anne gave a couple of interviews while she was in the country, and she even spoke about one somewhat hot-button issue: fast fashion. If anyone can speak about this, it’s probably the woman who still wears decades-old coats, hats, suits, shoes and sunglasses.

Princess Anne criticised fast fashion while sporting 10-year-old sunglasses in Sri Lanka this week. In an interview that concluded her three-day visit, the Princess Royal voiced her opposition to fast fashion and said it could be time to go back to more conventional manufacturing techniques.

Earlier this week, the princess made a trip to Colombo at the MAS Active facility, which has been producing lingerie for Marks & Spencer for 30 years. Remarking on the “ubiquitous T-shirt which was churned out in millions”, Princess Anne said: “What do you do with them next? Nobody really thought that one through and they are going to have to think about that sort of thing in the future. You think about how much is going into landfill.”

The princess is President of the UK Fashion and Textile Association. Princess Anne pondered whether a return to traditional processes of manufacturing clothes might be the solution. She added: “You go through the phase when fashion was very structured and people followed fashion, but you had tailors and dressmakers who absolutely fundamentally made that, but you could also alter it because they had the skills to do so. Now you’ve got instant fashion which you then throw away, you don’t alter it because it wouldn’t be worthwhile. So whether we’ve got to relearn those skills, go back and say ‘actually, we need materials that can do more than one evolution of fashion.’”

While in Sri Lanka, the princess, who is also the head of the British Olympic Association, was never without her Team GB Adidas sunglasses. They were given to her by the British cycling team during the 2012 London Olympics, which she has worn for the last 12 years.

[From GB News]

Well, at least I got an explanation for Anne’s sunglasses. It’s kind of cool that she still wears them, although I wish someone would get her a more flattering pair. As for her comments on fast fashion… I did a double-take, because this is one of King Charles’s big issues too. He’s been talking about this for years, but from a different direction – his interest is in the preservation of artisanal crafts and unique trades involving tailoring, fabric-making, etc. Anne is coming from the direction of: it’s a huge waste to make all of these clothes which only last a year, if that. Say what you will, but Anne and Charles are not wrong in this very narrow issue.

Photos courtesy of Cover Images.

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42 Responses to “Princess Anne slams fast fashion & wants a return to traditional manufacturing”

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  1. JaneS says:

    Fast fashion is just filling up landfills, poor quality.

    I’d like a return to home appliances and cars being built to last longer than 5-7 years and needing to be replaced.

    • Robert Phillips says:

      The problem with that is it would put an awful lot of people out of jobs also. That’s the problems governments face. Help people have jobs. But also saving the environment. Fix one, mess up the other.

      • abritdebbie says:

        One thing that would give people jobs, is making them fixable. That will generate many local job. Manufacturers will aways move factories where the cheapest labour is, but if they are fixable then the fixing is done where the buyers are.

        The EU is now bringing the right to repair it will be really interesting how things change.

      • Megan says:

        Talk about out of touch. The Princess Royal going to a developing nation and telling them their biggest industry is a problem and needs to change. Typical western attitude that we expect developing nations to clean up the messes we made.

    • andrea says:

      I agree! these home appliances these days are horrible quality. Handles break from stoves and microwaves. Washers are defective from get go. My last two washers I have purchased from garage/estate sales for $25 and $75, old school kenmore and maytag. I have given one to my sons as they move out and buy their own homes, I am on the look out for another one so i can give my 1986 maytag to my son. And jobs would not be lost but the cost will increase because they would have to be manufactured in USA and not just assembled but actual parts made in US.

    • NikkiK says:

      Yes please! If you’re not already please be aware and support “Right to Repair”. If these companies had their way, they’d make it impossible to actually repair anything without going through them. It’s a disaster – see John Deere from 2016-2023. Ugh.

    • westcoastgal says:

      I would agree that fast fashion is largely cheaply made using exploited workers that ends up filling land fills but Anne and Charles don’t have to worry about that, their clothes are all moth-balled relics of a time long ago, ill fitting, out dated and worn out musty museum pieces. Their gaudy robes, crowns and ancient jewels look like silly dress-up theatre props with little relevance to modern society. For such wealthy people they always look so poorly dressed and
      one gets the sense they smell somewhat funky and musty.

  2. MaryContrary says:

    She’s right-pretty much everything is fast fashion and just landfill. I would love there to be sustainable brands that are not a gazillion dollars and basically out of reach for the everyday person. And of course-not just fashion is crap-so much of what we use as consumers is so poorly made, and basically designed to die after a short amount of time, causing us to buy a new ones :/

  3. Ellie says:

    I don’t know if people follow dieworkwear on twitter but he is so great at explaining this issue. The problem is traditional clothes require skill to maintain. It’s not easy. Ann is right. We need to support an industry of tailors and artisans to maintain them.

    The quality of modern clothes is so bad and it’s so hard to find decent things! I want to spend money but I don’t know where to go!!

    • Eurydice says:

      We used to laugh when H&M first opened here – if a size small didn’t fit, all you had to do is try another size small, and another, and another. No two were alike.

  4. Pinkosaurus says:

    Completely agree. For all her other faults, Anne is the poster child for buying something quality and wearing it for years.

  5. Eurydice says:

    A few years back, I met Yuli Fuentes-Medel, a neuroscientist who started a company through MIT, called Descience. The idea is to bring together science, technology and fashion design in considering all aspects of the life cycle of clothing. From sourcing the fiber, creating the dyes, manufacturing the textiles, design of the clothing, how the clothing is maintained, to how the clothing is disposed of. It’s a really fascinating subject to consider.

  6. Jais says:

    She’s right, of course. Just not sure if her saying so is going to do anything. Would be great if it did. From what I can tell, Angelina Jolie’s atelier is actually doing small but tangible work on this topic.

  7. olivia says:

    There is a lot of merit to what she is saying, but it is also very simplistic and lacks understanding of what every day people have to do to survive. The pink elephant in the room, is that most people can not afford dressmakers and seamstresses and shoe cobblers, even at the “cheaper” prices they existed 40 years ago.

    There is a middle ground. Before “popular” fashion, the majority of people wore clothes with holes mended to the moon and back, shoes with cardboard stuffed into the soles. We can romantise that, but that was not good either.

    Buying fast fashion.. or rather cheap clothes does not necessarily make them landfill material. That is us what we do with the clothes we buy. I have t-shirts I bought from “fast” fashion companies 15 years ago. We can demonise either side, but it has to be a conscious decision and saying that we need dressmakers back is also not a solution. That is elitist and tone-deaf when people can’t put food on their table or pay their bills.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Right, she’s OK with telling us plebes to go back to the days of darning our socks or turning our cuffs, because she can afford to hire somebody to do all her mending.

      • Brassy Rebel says:

        I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to notice the elitism bleeding through these comments. My old t-shirts don’t go to the landfill. They make excellent rags for cleaning, dusting, and floor mopping. Does she really think we buy clothes one year and throw them all out the next? My mother, from whom I learned my thrifty habits, would be appalled.

    • monlette says:

      I have to agree. Not everyone has the means to buy a few tailored, well-made or bespoke pieces that will last for decades. And even if they do, odds are they will just end up in a landfill anyway once they are stained or out of style.

      My mind goes back to the old shows where they give a fashion victim a $5,000 debit card and turn them loose to buy a new wardrobe. I am not sure when that was, but I don’t know how much milage they are still getting out of those bootcuts and twinsets with pointy shoes and burgundy purses.

      T-shirts seems an odd hill to die on. I have a lot of old t-shirts from conferences (many with dates printed on them) and I still get a lot of use out of all of them: painting, cleaning, sleeping, jogging, lounging around the house. I wear them until they are literally rags and then used them as rags one last time before they go in the trash.

  8. Blithe says:

    They’re not wrong — but Anne and Charles might not get that most people can’t afford tailoring and the cost of investment level clothes made with traditional manufacturing techniques. Also, many people don’t know how to sew or even how to do basic mending, and won’t have access to household help to take care of such things. It’s kind of a package— if you can afford to invest in traditional clothing, you also need to have the wherewithal to maintain it, in order for the cost-per-wearing to make sense.

    I really am in awe of Anne’s wardrobe, especially her vintage re-wears. I agree with Kaiser though: It would be great if someone would present her with a new pair of sunglasses. I hope someone from Finlay & Co or Rayban is reading this and takes the hint.

    • Christine says:

      Someone did, and that’s why they mentioned her sunglasses in this article. Kaiser pointed out how unflattering they were on the post about the article that wanted us all to genuflect, because Anne is amazing for carrying her own carry-ons, off a plane, like she’s just like us.

      Side note: If Anne were like any of us, she would have wrecked those sunglasses 3 weeks after she bought them, but she clearly has someone devoted to sunglasses preservation. Please tell me there is a job called “carer of sunglasses”.

  9. Concern Fae says:

    And Brexit effed this up for the UK. A lot of the money to support local traditional craftspeople and industries came from the EU. Does anyone think the Tories are replacing any of it? LOL! Also, these people are often micro businesses. When they were part of the EU market, the paperwork and taxes were manageable. Now, they have to handle taxes and customs duties for all these different jurisdictions. And the software the government is backing is for larger corporations, not one or two person businesses.

    I like Anne the best of all of them, but one does need to be honest about the problem. Brexit hurt British clothes manufacturing immensely.

  10. sevenblue says:

    Companies are trying to cut cost while maintaining the same prices or increasing them to maximize the profit. When I was shopping from the same store (a global brand), each year the fabric of the clothes got worse and worse while the prices increased and the companies are having the best profits ever. After the pandemic, I don’t need to buy much anymore since I am working from home now full time.

  11. Amy Bee says:

    A bit rude to criticise fast fashion while she’s in a factory in Sri Lanka.

  12. Becks1 says:

    She’s not wrong, and we certainly see that with her fashion and with her mother’s, who had coats and dresses remade or decades.

    but like others have said there’s a big cost issue here. Those nice pieces that can last for decades, that can be remade and repaired etc, are $$$ in terms of upfront cost. so many people (*raises hand*) buy the cheaper version, the trendier version, etc, and just throw it away when there’s a rip in it, bc I’m not going to take a 10 dollar tshirt to a tailor to fix it. But if it was 100 dollars I would. but I’m not spending that on a tshirt.

    Affordable quality items that can last are hard to find, and I don’t necessarily fault clothing companies for that because it takes time and effort to make quality items that can last.

    But there is a reason why so many people go to Old Navy and not the Row for tshirts.

    • Eurydice says:

      The throwing away part is also a big issue with fast fashion. Here in Boston, it’s now illegal to throw away clothing, shoes and other textiles (mattresses, too). You either have to make an appointment for a special curbside pick up or go to a city collection center. From there, the clothing goes to resale places like Goodwill or gets recycled in some way…supposedly. It’s too early to say if this will work or not.

  13. Apples2 says:

    Well, they have access to people who are the helm of the fast-fashion production, talk to them! Listen, you gotta start at the top because until these companies don’t stop, nothing will change. The people at the top are in cahoots with each other: the fashion, the advertisers, the manufacturers – they will continue to spin this merry-go-round bc they make huge profits. It’s capitalism. They even figured out how to use charity to make a profit, like those cheap T-shirts with messages supporting this cause and that cause.

    • Blithe says:

      I think another issue is shareholders — and prioritizing their profits. For many companies, it’s not enough to make a well-regarded product for a fair price, while paying decent salaries. “Progress” has meant prioritizing investors and increasing quarterly profits. There’s often a conflict there. So wages stagnate and quality inches down until customers notice and bail.

      I have a favorite coat labeled as a brand from a well-known designer. It’s a classic design, in a style that I could happily wear for decades. But, of all things, they skimped on the thread for the quilting, and the threads are fraying and pilling, and it’s just a matter of time before they begin to break. So to save a few cents at best, they turned a decent coat into a disposable one.

  14. Coops says:

    Some things to think about:
    Are sweatshop jobs where people don’t make enough for a living actually jobs that ppl want? Would moving away from fast fashion and paying people better actually lead to less consumption and less inequity?
    Sustainable ethical fashion is expensive, but you also buy less. And you can buy second hand. Many ways to have style without supporting a super unethical industry. Buying expensive is also not a way to avoid the issue of overconsumption

  15. equality says:

    Funny how this family is good at slamming things but not good at coming up with solutions. She could come up with a viable idea and maybe win PW’s ES prize. In the meantime there are all kinds of ideas for turning t-shirts into other things: quilts, diapers, period products, headbands, tote bags, braided rugs and baskets, cleaning cloths…

  16. BeanieBean says:

    Well, yes, but…. To return to the days of hiring a dressmaking, or having one on staff, means the rich people will be well-dressed and the rest of us will go back to having ONE dress, ONE blouse, ONE skirt, etc. This from a woman who, when on official events, buys bolts of fabric–silks, principally–to be sewn up into something for herself. Yeah, Anne, let’s all go back to that. Or, all you 1%-ers go back to that.

    • Deering24 says:

      Not to mention it would destroy the (already reeling) ready-to-wear industry–which, through jobs and unions, also helped a lot of people reach the middle class. Man, these folks _are_ rock-stupid when it comes to the real world, aren’t they?

  17. Little Red says:

    Another name to follow on this topic is Aja Barber. Her book, “Consumed”, came out last year and covers this topic in depth.

    For us average people, clothes made in the UK/US would mean owning less stuff. We’ve all been trained to constantly buy buy buy and then throw it away and buy some more. But if we think back to our grandmothers and women of earlier generations, unless they were genuinely wealthy, the amount of clothing they owned was very small.

    As far as jobs for people, the jobs in these factories are barely one step above slavery. People doing these jobs is a sign of their desperation and not because the jobs are desirable and good for their local community as evidenced by Rana Plaza.

    Secondhand is one way around all this. That’s the direction I have been moving in.

  18. LivingDesert says:

    A couple of months ago I took three pairs of boots to the cobbler.
    A real old-time master of his craft, learned at the knees of his dad etc. etc. etc.

    He did a first class job on the shoes and I paid $350 for it. Without complaining, because I would not have been able to buy even one pair of that kind new for that price.

    So there you have it – three pair of boots not thrown away, but how many people would declare me mad to pay that much for repairs?

    When they can get three pairs of new cheap crap for the same price?

    • Little Red says:

      I wouldn’t declare you mad. You kept three pairs of boots out of the landfill. You provided employment to a local small business. You’re encouraging the preservation of skilled labor.

    • Mcmmom says:

      I have a pair of heels that I’ve had resoled 4 times. At $100 a pop, it’s still cheaper than buying a new pair.

      I’m not going to fault her for this stance at all because she’s not wrong. Fast fashion is terrible for the planet and the people who work in it. Justifying what is essentially slave labor because “at least people have jobs” is pretty misguided. The conditions in some of those factories are deplorable. If there was less demand for fast fashion (not affordable clothing, but truly disposable fashion, which a lot of what that really cheap stuff is), there would be less supply.

      It’s true for furniture as well. My 15 year old wants to buy a $65 armchair off of Amazon and I’m trying to explain to her that the only way anything can be produced that cheaply is through bad labor conditions. No one is getting paid fairly to make anything that cheap.

      • Lily says:

        I live in the desert. My dad is a retired sheriff. One day while he was working, my dad saw a man walking among the furniture people threw away in the desert. The man was an upholsterer looking for furniture with good bones that he could save and sell.

  19. Lily says:

    Sewing is an art. You can learn at some fabric stores and at some stores that sell and repair sewing machines and vacuum cleaners. They have private and group lessons.

  20. Bklne says:

    I’m a day late with this (tangential) comment, but hopefully it might be useful for a few ppl out there:

    Mending isn’t always affordable or realistic, but it’s 100% worth it for jeans. If you are a human with thighs, you probably know the special anguish of the inseam wearing out on your favorite jeans. Patching them can extend their useful life and is way cheaper than buying a new pair. (Plus, denim production has a big environmental impact.)

    Most dry cleaners can do this at a reasonable cost, and it’s a good, easy DIY project for building basic sewing skills: it doesn’t have to look neat or pretty, because the patch goes on the inside, and the outside is an inconspicuous part of the garment. If you don’t have a sewing machine, you might be able to borrow one from a friend, a public library or maker space, or maybe even find a secondhand machine (for way less than the cost of replacing your jeans – it pays for itself almost immediately!)

    You’ll need some scrap denim (a great way to repurpose outgrown kids’ jeans that are too far gone to pass on to someone else). The color doesn’t have to match perfectly – as long as it’s reasonably close, it will work. You also need a sheet of fusible webbing (available at fabric stores). It’s kind of like tissue paper made from threads of hot glue. You cut a piece of scrap denim to use for your patch, and cut a matching piece of fusible webbing. Iron them together, peel off the backing paper, and then turn the jeans inside out and iron the patch over the tear or weak spot. The webbing will “glue” the patch in place – not permanently, but enough to hold it down while you sew.

    Make sure your machine is threaded with a color that blends in to the outside of the jeans (gray is often a better choice than blue). Set it to a wide zig-zag stitch and sew all around the border of the patch. Then, sew back and forth all across the patch, a bunch of times and in different directions, to anchor it down. Try to get a lot of stitches in the area of the tear/weak spot (possibly tricky because it’s on the bottom and you can’t see it) to help reinforce that part of the fabric. When you’re done, snip the threads and turn the jeans right side out again.

  21. Libra says:

    While touring a local 1880 type mansion, we commented on the small closets, even in the bedroom of the lady of he house. No walk in closets needed, as the ladies had few clothes. The docent explained that in the best of families, there were only enough clothing for a week ,with an outfit for Sunday. In the ground level was a sewing room with a full time seamstress employed to keep clothing, as well as linen for bedroom and kitchen in good repair.

  22. Jilliebean says:

    It’s total baloney to hear this coming from royals who can afford pretty much any top quality bespoke clothing. Many of us can only afford fast fashion due to the skyrocketing cost of living… and you know what? I have had “fast fashion” items last just as long as my more expensive clothe…. Imagine that I only got 5 good years out of my Canada goose jacket (piece of expensive garbage that I am in the process of following up on my lifetime warranty with them on!)