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Say ‘bye bye’ to the ‘buy buy’ culture.

Now in its fourth year, Highgate’s pupil-led eco initiative Fast Fashion-Free February is going national!

Initiated four years ago with a School swap-shop event, Highgate’s Fast Fashion-Free February campaign has proved to be a popular event in the School calendar, growing year on year. For 2022, the UK Schools Sustainability Network has embraced the initiative and is encouraging student ambassadors from other London schools and around the country to go Fast Fashion-Free this month.

Fast Fashion-Free February Highgate School
Mia and Daphne helped to launch Fast Fashion-Free February this week

Y12 pupils Daphne and Mia, from the Highgate Environment Committee, explain: “Vivika Martini, a former co-chair of the Environment Committee came up with the idea for Fast Fashion Free February (FFFF) four years ago (Vivika recently received The Royal Academy of Engineering Award for Exceptional Pupil Achievement). Fast Fashion-Free February (FFFF) is a whole month dedicated to raising awareness about the detrimental impacts of fast fashion and promoting sustainable fashion in its place. 

Many people buy clothes without carefully considering the environmental and humanitarian impacts of their purchases. 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.

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. 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.

Fast Fashion-Free February Highgate School
Pupils stopped by Central Hall to find out more

Ms Mynott, Lead Teacher for the Environment at Highgate, added: “The fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluter, after oil and gas. It’s something that all of us can do something about every day, ranging from buying fewer clothes and boycotting fast fashion brands, to buying second-hand or ethically-sourced clothing, to simply looking after our clothes and repairing them when they get damaged.”

Fast Fashion-Free February Highgate School

The programme of events at Highgate this month includes a sustainable non-uniform day, an ‘oldest item of clothing’ competition, second-hand clothes bring and buy sale, a knitting, mending and upcycling circle and a scrunchie and facemask making workshop, among others.

When we ran FFFF last year, our weekly ‘crafternoons’ on Zoom were a highlight of lockdown,” explains Daphne. “They were such a fun way of actively engaging with sustainable fashion (by mending, making or upcycling clothes). This year, we are going to run a similar set of hands-on sustainable fashion sessions, which I am particularly looking forward to.”

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,” adds Ms Mynott. “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.”

The collaboration with UK Schools Sustainability Network this year is helping to spread the message beyond Highgate. Mia explains: “Last week at our biweekly London Schools Eco Network (LSEN) meeting, we launched FFFF among schools in London, and many schools across the UK will also be taking part. In the meeting Daphne and I talked about the origins of FFFF and what events Highgate is holding. We all collaborated on various campaign ideas. It has been very encouraging to see how much this important campaign has spread; the more schools that take part, the more people will know about the damaging impact clothing can have!

Ms Chapman, Highgate Biology Teacher and Chair of the London Eco Schools Network, concludes: “Consuming less – be it fuel, animal products, electronics or textiles – is a great way to instantly reduce our impact on the planet. It’s fantastic that LSEN schools across the capital are embracing Highgate’s FFFF campaign and encouraging their communities to be mindful when it comes to clothing.”

We are encouraging our School community to make a fast Fashion-Free pledge this February – from boycotting fast fashion brands, to mending, buying second hand or embracing a ‘capsule wardrobe’. Visit your local charity shop or check out Good on You for tips on more ethical and sustainable fashion choices.

Fast Fashion-Free February Highgate School
Highgate’s Fast Fashion-Free February badge