It happens every year. You are invited to a last-minute Halloween bash. You frantically pull out the witch, pirate, or zombie costume you wore last year, only to find it doesn’t fit, or maybe it hasn’t stood the test of time at the bottom of your wardrobe. Maybe it’s stained with last year’s fake blood. So, you quickly hop online to order a replacement or fly down your local high-street for a cheap alternative. After all, you only need it for one night. Yes, we have all been there.
Let’s talk about how fast fashion haunts Halloween and what businesses can do to mitigate their impact.
Clothing and beauty retailers are notorious for pushing new styles and fashions out to consumers in quick succession. The “new this season” mentality makes buyers feel their wardrobe is already old and the pressures of social media feed into the feeling that people just can’t wear the same thing twice. With sustainability becoming an important issue worldwide and the growing popularity of ‘thrifting’ and second-hand shopping, attitudes towards fashion are slowly changing. Despite the good changes being made in the industry, Halloween seems to be the holiday that promotes fast fashion more than any other.
Why is that?
Considering that Halloween is a one-day-only holiday, creepy themed merchandise has a very short shelf life and retailers have a tiny window of time to sell their stock. Understandably, brands might not see the worth in creating high-quality, durable, and sustainable products for such a small profit opportunity, especially if they want consumers to come back the following year for new items.
If we focus specifically on fashion, having a new costume every year is still a popular notion and as, typically, costumes are not necessarily made to last, replacing Halloween clothing items every year is the norm. With retailers like ASOS hosting almost 400 items under ‘Halloween’, it isn’t difficult to buy new costumes every year. Halloween is also a holiday that is strongly driven by pop-culture. We are likely to see a considerable number of Squid Game costumes this year because of its worldwide popularity. By next year, the costume might already be irrelevant and therefore, unfashionable.
What is the impact if every Halloweener threw out their costumes every single year?
Well, research conducted by Hubbub in 2019 shows that an estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste could be generated from discarded Halloween clothing every year.
What is the impact if retailers also throw out their unsold clothing?
To a certain extent, this is absolutely a risk of doing business. There will always be unsold stock that is only relevant to buyers at a certain time of year. However, businesses could do more to reduce this waste by donating stock or recycling unsold items. Investing more in products that are environmentally friendly and long-lasting can be a real financial risk, especially if you don’t hit sales targets. A good option that we see more and more businesses use is creating limited edition, limited stock items. This helps to reduce the risk of having leftover, unsold products and generates scarcity value, a sense of exclusivity that makes the clothes or costumes more desirable to consumers. Investing in durable materials and construction so that costumes are not easily worn out by the following year gives clothing brands a mark of quality that will encourage consumers to buy from them again or to shop with them regularly throughout the year, rather than as a one-stop shop for a quick and easy costume.
Ultimately, changing consumer attitudes will eventually force brands to reassess their fast-fashion approach to Halloween stock. This issue is certainly not exclusive to fast fashion and clothing, but also to the extensive amount of plastic involved in individually wrapped sweets for trick-or-treaters and flimsy decorations that after a night out in October weather, are usually not fit to be saved and used again.