France Imposes Penalties to Slow Down Fast Fashion

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.18 - 2024 2:58 PM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
France’s parliament on Thursday backed a string of measures making low-cost fast fashion.

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The French parliament has endorsed a series of regulations aimed at reducing the appeal of low-cost fast fashion, particularly from Chinese manufacturers, to consumers. This legislative action positions France as the first nation globally to take concrete steps against the environmental effects of rapid textile production.

Christophe Bechu, the Minister for Ecological Transition, hailed the decision, stating that France is now at the forefront of combating "the excesses of ultra-fast fashion."

Key measures include a ban on advertising for the cheapest textiles and an environmental charge imposed on low-cost items.

This decision comes in response to the influx of cheap imported garments that have flooded the French market, driving numerous local brands out of business. However, the primary arguments put forward by Horizons—the party allied with President Emmanuel Macron that submitted the draft law—were environmental.

"Textile is the most polluting industry," said Horizons deputy Anne-Cecile Violland, noting that the sector accounts for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and is a major polluter of water. She singled out the Chinese company Shein and its “7,200 new clothing items per day” as a prime example of intensive fashion production.

France will apply criteria such as the volume of clothes produced and the turnover speed of new collections in determining what constitutes fast fashion, according to the law. Once the law comes into force—which still requires a vote in the Senate—precise criteria will be published in a decree. Fast fashion producers will then be required to inform consumers about the environmental impact of their products.

A surcharge linked to the ecological footprint of fast fashion, starting at five euros ($5.45) per item, is planned to be introduced next year and is expected to increase to 10 euros by 2030. However, this charge will not exceed 50 percent of an item's retail price. Violland mentioned that the proceeds from this charge would be used to subsidize sustainable clothing producers, enhancing their competitiveness.

Aa measure to limit advertising for fast fashion was approved, though conservative lawmaker Antoine Vermorel-Marques commented that “a ban on advertising for textiles, especially fashion, marks the end of fashion.”

An initiative proposed by left-wing and Green party deputies — to introduce minimum penalties for producers violating the regulations, as well as import quotas and stricter workplace standards in the industry — was not passed.

High-end fashion remains a pivotal part of the French economy, with globally renowned luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Dior, and Cartier. However, France's lower-end fashion sector has been losing market share to European competitors such as Zara and H&M, and more recently, to the Chinese giants Shein and Temu.