France's Plan to Combat Fast Fashion: A Closer Look into Proposed Measures

France could soon be cracking down on the very low-cost clothing retail platforms whose activities have consequences for the environment and social rights. A proposed law, put forward by the center-right political party Horizons Group, will soon be debated in Parliament.

By Solene Schirrer

Despite prior declarations by French Economy Minister Bruno Lemaire last year expressing a desire to address the issues of fast fashion, little had materialized until now. In response, eight organisations led by Friends of the Earth France (Les Amis de la Terre) launched a campaign last November to draw attention back to these matters and hold the Minister accountable to his statement.

Their message is clear: “Fast-fashion means unbridled production of clothes and a race to the lowest production costs. This model is no longer sustainable, We must act!"

And we couldn't agree more!

And then, last week, it all came to a head! Rather than a response from the government, two by right-wing MPs from the Horizons group surprisingly took up the cause.

At the forefront of their proposed legislation, submitted by Antoine Vermorel Marques, is the introduction of a €5 surcharge on each fast fashion item sold. This groundbreaking measure aims directly at the business model and its associated repercussions by addressing the core issue: excessive production volumes.

In a statement on French radio FranceInter, Antoine Vermorel emphasized: “What we're advocating is a bonus-malus system so that 'made in France' is less expensive and 'made in China' is more expensive".

The arguments put forward by the law's depositors is that we should make tangible and more real the impact of these products, which are sold at prices that do not represent their real human and environmental costs. Indeed, among the many issues upstream many of these low-priced garments are harmful for the end-consumer, containing an impressive number of problematic substances, such as phthalates, an endocrine disruptor, and formaldehyde, which is potentially carcinogenic for children.

In practical terms, we would be looking at charging an additional 5 euros per item of clothing purchased on online fast fashion giants like Shein, Temu... This surcharge is calculated based on the number of items introduced daily by each brand: "Fast-fashion brands like SHEIN offer nearly 7,200 new items a day on their site.” A more reasonable ceiling to avoid this cost would be around 200 (which is still enormous).

Furthermore, the law aims to address the unfair competition posed by these companies, which often disregard environmental, social, and even sanitary standards. Consequently, the measure specifically targets online platforms lacking physical retail presence in France.

“Large companies that don't create any jobs on European and French soil, that export their products 100% by plane and don't respect our environmental, social and sometimes even sanitary criteria are unfair competition for all French textile manufacturers.”

Photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

This proposal follows a previous text submitted on the 30th of January that “aims at reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry”. Notably, one provision of this proposal calls for a ban on advertising fast fashion brands, including through influencer partnerships.

These two texts combined could represent a huge step forward in the fight against fast fashion, although the organizations forming Stop Fast Fashion point out that these two texts only focus on online giants such as Shein, and AliExpress... but that fast fashion is a much more common practice. They support this text while advocating for its expansion to encompass "traditional" fast-fashion brands and large retailers too.

Be that as it may, these proposals are ambitious and get things moving on the issues of overproduction and overconsumption, more visible than ever in the fashion industry. With nearly 300,000 tons of textiles imported into Ireland each year, we should be looking into such a policy.


👚❌La mode qui pollue, exploite et surproduit, je n’en veux plus ! # StopFastFashion. (s. d.). Stop Fast Fashion !

Assemblée nationale. (s. d.). Proposition de loi n°2129 - 16e législature - Assemblée nationale. Assemblée Nationale. (2024, 13 février). Shein, Temu. . . une taxe de 5 euros imposée sur les vêtements issus de la fast fashion bientôt débattue à l’Assemblée.

Info, F. . (2024, 13 février). Mode : un député LR veut mettre en place un malus pour la fast-fashion. Franceinfo.

Jacob, M. (2024, 15 février). Priver la fast fashion de ses influenceurs : l’enseigne SHEIN dans le viseur d’une députée. Vanity Fair.

Kunin, A. (2024, 14 février). Fast fashion : vers un « malus » de 5 euros pour Shein ou Temu ? ConsoGlobe.

Mellot, C. (2024, 13 février). Voici pourquoi vos achats Shein et Temu risquent de coûter 5 euros plus chers par vêtement. Marie France, Magazine Féminin.

Main Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash