France’s parliament votes to slow down fast fashion, with eye on China’s Shein

France’s parliament votes to slow down fast fashion, with eye on China’s Shein

France’s parliament on Thursday backed a string of measures making low-cost fast fashion, especially from Chinese mass producers, less attractive to buyers.

The vote makes France the first country in the world “legislating to limit the excesses of ultra fast fashion”, said Christophe Bechu, minister for the ecological transition.

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

The French clothes market has been flooded with cheap imported clothes, while several home-grown brands have declared bankruptcy. But the main arguments put forward by Horizons – the party allied to President Emmanuel Macron submitting the draft law – were environmental.

A dog lies on a pile of used plastic bottles at a dumpsite where second-hand clothes are discarded in Accra, Ghana, in December 2022. Photo: Reuters

“Textile is the most polluting industry,” said Horizons deputy Anne-Cecile Violland, saying the sector accounted for 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and was a major polluter of water.

She singled out 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 volumes of clothes produced and 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.

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Fast fashion producers will be forced to tell consumers about the environmental impact of their output.

A surcharge linked to fast fashion’s ecological footprint of €5 (US$5.45) per item is planned from next year, rising to €10 by 2030. The charge cannot, however, exceed 50 per cent of an item’s price tag.

Violland said the proceeds from the charge would be used to subsidise producers of sustainable clothes, allowing them to compete more easily.

A measure to limit advertising for fast fashion was also approved, although conservative lawmaker Antoine Vermorel-Marques remarked that “a ban on advertising for textiles, especially fashion, spells the end of fashion”.

A woman poses for photos with her purchases after being among the first group of shoppers at a Shein pop-up in Ontario, California, in October 2023. Photo: TNS

An initiative brought by left-wing and Green party deputies to include minimum penalties for producers breaking the rules as well as import quotas and stricter workplace criteria in the industry into the new law was struck down.

High-end fashion is a cornerstone of the French economy thanks to leading global luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, Dior and Cartier.

But the French lower-end fashion segment has lost ground to European rivals Zara, H&M and, more recently, to Chinese behemoths Shein and Temu.

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