April 20, 2024

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

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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 homegrown 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.

“Textile is the most polluting industry,” said Horizons deputy Anne-Cecile Violland, saying the sector accounted for 10 percent 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.

Read moreFrance’s fast-fashion ‘kill bill’: Green move or penalty for the poor?

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.

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

A surcharge linked to fast fashion’s ecological footprint of five euros ($5.45) per item is planned from next year, rising to 10 euros by 2030. The charge cannot, however, exceed 50 percent 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”.

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.