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Cheap clothes last as long as designer items, new study finds

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 6 days ago Helena Horton

(Representative image) The results showed T-shirts and jeans from cheaper shops performed as well - and often better - than similar samples from expensive stores. © ShutterStock (Representative image) The results showed T-shirts and jeans from cheaper shops performed as well - and often better - than similar samples from expensive stores. Cheap clothes last as long as designer items, with many reasonably-priced garments offering better quality than pricier ones, a new study has found.

Textile scientists at The University of Leeds carried out rigorous durability tests on outfits from all price ranges, from items costing a few pounds through to high designer labels.

The results showed T-shirts and jeans from cheaper shops performed as well - and often better - than similar samples from expensive stores.

Dr Mark Sumner and his team tested four samples of each shirt and seven samples of each pair of jeans for abrasion, which is how easy it is to wear a hole in the fabric, and strength of fabric, which is how long it takes to rip an item of clothing.

Video: What is the environmental impact of your jeans? (Sky News)

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The eight-week project also involved testing seam strength, which is important for tight-fitting clothes, and colourfastness, which is how much the colour fades during domestic washing and rubbing.

“Some of the garments performed very well across a wide range of tests - more often than not, the best products were 'fast fashion' products," Dr Sumner told The Sunday Telegraph.

“A number of fast fashion products demonstrate significantly better value for money that other brands - especially when compared to 'designer' brands.

“Jeans from one fashion brand lasted twice as long as a designer label jeans, but cost one tenth of the price of the designer jeans.

(Representative image) © ShutterStock (Representative image) “For the T-shirt work the designer label product was the worst performing product across all the tests we did - with an online fast fashion brand out performing all other products.”  

It comes after MPs on the Commons environmental audit select committee condemned retailers for selling outfits at low prices, saying it is leading to a throwaway 'fast fashion' culture.

Dr Sumner argues that clothes are not thrown away because they are poor quality, and most consumers do not wear clothes until they wear out.

He explained: “We know that some clothing will be thrown away because it does actually wear out, but there's no correlation to say that price will give you an indication to say which product will wear out.

“What we know from talking to some charity organisations, an awful lot of the clothing has nothing wrong with it. It has no holes in it, it's still functional. “We suspect the consumer is offloading garments because they no longer like them or want them.”

© ShutterStock Dr Sumner suggests hanging clothes out in the sunlight to reduce smells and refresh them in order to do fewer washes. "This will extend the life of the garment, save water and energy use, save money and help to reduce microfibre release," he added.

Rather than investing in expensive clothes, he said consumers should consider buying their clothes from charity shops when they are bored of what is currently in their wardrobe.

Dr Sumner also recommends checking the websites of clothing brands to ensure they are signed up to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan or the Ethical Trading Initiative. Eco-conscious shoppers should also look out for organic or fair-trade cotton and recycled polyester, he said.

More than £47bn a year is spent on clothing in Britain, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme, with about 1m tonnes cleared out of wardrobes every year. Two thirds of clothing in the UK is made from syntheic plastic materials with up to 2,900 tonnes of microplastics passing into rivers and estuaries when clothes are washed, according a Friends of the Earth.

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