France: head down (and with a tax) against fast fashion

The French solution for limiting the green damage of fast fashion and enhancing ‘European km’ production is being discussed (and a lot). For many, imposing a EUR 5 tax on every article produced by the most aggressive brands solves nothing. Meanwhile, the proposal has been approved by the National Assembly


Antoine Vermorel-Marques, 31, is a young French MP from the conservative party Les Républicains. He has been a member of the National Assembly in the fifth constituency of the Loire département since 2022. Today, he is one of the symbols of French anti-fast fashion. Or, if you like, the transalpine anti-Shein. In mid-February, he posted a video parody on TikTok depicting him imitating influencers engaged in promoting fast fashion products. “So gorgeous, so classy!” the MP exclaims while showing a pair of shoes allegedly purchased on Shein. He then adds ironically: ‘Treated with phthalate, a substance that can make us sterile’. In the same days, Vermorel-Marques presented a law proposal to impose a tax of up to EUR 5 per item on those who buy products from companies that launch more than 1,000 new products on the market every day.


More generally, Vermorel-Marques wants to hit companies that do not create wealth in France. “Those that do not create jobs on European and French territory, that export their products 100% by plane and do not respect our environmental, social and sometimes even health criteria and that compete unfairly with all French textile manufacturers”. The same parliamentarian explained how the mechanism should work. While a buyer of fast fashion would suffer a ‘malus‘ of 5 euros per purchase, those who buy an environmentally friendly product made in France would instead receive a bonus of 5 euros. The proposal went viral in an instant and is at the centre of the debate.

Populism, or not?

Some have called it an unfair solution because it will end up burdening people with low incomes. Others compared it to the incentive offered to those who buy a less polluting car. Sheng Lu, a professor at the University of Delaware, casts doubts on the ease of implementation. Carolyn Mair, a behavioural psychologist specialising in the fashion industry, thinks that the punishment method would not change people’s buying patterns much. “Consumers need to be educated. They need to be told the things they can do rather than the things they cannot do. Instead of making them feel guilty, they need to feel empowered,‘ Mair tells Sourcing Journal.

Head down against fast fashion

Meanwhile, in France, a country that has enacted both the anti-gaspillage law (prohibiting the destruction of unsold goods) and the ‘bonus réparation’ (a discount on the invoice for shoe and clothes repairs), an anti-fast fashion campaign has been unleashed. Culminating, at least for now, in the bill approved by the National Assembly on 15 March and to be debated in the Senate. France will be ‘the first country in the world to legislate to limit the drift of the most aggressive fast fashion,‘ says Paris’ Minister for Ecological Transition, Christophe Bechu.

Compensation measure

The main measure contained in the law proposal is the penalty to compensate for the environmental damage of superfast fashion. The amount of this sanction could gradually increase to EUR 10 per product by 2030, with a ceiling of 50 per cent of the sales price. Contributions will be redistributed to virtuous companies committed to circularity and green practices, and possibly local ones. Advertising for products and companies that fall into the fast fashion category will be banned.

The discussion is ongoing

The law proposal is causing discussion. It is still unclear what the perimeters of application will be and whether the price (low and very low) will be sufficient to trigger sanctions and bans. Others call for penalising not only Shein and Temu but also Zara, Primark, and H&M. The director general of the French Alliance du Commerce, Yohann Petiot, expressed doubts that the text might ‘miss the target’ and impact domestic companies. Other groups have called in vain for minimum penalties and import quotas. For Shein, this text ‘disproportionately penalises the most cost-conscious consumers‘. According to a spokesman, the number of references ‘is not a relevant indicator’ to define fast fashion. The battle seems to be only in its first skirmishes. Not least because much will depend on the implementing decrees. (mv)

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