Over the past years, we have witnessed retail fashion stores transform into tech-based fashion businesses. We have seen remarkable changes in how clothes are being produced, distributed, sold, and worn. To keep up with consumer demand and fashion trends, brands are overstocking stores faster than ever to satisfy their customer’s whims. This paved the way for fast fashion, a cheap solution to changing fashion trends.
In recent years, clothing trends have been coming and going at a rapid pace, and fashion brands are struggling to keep up with the trends as it’s causing them a lot of money. To address this, clothing manufacturers start to mass-produce cheaply-made fashion items at a lower price point. This works best for consumers who don’t want to miss any trending fashion item without breaking the bank.
Those who don’t want to sacrifice quality for a cheaper price turn to women’s boutiques selling handcrafted clothing made of quality materials. In fact, consumers find this more sustainable than fast fashion as it avoids the toxic system of overconsumption and overproduction that made fashion the largest polluter globally.
To shed light on the world of fast fashion, we’ll explore its growing impacts on the fashion industry, humans, and the environment.
Fast fashion’s impact on the environment is massive. It accounts for 20% of global carbon emission and is the second-largest polluter next to the oil industry. Each year, fast fashion brands produce 150 billion items made of microfibers, chemicals, and other non-biodegradable materials that end up in oceans and landfills. All these reasons make fast fashion one of the primary contributors to pollution and environmental destruction.
Clothing production involves a significant amount of resources and energy and depends on chemicals and toxic fabric materials that pollute air, land, and water. For instance, producing one pair of jeans is equivalent to a thousand gallons of water while textile dyeing generates 20 percent of the world’s wastewater. Clothing factories without any wastewater treatment releases the wastewater directly into streams and rivers, increasing the chemical risk of humans and animals.
Even agriculture is not an exception to the devastating effects of fast fashion. Commercial fabrics, such as non-organic cotton, depend on pesticides and intense water use. When it comes to disposal, clothing brands are either burning or throwing unsold garments in landfills to avoid overstocking and discount markets.
Besides the environment, fast fashion brands have been exploiting their workers to boost profitability. Some even hire young children and underage women in low-income countries to speed up the mass production of garments. These people have to work long hours under poor working conditions in exchange for unduly low pay. Beyond compensation, other companies subject their workers to workplace accidents and life-threatening work environments with no protection or benefits.
Throughout history, large clothing brands are known to exploit millions of workers through forced and child labor. Some end up suffering from physical strains and other serious diseases, such as cancer, reproductive issues, and lung disease.
One of the most tragic workplace accidents in history happened in 2013 in the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh. The incident killed more than 1,134 garment workers and injured a lot more. The event served as one of the turning points of fast fashion, urging many people to express their dissent against unfair labor practices.
Consumers of fast fashion would think that buying affordable fashion items is doing more benefit than harm. Brands are tempting customers by buying their ideas instead of the clothing itself. The truth is, fast fashion is forcing shoppers to spend more and update their wardrobe regularly to keep up with the changing trends. People end up hoarding and buying on impulse because of the cheap price tag, thinking that they’re saving more money.
Fast fashion may be trendy and affordable, but they consist of poor-quality materials. As a result, consumers don’t keep their clothes for too long and discard them once they’re out of style.
Consumers are prioritizing trends over the quality of the clothes they wear. This encourages the ‘throwaway culture’ because of rapidly changing fashion trends and built-in obsolescence of fashion items. Basically, fast fashion is deceiving customers into buying more to stay in style, causing continuous dissatisfaction and a sense of need.
Fast fashion may be practical and affordable for most people, but every purchase comes at a big price. Fashion is one of the leading causes of global pollution, and patronizing mass-produced goods will only worsen the situation. Support brands with the least impact on the environment to contribute to a more ethical and sustainable future for the fashion industry.