You’ve probably heard of “fast fashion”. We’ve covered it twice when highlighting how to reduce clothing waste and when following up with that article in 2020. Yet, it’s still an issue. Therefore, we’ve put together an extra article to build on our previous work in this area to answer all of your questions including an answer to what’s wrong with fast fashion?
What is Fast Fashion?
“Fast fashion” is a buzz word. It’s been used in environmental and sustainability circles for a good number of years to highlight the negative impact the fashion industry has on the environment.
It refers to clothing that is mass-produced at a low cost by manufacturers aiming to cash in on the latest fashion trends.
However, despite clothes costing less for consumers the environment, as well as other people, pay a higher price.
What’s Bad About Fast Fashion?
To be honest, quite a lot!
It’s estimated that the textiles industry produces 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. Also, the fashion industry’s supply chain is the third largest CO2 emitter after food and construction. This shows just how bad fast fashion can be.
Added to this is the environmental cost of production. A recent study found that 1.5 trillion litres of water are consumed in the clothing production process. This is truly not sustainable in the context of the global water crisis.
It’s also made worse by the limited ability to recycle fast fashion emissions. For example, less than 2% of all emissions produced by fashion can be lowered through recycling. This is because clothing items rely on synthetic fibres which are non-renewable and are made from fossil fuels.
There is also the issue of upkeep. Washing clothes that are made out of these fibres releases microplastics into our waterways. This adds to the issue of plastic pollution evidenced in our oceans.
Why is ‘Fast Fashion’, ‘Fast’?
By now you’ll know what we mean by fast fashion. You’ll also be aware of some of the negative environmental impacts it poses.
However, the ‘fast’ in ‘fast fashion’ exacerbates these issues. Therefore, it’s important to analyse.
Fast fashion is described as ‘fast’ because the styles that clothes are based on do not last. Clothing brands will continuously produce new styles that are considered “must haves” to encourage you to purchase more. Even when you still have last weeks clothes in the closet.
This social pressure to have the latest style has resulted in the development of a throwaway culture. For example, 50% of clothing items are thrown away within a year of being purchased.
It doesn’t help that fast fashion items are made cheap. They don’t last long and thus, end up in landfill quicker. It’s been reported that 85% of textiles go into landfill each year, truly highlighting what’s wrong with fast fashion – it’s not sustainable.
What Else is Wrong With Fast Fashion?
The issues detailed above are all ecological. After all, we are a human ecology charity. However, there are also other issues associated with fast fashion that are worth highlighting.
For example, fast fashion has a huge modern slavery problem. Brands often use labour workers in countries far from their target markets where workers can be exploited and clothes made cheaply. This helps them increase their profit margins.
The fact that 93% of brands surveyed by FashionChecker.org do not pay a garment worker’s living wage is evidence of this.
A recent article entitled “Blood, Sweat, Tears: The Dark Side to Fast Fashion” provides a brilliant expose of this.
What Can You Do to Limit the Negative Impacts of Fast Fashion?
There are plenty of actions you can take to limit the negative impacts of fast fashion. The first is to stop buying fast fashion clothing! There are plenty of tips and tools you can use to help you achieve this. For example, tips include:
- Buy clothes from second-hand shops
- Buy good quality clothing from reputable brands
- Use fashionchecker.org to see which brands pay their workers well and only use them.
- Pass clothes you no longer wear onto siblings, friends or neighbours.
- Find other uses for clothes you no longer wear to get more use out of them and delay their arrival in landfill.
- Repair clothes that are damaged.
- Wash clothes only when absolutely necessary.
- Wash clothes at a low temperature to limit microplastic pollution.
- Support one of the key organisations tackling fast fashion.
Summarising What’s Wrong with Fast Fashion
In a relatively short article we’ve covered a lot about fast fashion. We’ve covered what it means, it’s environmental and non-environmental impacts and listed what you can do to fight back against fast fashion.
To summarise, it’s important to remember the following.
- Fast fashion concerns clothing items that are made cheaply to reflect the latest fashion trends.
- The fast fashion industry is associated with water pollution and consumption, microfibers pollution in the ocean, waste accumulation, chemical usage, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation and desertification and rainforest destruction.
- The speed of fast fashion makes it’s negative impacts worse.
- Fast fashion is also associated with modern slavery.
- Despite the negatives, there are lots of actions you can take today to live a life that does not support the fast fashion industry.