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Fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry that recruits hundreds of millions, generates noteworthy profits, and touches almost everyone and everywhere. Have you ever heard of the term fast fashion? It is a contemporary term that has been used quite a lot lately, but what does it really mean? Fast fashion is the mass production of cheap, low quality, trendy disposable clothing. It also used to describe cheaply made designs which are quickly transferred from the catwalk to clothing stores. Fast fashion gets the latest styles on the market and encourages consumers to purchase while they are still in trend.
If you have bought garments within the last decade, at least one of them was from a fast-fashion brand. Big names in fast fashion today include Zara, TopShop, H&M, Uniqlo, Victoria’s Secret, Mango and Adidas, to name a few. Here’s how you can spot fast fashion brands :
- They are quick to release clothes after a trend is displayed on the runway or modelled by a popular celebrity or influencer.
- The clothes are made of cheap and poor quality materials.
- You feel encouraged to buy their clothing to stay up to date with the latest trends and also due to the limited quantity of a particular piece.
- Their clothes are manufactured in big factories where workers are being paid unfair wages.
The Impact of Fast Fashion
Did you know that fast fashion has a huge impact on the planet and is related to ethical issues? The elements of fast fashion such as trend replication, speedy mass production, poor quality and low pricing contribute to environmental impact and the exploitation of people involved in the production.
The negative impact of fast fashion includes the use of cheap, toxic textile dyes which makes the fashion industry the second largest polluter of clean water globally. This is because untreated toxic waste-waters from textiles factories are disposed of directly into the rivers. Waste-waters are very harmful to aquatic life as well as the health of the people who live along those contaminated river banks as it contains toxic substances like arsenic, mercury, and lead. The pollution would eventually spread around the globe once it reaches the sea.
The speedy production of garments also means that more and more clothes are being thrown away by consumers, thus a lot of clothes end up in landfills. Most of the fibres in cheap clothing are made of synthetic fibres such as polyester. Unlike cotton or wool, synthetic fibres are non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose. Every time the clothing is washed, microfibres will come off and make their way into our oceans. Scientists have discovered that those microfibres are ingested by aquatic organisms which are later eaten by bigger fish, introducing plastic in our food chain.
A garment worker’s health is being put at risk with endless working hours, lack of resources, miserable wages, exposure to harmful chemicals, and physical abuse. They are usually forced to work 14 to 16 hours per day, 7 days a week. They cannot refuse overtime because their basic wages are very low. Plus, the working environment is also poor as they are working with no ventilation, inhaling toxic substances and fibre dust, and in unsafe buildings. In some cases, they received insults, denied breaks, or not allowed to drink water when they failed to meet their target.
Here’s what you can do to fight fast fashion. You can start by thrift shopping! Shopping thrift is the best way to minimise your carbon footprint. You can also find unique pieces that can’t be found anywhere else. Next, do your research and buy from companies who produce clothing with environmentally friendly methods. For instance, companies that are striving to be more sustainable and make use of recycled materials.
Hollywood actor Joaquin Phoenix, has made a public commitment to wearing the same tuxedo throughout the film awards season. Follow his footstep by re-wear and reuse your clothing. The most sustainable piece of clothing is what you already own. Use your creativity to breathe new life to old clothes by mixing and matching with other pieces to create a new style or swap clothes with your friends, another interesting option. Lastly, start a habit of buying less unless you really need it. So, take good care of your clothes to embrace slow fashion and do not over-wash the clothes since it will decrease their lifespan and wearability.