Have you ever stood in a store and looked at a dress that had just come out and thought, “wow, I like that dress!”? If so, you’ve been enticed by fast fashion. Fast fashion is the term used for clothes that are made quickly and cheaply. It’s produced for the purpose of being sold at a low price point, creating a “buy now, throw away later” mentality. Fast fashion is trendy and may be bought impulsively without much thought about where it was made or how it was made. Although fast fashion might seem like a bargain to your wallet, it’s actually not really a great deal at all when you consider the impact on our environment as well as the people who make these clothes.
The negative impact of fast fashion is not only limited to the production process. In fact, the environmental effect of fast fashion extends all the way to your closet. According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, washing our clothes adds 2 million tons of plastic microfibers into our water each year — which affect both marine and freshwater systems. Additionally, more than 60% of textile waste ends up in landfills where they will take years to decompose. These are just two examples of how disposable clothing affects our planet!
What we can do about it– slow fashion
Sustainable fashion matters to the planet, to people and to animals. We have a duty—to future generations, the environment and to ourselves—to consider the social and environmental impact of fashion. The true cost of clothing is more than a number on a price tag. The manufacture of clothing accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and is the second largest consumer of water worldwide. In addition, workers often face exploitation in dangerous conditions so that fast-fashion brands can keep prices low. Fast fashion also damages our culture and economy. As Americans consume 80 billion pieces of clothing each year (that’s 27 kilograms per person!), we lose sight of what’s valuable: quality over quantity; craftsmanship over convenience; artistry over assembly lines; individual style over trends.
What about fast fashion companies that have sustainability initiatives in place?
Is sustainability the new black?
In recent years, many fast fashion companies have been introducing initiatives geared toward producing more sustainable fabrics and items. While these can be viewed as positive moves, there are still serious flaws in fast fashion that tarnish any of their good deeds. Most notably, many continue to use cheap synthetic fabrics (such as polyester) which often take hundreds of years to decompose and leach toxins into soil and water systems when they finally do. We also don’t know what kind of impact these new ‘green’ chemicals will have on people or the earth once they are in mass production. Cheap materials aside, we can never forget the fact that the majority of fast fashion still takes place in countries with questionable labour practices. And unfortunately for all our fellow fashion-lovers out there – buying from a chain that has an ethical version doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get it; most items are produced in massive sweatshops by workers who aren’t paid fairly regardless of whether they are making a cotton tee or a linen one.