In a world of constant innovation and ease of accessibility, the fashion industry has seen a boom in demand. Now more than ever it is easier for people to search for a product, find more vendors, and purchase products at an extraordinary rate. From a phenomenon of modern consumerism has emerged ‘fast fashion’.
Fast fashion in simple terms is low-priced clothing that is made and sold rapidly by mass-market retailers that follows the latest trends. Fast fashion in its basic form sounds like a good idea, with its convenience and affordability. However, in reality, fast fashion is not all it is cut out to be. There are numerous social and environmental impacts of fast fashion, which brings forth the question: is convenience and being ‘trendy’ worth the repercussions?
Fast fashion, the vast production of trending items at a rapid pace, affects many people’s lives, especially the lives of the factory workers. According to the Huffington Post, labour corporations have turned to outsourcing their product manufacturing to countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. While this has its benefits, it has the capability of causing many issues for the workers. As an example:
‘a fire in the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh led to the death of at least 112 workers, while the collapse of the Rana Plaza building just five months later killed 1,134 garment workers and injured hundreds of survivors’.
This was a key event that highlighted how sometimes corporations can endanger their workers. Child labour is another significant issue that is heightened because of the fashion industry, with approximately:
‘170 million that are engaged … with many making textiles and garments to satisfy the demand of consumers in Europe, the US, and beyond’.
Additionally, there is another significant impact caused by fast fashion, and it concerns the environment. Clothing was once produced per season, and now one of the critical aspects of fast fashion is that it does not rely on timing, but rather the ever-increasing demand of consumers. With the need to produce consistently, there is now increased pressure and damage to the environment. This includes both the local area around the production sites, the production sites themselves, and the general environment such as oceans. The Copenhagen Fashion Summit of 2015, as told by Greenpeace, stated that:
‘the fashion industry consumed nearly 80 billion cubic meters of fresh water, emitted over a million tonnes of CO2 and produced 92 million tonnes of waste’.
This is an astonishing figure, and sadly just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.
The real question is, knowing how much fashion, particularly fast fashion, affects the world around us, is it really worth it? Do we honestly need as many things as we have? Do we need them instantly? Do we need that latest highlighter-coloured trend colour, because the Kardashian family made it ‘cool’? The answer is, probably not. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop shopping. There are many possible ways that you can influence this issue. Following the ideas of ethics and sustainability, many organizations have acknowledged a need for change and have attempted to lessen their impact and to aid you in yours.
This article is not all doom and gloom. It is about educating on how our choices affect the world around us. And to help us here are some tips and tricks which can help you to make a change:
- Do you genuinely need that five-quid top for one night out at the pub because your crush is going to be there? Probably not. Try and think about investing in clothing that you will wear more than once. Go by the question: will I wear this thirty times? Just by reducing the frequency in which you shop will help.
Reuse and recycle
- Recycling, an essential concept for the fashion industry, can be done in many ways. H&M, for example, has a program where if you bring in garments and textiles you no longer need to any of their stores they will reuse and recycle the materials that you have given them.
- Additionally, the classic examples of how to reuse and recycle are to donate clothing to vintage and charity shops and also to local clothing banks that will ‘rehome’ suitable items to people who are in need, such as the homeless.
Purchase from brands who focus on ethics and sustainability
- Everlane — This sells essential pieces with an emphasis on what they call ‘radical transparency’.
- Nobody’s Child — A trendy and ethical student-friendly option.
- Girl Meets Dress — If you are in need of snazzy occasion clothing, but can’t afford the price tag, look into clothing rental site Girl Meets Dress. It will save you money, closet space, and minimizes clothing waste!