Fashion is intrinsic to most people’s daily lives. What we wear can speak to our interests, our outlooks, and who we are. The wash of confidence that runs through our bodies when we wear an outfit we love is unmistakable, and it is powerful. The fashion industry itself is similarly powerful. However, in recent years, fashion consumption has changed dramatically, and the industry of “fast fashion” has come to dominate the markets, the malls, the outlets, and our closets. Fast fashion is all around us, without many of us even realizing it. And this is a problem because fast fashion’s unethical habits and impact on the environment are graves. This post will help you understand what fast fashion is, its effects on the environment and humanity, and how you can be a more conscious consumer of fashion in response.
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is essentially an industry based on manufacturing cheap, trendy clothing at breakneck speed to meet rapidly changing consumer demand. Low-quality garments replicate specific trends, which cycle out of popularity swiftly and sell mass items at a low price to the public.
Why is Fast Fashion Important?
In the fast fashion industry, the environmental damage is high, and garment workers’ poor treatment is dangerous. The fashion industry is responsible for a full 10 percent of carbon emissions, which is more than all international flights and overseas shipping. Fast fashion capitalizes on trends that rapidly change, so the clothes bought from fast fashion companies will be out of style extremely quickly and are thus disposed of by consumers who don’t want to look grossly uncool. The clothes are made with low-quality materials and will not last the wear and tear of extended use. The tossed clothing will enter landfills and create waste. In fact, Americans dispose of approximately 12.8 million tons of textiles annually.
Fast fashion relies on cheap, synthetic materials like polyester. Plastic microfibers make up these materials, which contribute to the issue of microplastics. When washed, these materials’ microfibers shed off into the water and end up polluting our waterways with tiny plastic particles. Marine life consumes these microplastics. They don’t break down throughout the food chain. And if you’re a sushi lover like me, well… You’ve probably got someone’s Forever 21 sweater fragments in your body. Especially considering plastic microfibers make up about 90% of the microplastics in the Atlantic Ocean.
Fast fashion is not only an environmental crisis but a human rights one as well. The need for constant production at low costs causes companies to source their labor from overseas garment factories in places like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Vietnam, where garment workers are overworked, underpaid and forced to endure dangerously poor labor conditions. Unfortunately, these conditions are only considered when they had gone too far, like when the Rana Plaza building collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013. Garment factory workers for companies like Children’s Place and Walmart died that day - at least 1,129 workers in total - and these companies simply moved production to another factory building with the same horrible conditions.
Understanding the perils of fast fashion is important because it affects the world we live in deeply, and it's something we partake in daily. But by changing our fashion habits, we can halt fast fashion and its plethora of damaging effects on the environment and the human race.
How to Put a Stop to Fast Fashion
This industry is one that is heavily reliant on the consumer. We buy into the trends. We dictate the market. We can make a change by avoiding fast fashion brands and their constant cycle of trend-to-trash clothing waste. You can lower your fashion consumption by buying products that are made to last, ones that use high-quality materials and outlive flashy trends. These items might be more expensive up-front, but the lessened need to buy new clothes every season will make these pieces much cheaper in the long run. You can find numerous brands on Well-Made World’s site that sell a wide variety of sustainable, ethically made clothing pieces. So audit your closet, check out Well-Made World’s fashion offerings, and take your first steps away from fast fashion and towards a brighter future.