Fast Fashion emerged and has been thriving over the past few years. This has been dominating the fashion industry by providing several and rapid changing clothing styles in short amounts of time. This also comes with the cheap prices that each company offers for their products, feeding more into the consumerist culture. Behind the fast changing and growing fashion industry lies the bitter truth, in which fast fashion has been damaging and contributing largely to the growing environmental crisis that is happening today.
Hundreds of factory/garment workers and laborers are continuously being given low wages, and are constantly deprived of proper working conditions. The Fashion Industry is one of the largest Industries and it has a huge impact in our world today. Throughout the years the demand for clothes has been continuously increasing, especially with the new trends that are coming up and the desire of the people for quick, trendy and cheap clothes.
Before, purchasing clothes was only done in certain times of the year, but not anymore.
During the late 1990s shopping became another form of entertainment and people wanted to own clothes seen on fashion runways, and or somehow similar to what they have seen. The demand for new clothes increased and because of this sudden change it sparked Fast Fashion.
Firstly, Fast Fashion focuses on speed in order to provide different collections of clothing to the consumers that are inspired from catwalks and new trends, and because of this, it enables them to buy clothes at a relatively cheap price.
Secondly, Fast Fashion focuses on manufacturing clothes that are cost efficient to be able to supply the demand of the consumers. This pushed Fashion Companies to continually produce clothes in order to stay relevant and trending in the industry, which resulted with more and more clothes being created that contribute to further harming the environment.
Fast fashion enables the production of various, cheaper clothing in a short period of time to be able to cope with the changing fashion seasons and trends. Most people still enjoy it but as years pass by, the true cost of fast fashion has become more evident. In this situation, those who affected are:
The garment workers are significantly suffering from the impacts of fast fashion. Workers from developing countries who have a difficult time finding jobs were employed by large fashion companies. The workers were paid less than the minimum wage but theyre given too much work which makes the cost of making clothes cheaper, able to manufacture large amounts of garments, and sell it at low prices. In many cases, the manufacturing of clothes is prioritized over the safety and environment of the workers.
Lastly, its production process makes our environment more polluted. Polyester which is the most used material in fashion, adds more plastic to the oceans as they shed microfibers. The chemicals and pesticides used in growing cotton to avoid crop failure, harms the soil. Toxic wastewaters are poured out of the local tanneries and contaminates drinking water. If this kind of production keeps up, there won’t be any land left to grow cotton. The damaged soil won’t be able to help the cotton grow. The other areas surrounding the factories are highly affected by the wastes emitted by said production. Consequently, the workers involved in the process are in danger of not only the harmful chemicals that they work with, but also the possibility of losing their jobs if the companies don’t think of a more efficient way of producing the products.
Fast Fashion is a growing problem worldwide, and will worsen even more if not addressed soon. With the Fashion Industry being the second largest contributor to pollution, Fast Fashion is a problem that has effects on a wide scale. Change must target all that goes into Fast Fashion, starting on a large scale with its production. Improvement on working conditions, the reduction of pollution and to lessen waste created should be main areas for change. Going deeper, a circular economy has been frequently discussed. Essentially, a circular economy is one that implies that for as long as possible, all materials and products are circulated among users in a safe, effective and just manner.
It would acknowledge the issues the fashion industry are facing, as well as consider how finite resources are, rejecting the current, unsustainable, linear model. Through this, it would address the fashion industry on a large scale, where not only fashion is targeted, but sportswear, shoes, even accessories and the likes. Circular economy, specifically circular fashion, would consider the entire lifetime of a product, from design and production, to marketing and sale, even the phase in which it is in the hands of the user and at the end of a products life. Fashion products would be made with sustainability in mind, long-lasting, efficient in resources, non-toxic, biodegradable, recyclable, and ethical.
On a smaller scale, even individual citizens can contribute in changing fast fashion. Consumerism encourages the consumption of goods and services in large amounts, and that this is economically desirable. Many do not really see the effects of their buying decisions, unaware of what went into the production of their goods or how they got them. Through mindful consumerism, individuals can be more accountable, responsible, and sustainable in what they consume, not only in fashion but even in their purchases generally. If and when one is purchasing new clothes, going for more high quality products not only give you your moneys worth, but would also be a more environmentally friendly choice that would last longer and would not need to be replaced often.
Even buying second-hand or exchanging clothing with friends and family avoids adding to the problem of fast fashion. Especially with the large amount of information resources nowadays, making ones self aware on the production of their clothing is very much accessible, as well helpful in making more mindful buying decisions. Much more has to be done in lessening the harsh impacts of fast fashion, but these aforementioned solutions are largely contributive in their own way.
First and foremost, fast fashion who provides us trendy and cheap clothes appear as more problematic because they have putted many lives, even our own environment at risk. Producing fast fashion really comes after high costs. Jo Wilkinson (2018) stated in his article: The Problem With Fast Fashion, that the fashion industry became the second largest generator of pollution of Earth, coming after oil. But after realizing the great costs of this type of fashion, factories or companies shows no sign of stopping the production of these clothes. Even after the accident happened in Bangladesh, fast fashion are still continue to be made. Moreover, it takes a lot of persuasion to convince everyone to stop buying and patronizing fast fashion clothes.
Clothes are being rapidly manufactured in order to supply the demand that the consumers have. As consumers it is important for us to be able to express ourselves specifically with the clothing items that we wear and here is where the problem starts. Almost every week, months, there are something new trending and in return these Fashion companies will create new clothes that will cater to the consumers based on something that is currently on trend, but of course this also means that the clothes that we previously owned are now not being used. Consumers buy at least 400% more clothes than decades ago, that we came from seeing an item as a product to seeing that item and then using it up, the way we treat toilet papers and cigarettes. This makes the problem worse and if something isnt done about it, all of us will just suffer in the end.
Lindsey Reid (2018) mentioned that, in 1960s the United States produced 90 percent of their clothes, but now it is at 3 percent. They have started to outsource their clothes from developing countries. Doing so enables them to save money because clothes are now much cheaper to produce. Americans revolutionized the fashion industry when they started outsourcing their production. Until now this has ultimately transformed how our clothes are being sold and bought by consumers.
So where do these used up clothes go? And what happens to them? How does this affect us? Used up clothes often pollute the waters making them toxic affecting drinking waters, aside from that soils are being affected, agricultural products and peoples health are at risk too, In addition to that, these Clothes take a while to decompose taking at least 30 -40 years. Decomposing clothes release methane which produce a really harmful greenhouse gas. Furthermore, synthetic fibers such a polyester and lycra can take hundreds of years before they completely decompose. And of course with how clothes are being rapidly manufactured, before even these clothes start to decompose, other used up clothes will contribute to the growing landfill of fashion waste, further harming our environment.
Documentaries, news coverages, as well as several articles have been made regarding the issues in the fast fashion industry. According to James Hitchings-Hales (2018), the poor and exploitive work conditions seen in massive fashion companies such as H&M and GAP have already been reported in the past.
The companies mentioned have been reported by the Global Labour Justice for the daily abuse faced by their female garment workers across factories in Asia. And this is because of the excessively ambitious targets and goals set by companies to keep fast fashion alive and to keep up with the high demand of consumers. Jennifer Rosenbaum, the US director of Global Labour Justice (2018), mentioned that gender-based violence is an outcome of the global supply chain structure, H&M and GAPs fast fashion supply chain model creates unreasonable production targets and underbid contracts, resulting in women working unpaid overtime and working very fast under extreme pressure.
Low wages, flexible contracts (or no contracts at all), as well as physical and emotional violence are some of the injustices that the female workers experience. Another example of this is the incident in 2013 wherein the Rana Plaza building collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As stated by Lindsey Reid (2018) in an article, the building was being occupied by several garment workers for western companies such as Walmart, Childrens Place, and Joe Fresh.
Workers in the factories told their managers about the cracks that can be seen in the building but were told to instead go back to work. The managers were also given an evacuation order but they ignored this and nothing was done to improve the safety of the place. This resulted to the collapse of the building in which 1,129 workers died and more were injured.