Fast fashion: trendiness over Consciousness

The detrimental impacts of the fast fashion industry

The nature of various garment industries has shifted over the past few decades. Not only have clothing prices dropped significantly, but people are also able to obtain clothing that corresponds to the current style. However, a fashion trend typically doesn’t last for a long time, prompting people to get rid of their old clothes and buy new ones with unique characteristics. This vicious cycle of buying and disposing clothing is the cornerstone of the fast fashion industry.

The Concept of Fast Fashion

Essentially, “fast fashion” refers to the mass production of cheap, trendy clothing that quickly comes in and out of style. While the fast fashion concept has dangerous effects, it is highly favorable in terms of both production and consumption. In other words, manufacturing is done at groundbreaking speed, which allows the latest apparel styles to rapidly appear in the market. As a result, consumers are able to buy stylish clothing at very low prices while they’re still at the height of popularity. Since clothing from fast fashion industries is produced with synthetic fabrics like polyester, it quickly wears out and is typically worn less than five times. However, as fresh styles emerge into the market on an ongoing basis, consumers end up engaging in “inexpensive overconsumption,” buying more and more clothing to “update” their appearance.

Another eye-opening aspect about fast fashion industries is how they create their products. First of all, they heavily rely on low-cost, intensive labor practices. Working conditions are often unsanitary, and employees are paid much less than the average  living wage. In addition, many women have shown concerns about violence and harassment within the factories. Therefore, fast fashion industries can have a direct impact on the physical and mental health of their workers, as they are likely to succumb to disease and taxing demands.

A fast fashion factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Environmental Impacts of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion industries have proven to harm the environment in multiple ways. As mentioned previously, the clothing is made from synthetic fabrics like polyester, which is not biodegradable. In fact, it takes over 200 years for polyester to decompose, and it does not break down in the ocean. As a result, fast fashion industries generate a significant amount of textile waste; about 75% of our clothing ends up in landfills, and 72% of our clothing uses synthetic fibers.

Fast fashion industries also contribute to about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is approximately the same amount released by the aviation and shipping industries combined. Furthermore, fabrics like polyester are derived from fossil fuels, further reinforcing the impact of pollution and global warming.

The third environmental risk posed by fast fashion industries is their water usage. For each ton of dyed fabric, approximately 200 tons of water are required, making these companies the second-largest consumers of the world’s water supply. Also, in many countries where garments are produced, untreated waste waters that consist of toxic chemicals released from the clothing can pollute various bodies of water. This can have a severe impact on the health of aquatic species. 

This diagram illustrates the impact of synthetic fabrics on the health of the environment, animals, and human beings.

How to Identify a Fast Fashion Brand

Some of the major fast fashion brands include Zara, H&M, GAP, and TopShop. In order to help create a more sustainable environment, one should choose clothing from a good-quality brand that utilizes eco-friendly fabrics. The following are some ways in which one can recognize fast fashion clothing:

  • Thousands of styles are available, all of which highlight the latest trends.
  • There is a limited quantity of a particular piece of clothing.
  • The clothing is made from cheap low-quality materials.

Clothing styles come and go in the blink of an eye, but the mission of creating a sustainable environment will not disappear. And it begins with each individual choice to prioritize consciousness over trendiness.

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