With the ever-changing landscape of fashion, there is bound to be a tendency for superfluous waste. Trends come and go quickly and to keep up with them, many well-known fashion brands make cheap clothes that are fast and easy to manufacture. This leads to fast fashion, which happens through quick cycles of trends that entices people to keep buying new to stay in vogue and on-trend. This issue has only been accelerated by the rise of online retail stores like Fashion Nova, Pretty Little Things and Misguided. Fashion Nova CEO, Richard Saghian, even claimed that the brand releases 600 new items each week. Brands like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara have been some of the biggest contributors to fast fashion and its effect on the world around us.
There are many aspects of fast fashion that are detrimental to the fashion industry, including its reliance on using ideas from designer brands to make dupes. However, consumers are becoming more aware of the negative impact fast fashion has on the environment and the fashion industry is starting to pay attention.
Impact on the Environment
The entirety of the fast fashion process has contributed to environmental issues on the planet. 10% of the world’s carbon emissions come directly from the fashion industry. From the way these clothes are made to when they are ultimately thrown away, cheaply made clothes create a path of destruction and waste for the majority of its lifespan. One contributing factor to this is that mass production of clothing requires the use of fossil fuels. Also, cheap clothes often are made up of mostly of synthetic fibers. These materials contain microfibers that end up in oceans and waterways. Every year, more than 500,000 tons of microfibers pollute the Earth’s water supply. About 60% of clothing worldwide contain polyester, which is the leading synthetic fiber that adds to water pollution.
Many garments also contain cotton, which is a plant that requires a lot of water for growth. Because of this, producing a single cotton t-shirt results in the use of more than 700 gallons of water. That is nearly a three year supply of water for the average person. That’s a lot of water.
But that only covers the making of and owning fast fashion garments.
Because of the quick cycle of seasons in fast fashion, people are buying and throwing away clothes at a faster rate. Every year, 85% of textiles are sent to landfills. The average person will buy 68 clothing items each year and will only wear them seven times before throwing them away. If everyone in the United State did this, that would lead to 26 billion articles of clothing going to waste in America alone.
Impact on Workers
Fast fashion is a women’s issue. 80% of people who make the clothes we wear are women. Many of them are under the age of 25 and work for less than $3 a day. They also face harsh working conditions under severe time constraints as fast fashion becomes more consumed in modern society.
Many of the garments from fast-fashion brands come from Asia. In some Asian countries, construction guidelines are not followed, causing some factories to be built that are not structurally sound. In 2013, more than 1,000 Bangladeshi garment workers died after their factory building collapsed. The building’s owner was warned of the hazard but chose to ignore it and forced his employees to continue working. This was one of many incidents where garment workers were injured or lost their lives to keep their workflow going.
How You Can Help
Though the brunt of solving this issue falls on large corporations that profit from fast fashion, everyone can do their part to reduce the environmental and social impact of the industry.
- Buy secondhand: This reduces the amount of clothing that is thrown out and can also help people discover timeless pieces that can be worn in any season. If you’re looking for secondhand luxury items, Repurpose is the place for you.
- Donate old clothes: Donating old clothes could greatly reduce how the fashion industry contributes to waste and pollution.
- Avoid fast fashion brands: This includes stores like Zara, H&M, Fashion Nova, etc. You can visit this link for a comprehensive list of fast fashion brands.
- Invest in well-constructed pieces that will last long: Here is a great guide on how to find quality clothing that will last you years of wear.
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Blog post by Kayla Sabre