What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion refers to the expedited manufacturing processes of clothing and accessories. Retailers often receive daily shipments of inexpensive mass produced trendy products in order to constantly offer their customers new products, in turn, encouraging them to make frequent visits to their stores and/or websites to shop. Products are often lacking in quality and are sometimes referred to as, “throw away fashion”, meaning that they are often discarded in a short amount of time just as something new becomes available in stores.
Fast fashion companies employ tons of people. Isn’t that a good thing?
Yes, hundreds of thousands of people are employed by fast fashion companies around the world, including the 1,100 people that were killed in the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013. Despite several warnings about cracks in the building, employees were ordered to return to work by building owner, Sohel Rana, which ultimately lead to their tragic death. Unfortunately, many fast fashion garment factories do not offer safe or sanitary working conditions…the basic luxuries that we might take for granted at our jobs here in the U.S. like working toilets and clean air to breathe are simply not an option. Fast fashion garment factories often mistreat their employees meaning they face verbal and physical abuse if they are not working fast enough or if they dare make a complaint about their working conditions, you know, like asking for medical attention for injuries or even proper lighting so they can see what they are sewing. So, to circle back to the original question, no, this is definitely NOT a good thing.
How does fast fashion hurt the environment?
Fashion is one of the dirtiest industries on the planet. Fashion, in part, is meant to be a form of art that people use as a vessel for self-expression. Polluted water, soil, and, air is not something that anyone should be proud to endorse. Harsh chemicals used in cotton farming, which is the most common fabric used in 40% of manufactured clothing, uses 8 of the top 10 pesticides classified as moderately to highly hazardous according to the World Health Organization. Untreated dye wastewater that is released into fresh water can contaminate fish and other sea life, in turn, contaminating humans that consume the fish for food. Unfortunately, 80% of fast fashion that is commonly donated to charitable organizations end up in landfills and since they are often made of synthetic materials, they are not completely biodegradable and release harmful gasses into the air and soil. There is not anything fashionable about any of this.
Fast fashion is so affordable. Why would I pay more?
By continuing to support fast fashion retailers you are directly supporting the unethical treatment of people, actual human beings just like you and me, who are making your clothes. That $10 shirt might seem like a bargain, but what is the real cost? The difference is always compensated somewhere and it is usually at the expense of people, animals, and our environment. Paying more for quality clothing means that you are making an investment in yourself, in all of humanity, and in the future of our planet. Focusing on quality over quantity translates to preserving our natural resources and it can also save you money in the long run. The average American discards 70 pounds of apparel each year, according to the EPA, largely due to the poor quality of fast fashion. By investing in fewer items of quality clothing pieces that are made well, you will have a meaningful wardrobe of garments that are durable and designed to last for several years longer than any fast fashion item essentially saving you money.
If you are interested in learning more about the operations and business practices of fast fashion organizations please watch, “The True Cost”, directed by Andrew Morgan. It is an eye-opening documentary that analyzes and exposes the harsh realities of fast fashion and the global impact it has on the world as we know it.