What's the big deal with fast fashion?
When you think of buying new clothes, what do you think of?
Do you think of a ritualistic experience? Something that happens maybe twice a year to accommodate the seasons, something that happens at the same stores every year...
Or do you think of a continual experience? Maybe you buy clothes every week - whenever you see a really cute top on Instagram.
Shopping culture has changed dramatically over the years. The internet is more widespread, clothing prices started to drop, trend cycles sped up, and targeted ads have become hyper-intelligent. Together, these factors helped generate the concept of fast fashion.
Fast fashion is the practice emulating garments off the runway and selling them in a quick, cheap, and consequently unethical manner. It is a relatively new concept. Since its rise to popularity, clothing stores have benefited in a major way. With these new levels of consumption, brands produce about 52 “micro-seasons” a year—or one new “collection” a week. And clothing stores aren't the only ones benefitting - folks can now buy clothes with the click of 3 buttons with little to no money and get nearly the same look as their favorite influencer. However, everything that seems too good to be true... usually is. So what are the implications?
To put it bluntly, fast fashion is the largest contributor to climate change. It negatively affects our planet, people, and animals in a major way. This might seem doom-and-gloom, but it's an important topic to dive into (even if you're already aware of the impacts).
Fast fashion impacts garment workers who have been found to work in dangerous environments, for low wages, and without basic human rights. Fast fashion often exploits workers in 3rd-world countries to reduce production costs. On top of that, they don't prioritize the workers' safety. One popular example is the clothing manufacture warehouse in Bangladesh that collapsed in 2013. That infrastructure failure killed over 1,000 workers. Besides that, the toxic chemicals alone in the workplace can have a devastating affect on workers' physical and mental health. Simply put, the fast fashion industry does not prioritize workers' rights.
The fast fashion industry is also negatively impacting our environment. More than 60 percent of fabric fibers are now synthetics, which are derived from fossil fuels. Almost all clothing eventually ends up in a landfill (about 85 percent of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated), and will not decay. Even the process of producing fibers and textiles requires between 1.5 and 2 trillion gallons of water, and about 145 million tons of coal. Specifically, polyester is derived from fossil fuels. Not to mention the microfibers (microscopic pieces of plastic) that shed from polyester every time it goes through the wash, slide down our drains, and end up in the ocean.
Some more startling statistics:
More than 501m kg of unwanted clothing ends up in landfills across the nation each year. This doesn’t include the 94m kg exported overseas.
Americans sent 14 million tons of clothing to landfills in 2018.
The average American will throw out 81 pounds of clothing in a year. This totals up to about 26 billion pounds of textiles and clothing items in the landfill in a given year.
The average cotton shirt needs 2,700 liters of water to produce sufficient crop for one shirt – that’s the same amount that a human drinks over the course of 2.5 years.
The goal of this post is not to make folks feel guilty. Hell, even I indulge in fast fashion purchases from time to time. However, one of my main goals for Crummy is to educate folks on the damaging affects of the fast fashion industry and, more importantly, what we can do to fix it.
Here are some resources if you'd like to learn more:
Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution by Safia Minney
To Die For by Lucy Siegle
Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline
The Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black
Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book Of Fashion by Tansy E. Hoskins
Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change by Kate Fletcher
ReFashioned: Cutting Edge Clothing From Upcycled Materials by Sass Brown
Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best To Fast Fashion by Clare Press
Wardrobe Crisis with Clare Press
Conscious Chatter with Kestrel Jenkins
Wear Your Values
Fashion Revolution Podcast
Spirit Of 608 Podcast
The True Cost
Alex James Slowing Down Fast Fashion
The Next Black
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