Fast fashion has become a bit of a buzzword in the fashion industry in recent years.
With everyone being much more aware of making better choices for ourselves and the environment, we are all starting to look at how we can improve our carbon footprint, and live more sustainably.
One big thing that we are all trying to do is use less plastic, from every other person having a hydro flask, to using beeswax wraps instead of cling film for preserving film, we all are trying to be better.
One area we should now move our attention to, is the clothes that we wear.
Let’s have a look at why.
What Is Fast Fashion?
The world moves so much faster now that it used to only ten years ago, let along twenty or thirty years ago. This is mainly due to the advent of the internet and social media, with products being available at the touch of the button and influencers showcasing different trends almost every day.
Fast fashion is mass produced, cheap clothing. It uses low quality, low value materials and production methods to bring the fashion from catwalk to high street in a matter of days.
As fashion changes so quickly, these fashions tend to be worn for a season, or less, before the next design is on the shelves, and in people’s wardrobes.
Marketing has a lot to answer for, as soon as one design is on the high street, they will start pushing the next thing, to keep sales high, leaving the average consumer to feel as if they are always on the back foot, and having to buy new things.
The Human Impact Of Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is mass produced, often producing the exact same garments for different companies, and putting personalized sewing labels in each one to differentiate between them.
To keep the cost of production low, the production of these garments is often outsourced to countries where workers do not have as many rights as infirst world countries.
They often work long hours, with no breaks, for very little money, this method has even been labelled slave labour, as this is exactly what it is.
You may hear a fashion house saying that they pay the legal minimum wage, and whilst this sounds good, they are probably talking about the legal minimum wage in the country the clothes are being produced in. The legal minimum wage in America is about four or five times more than the legal minimum wage in India or China for example.
Children are often also used for production in the fast fashion industry, and as there are no legal protections, they, along with adults can work up to fourteen or sixteen hours a day to meet demands from their employers.
The Environmental Impact Of Fast Fashion
It is a well known fact, that the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet, second only to the hugely damaging oil industry.
It takes a lot of water to produce even one garment, and the waste water from production is often full of toxic waste like lead, and arsenic. This water is usually left untreated, and put straight back into the nearest waterway to the factory, and is incredibly damaging to the local wildlife, and any people that may take drinking water, or bathe in, that particular water course.
Fast fashion garments are usually made of cheap fabrics, such as polyester, or nylon. These are plastic based products, and as they are washed, they release microfibres into the environment, too small to be picked up by water treatment facilities. These are picked up by aquatic life, and then back into the food chain.
There are also the emissions from the factory to consider, which produce a lot of carbon dioxide as well as other greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming.
As consumers buy more and more clothing, they then dispose of anything that is ‘out of fashion’. A high percentage of clothing is not recycled or donated, and ends up being thrown into household waste. This then goes into landfill sites, and polyester type fabrics can take several hundred years to full biodegrade.
What Is Sustainable Clothing?
Sustainable fashion is the opposite to fast fashion, and is clothing that is more towards carbon neutral, and is made from more natural fibres. It is made to last, and be worn for years rather than months, or weeks.
Sustainable clothing should be made with natural fibers like cotton, or linen, or even recycled fibres.
There are also brands who market themselves as sustainable, or ethical, and you should be able to see exactly where their clothes are manufactured, and how their workers are treated.
What Else Can You Do?
In order to make your fashion choices more sustainable, you can buy more natural fibres from more ethical companies, but there are also other things you can do.
You can wash your clothes only when you have to, rather than too often, and at a lower temperature than you normally would, to save energy.
Buying vintage, or thrifting clothing is another great way to reuse clothes that might otherwise have ended up in landfill. If you are good at sewing, you can make items to fit, or if not, you should be able to find a good seamstress or friend who can help you alter clothes to fit.
Rather than throwing a clothing item away if it gets damaged, or worn, learn to repair it. If you don’t feel that you can do this yourself, find someone who can, or teach yourself from various youtube videos available.
Learn to develop your own style, rather than what society tells you that you should be wearing from one week to the next. You can then invest in some high quality pieces that will last you for many years.
Have a swap with friends, so you can try out different fashions and ideas without contributing to the fashion industry.
As you can see, there is something that everyone of us can do to help make fashion more sustainable. Even if you can’t make huge changes, just doing one or two of these things can really help.