What Is Fast Fashion and Why Should You Care?
Have you ever been on TikTok and noticed everyone seems to be wearing the same top? Then, only a few days later you notice the exact same top in the window of every store you visit and in every online advertisement? Then you’ve seen fast fashion at work.
We now consume 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year, which is a 400% increase from the year 2000. We’re also going through our clothes much faster. The average person buys 60% more pieces of clothing and only keeps the clothes for half as long as they used to. How is this possible? Through fast fashion. If you’re not familiar with fast fashion, keep reading to learn what it is and why you should care about it.
Fast Fashion Business Model
Historically, the fashion industry had four seasons a year. This meant that there was time to design, produce, and market clothing before it actually showed up in any stores. But this all changed when online shopping became the norm. Now, online shopping is a hobby that you can partake in any time of the day, any day of the week. Big retailers seized this as their opportunity to become the source of cheap, trendy clothes.
The largest fast fashion retailers receive new shipments every single day in order to keep up with what are now 52 micro-seasons each year. In other words, there is a new collection every single week instead of just 4 times per year. That’s a lot of clothing that will one day end up in a landfill or the ocean. In fact, to help keep up with this, one study found that trendy clothes are made to last no more than 10 wearings.
A fast fashion company’s business model is simple. Money is more important than the environment and sustainability. Brands know that trends appear and disappear quickly, meaning garments will be thrown away quickly after purchase. So, they make these clothes as cheaply as possible to keep up. Ultimately, this leads to the exploitation of workers, overproduction of waste, and overconsumption.
Why You Should Care about Fast Fashion
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking fast fashion means there are more options! The sheer variety of pieces available at any given time is great, what could the problem be? However, there are two major drawbacks to the fast fashion industry. These are the impact on the environment and the exploitation of workers.
Impact on the Environment
Fast fashion has a huge impact on the environment. Two of the major components of this impact on the environment are the use of cheap fabrics and toxic dyes. The dyes used in cheap clothes often contaminates nearby clean water sources. It goes without saying that these toxic dyes also aren’t safe for the people working with them all day long.
In addition, over 11 million tons of clothing get thrown away each year. Many of these clothes contain toxic chemicals that don’t break down easily and will end up circulating through air pollution. This is part of the reason why the fashion industry leaves a carbon footprint even greater than other industries such as aviation or oil.
Exploitation of Workers
A few years ago, Global Labor Justice (GLJ) found that two of the major fast fashion retailers were responsible for the mistreatment of female Asian garment workers in their Asian factories. These women experienced physical abuse, sexual harassment, poor working conditions, and were often forced to work overtime with little to no pay. The extreme number of items that need to be produced every day often leads to horrible policies like not allowing workers to use the bathroom or eat lunch. Facing the constant threat of termination, these workers are extremely unlikely to report these instances of abuse. The GLJ report found that workers who do make complaints are often blacklisted and will not be able to find a job at any of the other factories.
Ways to Combat Fast Fashion
Just because everyone else is shopping fast fashion doesn’t mean you have to as well. There are a lot of other sustainable ways you can shop for trendy clothes.
There are certain trends that you just know will only be in style for a couple of months. Try to make most of your clothing purchases with the goal that they shouldn’t go out of style in the next year. If you don’t see yourself wearing something a year from now, it’s probably not worth buying.
Shop Brands With Values
Do your research on brands that have the same values you do. Luckily, a lot of business processes have some level of transparency today. A quick Google search may be all you need to find out where a brand’s clothing is made or how their workers are treated. There are more sustainable businesses out there than ever before. Even if it might take some initial digging, you’ll be sure to find somewhere that carries the styles you’re looking for. When in doubt, trust smaller boutiques with unique styles like Pretty & All.
Donate or Trade
Sometimes you might just get tired of a piece of clothing even though it’s still completely intact. In this case, there are much better ways you can eliminate it from your wardrobe without throwing it in the garbage. You could donate it to a thrift shop or a charity store like Goodwill. You could also trade it with a friend who will appreciate it as if it’s a brand new piece. If the clothing is not in a shape to be worn anymore, you can look into textile donation or recycling centers for a sustainable way to dispose of it.
You might be washing your clothes too much! Many of us actually are. Overwashing can cause the fabrics to break down and shorten the lifespan of your clothing. Using your own discretion, don’t be afraid to reuse clothes in between washes. This will help you save water and your clothes from breaking down! As a general rule, we never throw our favorite anything in the dryer. You’ll get the most wear out of your clothing if you skip the dryer and let it air dry instead.
Re-Think Fast Fashion Purchases
Fast fashion is everywhere these days and is encouraged by our love of social media. In a world where outfit repeating on your Instagram might as well be criminal, it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying cheap clothes and replacing them frequently. But this is often coming at a cost, to the environment and other peoples’ working conditions. Shopping more sustainably is something that will not only make you look good, but feel good as well.