Everything you need to know about "fast fashion".
The term “fast fashion” is used to describe trendy clothing and fashionable accessories that’s mass-produced to meet consumer demands. Most of the time, these items are made quite inexpensively and quickly in an effort to cut costs and deliver products to feed to the market as fast as possible.
A lot of people tend to think fast fashion is cheap, disposable clothing that's not made to last a long time. This kind of clothing often falls apart after a couple of washes or wears due to the lack of quality. It also tends to go out of style quickly because it’s made to meet society’s hunger for passing trends, not to set a trend.
Now, you're asking the question, “What is considered fast fashion and what’s not?” We can't state this enough; research your favourite brands that you're supporting and ask the hard-hitting questions if needed. Keep an eye out for clothing that’s priced low – there’s good reason it’s inexpensive, and someone somewhere might be paying the price.
Be weary when you're shopping from stores you would typically find in malls or those owned by big corporations. Not all of them are bad, but I encourage you to look into their environmental and labour standards.
The problems around fast fashion.
As with most mass-produced consumer goods; the problems with fast fashion is no different and is incredibly complicated. It's not an easy topic to deep-dive into and can be quite daunting and hard to wrap one's head around the issues. To make things a little easier and spare our sanity, I’ve broken down some of the key themes touching on fast fashion as a whole down below.
Water: It takes roughly 2,500 litres of water to make one cotton shirt and those shirts add up quickly. According to the World Resources Institute, that’s enough water for one person to drink for two and a half years.
Pollution: The fashion industry is directly responsible for about 15% of water pollution around the globe. It’s also to blame for about 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions going into our atmosphere.
Waste and landfills: Because fast fashion products either wear or go out of style pretty quickly, a lot of it ends up in landfills faster than your normal clothing.
While the pressure of consumption has caused fast fashion brands to improve the conditions in their factories, many of said workers are still subject to unsafe work environments. Young women between the ages of 16 and 25 manufacture about 70% of the apparel on the market and they’re often underpaid because greedy fast fashion companies hoard most of the profits. They’re forced to live in poverty, often unable to afford the bare minimum necessities for their families.
Our furry friends
Unfortunately, human beings aren’t the only beings that are directly impacted by the industry. Our furry friends are vulnerable too. For example, most of the world’s leather comes from India and China, where animal welfare legislation is non-existent and in the countries where those laws do exist, the legal protections are geared toward house pets and often don’t extend to animals raised for leather or other clothing materials.
Point being, when it comes to animal products used for clothing: if it doesn’t clearly state on the label that it’s ethically produced, rather turn your head the other way.
We’re constantly flooded with ads on social media designed to make us think that buying things you don't need will make you feel happier. The fast fashion industry isn’t just polluting our planet, it’s also polluting our minds. Our society experience immense pressure to follow the latest trends and never wear the same piece of clothing more than a hand full of times... While fashion seems innocent, fun, and a beautiful way to express our individuality, in that same light it can also make a person feel inadequate or bad about themselves.
The messages in these ads are pretty clear: You’ll be more attractive/successful/desirable/happy/ when you add these products to your wardrobe, but the more we buy, the more we end up throwing away.
A few easy ways to get out of the fast fashion bubble.
This may be a complicated issue, but together, as a society, we can influence big change. One small shift in the way you approach your clothing purchases has the power to make a difference in the world.
In today's day and age, there's no excuse to enlighten yourself on a topic. There are tons of incredible resources out there to help you learn more about the problems with fast fashion and what you as an individual can do to bring change. Check out Good On You, DoneGood and The Minimalists Podcast (episode #56 is filled with great info on clothing)
Practice conscious consumption and get your friends and family in on it.
Reducing overall consumption is the biggest part of stopping fast fashion, that means adopting a more minimalist approach to your wardrobe. If you do feel like buying something new, think carefully about whether or not you really need that piece of clothing as well. If you don’t really need it - do you just want it? There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself or filling the gaps in your closet, just choose the brands that you are supporting wisely. It all comes down to being mindful about when and how we buy.
Support more sustainable clothing brands.
If you're going to buy clothing, where should you look? There are ethical, sustainable clothing brands out there doing their best to put an end to the fast fashion industry. They’re changing the types of materials we use and how we source them. They’re treating workers with the respect they deserve, paying them fairly, and elevating minorities, women and people of colour. Some companies are even rethinking the entire fashion process from conception to closet.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with second-hand clothing.
There are so many ways to shop/give second-hand. Do clothing swaps with your friends and family, check out thrift stores or online thrift groups. Don’t forget to donate the clothing that’s no longer serving you so it doesn’t take up space in your closet. Think before you just throw away your old clothing, the more use we can get out of already exisiting clothes, the better for our environment.