People's desire to purchase cheap clothes and discard them at a frighteningly fast rate is the founding stone for fast fashion. But what is the real cost of this practice, and how does it harm our environment?
From environmental crisis, modern slavery to gender-based workplace discrimination, the fashion industry is tainted with hundreds of negative outcomes.
Previously, companies produced clothes locally, and the increase in prices created an increase in labor wages which created a cycle of increased production, consumption, and wages.
It also led to more employment opportunities for workers who would make the products. This was a sustainable cycle of production and consumption. However, things have changed significantly now.
What Is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is the idea of getting your hands on the newest styles as fast as they hit the market. What makes it a problem is the fact that these clothes are discarded after a few uses.
Fast fashion is detrimental to our environment as it pollutes the planet, exploits workers, and harms animals.
It gives birth to the idea that repeating outfits make your clothing choices irrelevant, and you must sport the newest clothes that hit the market. Unfortunately, this leads to overconsumption and overproduction, which places the global fashion industry amongst our world's largest pollutants.
Clothes shopping was an occasional practice. Shoppers only bought new clothes seasonally or when they would outgrow what they had. However, the prices for clothes significantly dropped in recent years, and the clothing cycle sped up, with shopping sprees becoming a new hobby for many people.
The toxic chain of fast fashion started to dominate our society with online shopping promoting overconsumption.
Unfortunately, many fashion pioneers neglected the harm fast fashion caused to our planet until 2013, when the Rana Plaza, a clothing manufacturer in Bangladesh, collapsed. Over 1000 workers died in the incident. This led to many people questioning the true cost of the $5 shirts Rana Plaza produced.
The dark side of fast fashion revealed that the fashion industry exploited cheap labor in various countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Unfortunately, Bangladesh, the second-largest clothes exporter globally, has extremely low wages for workers.
The Real Cost of Fast Fashion and Why Is It Bad?
It is essential to look into the environmental and human costs of the toxic system of fast fashion. This business model encourages shoppers to purchase cheap quality clothes, wear them a few times, and discard them.
Here's the real cost of fast fashion and its detrimental effect on our planet.
Pollutes Our Planet
Fast fashion has an immense impact on our planet. The negative impact of fast fashion includes the use of toxic textile dyes that come at a cheap cost. These toxic dyes pollute our rivers and make the fashion industry one of the largest pollutants of clean water.
Environmentally conscious movements are pressuring the fashion industry to remove dangerous chemicals via detoxing campaigns. In addition, they want brands to use sustainable methods to produce garments that do not cause land and water pollution.
Besides the environmental cost of fast fashion, it comes at a human cost. Fast fashion is impacting garment workers who continue to work in dangerous environments. They get low wages and have no fundamental human rights.
Unfortunately, it’s not only the underpaid workers in factories that are facing the brunt of fast fashion. Everyone in the supply chain, from the farmer to the distributor is affected by the brutal practices of the fashion industry, including use of toxic chemicals, unsafe working conditions, long working hours, and low wages.
Workers worldwide are exploited and subjected to poor and unsafe working conditions. Yet, these workers risk their lives to produce cheap garments. Well-known fashion brands, such as Mango, Zara, and H&M are infamous for taking advantage of low labor costs in underdeveloped countries.
Notably, exploitative working environments aren't exclusive to the Global South only, as garment workers in Leicester have a pay rate of £3.5 per hour. A fraction of the minimum wage.
Fast fashion also impacts animals across the globe as microfibers, and toxic dyes pollute the waterways. The land ingests these chemicals and toxins and affects marine life by becoming a part of the food chain.
The fashion industry uses products such as fur, leather, and wool. Unfortunately, it puts the animals at risk. Most brands pass off cat and dog fur as faux fur to shoppers who do not conduct meaningful research.
There is an unlimited amount of real fur being produced on illegal fur farms, and it's becoming cheaper for brands to buy real fur instead of producing faux fur.
A Solution to Fast Fashion Crisis
A consumer mindset needs to change for the sustainable fashion industry. Shoppers must become increasingly aware of environmentally friendly products. They need to conduct meaningful research before trusting brands that use greenwashing to manipulate shoppers.
In addition to this, many startups are offering sustainably produced accessories and clothes that do not harm the environment. Most of them make their products with sustainable materials. The products are also more durable, allowing consumers to say goodbye to the "throw-away trend."
Many brands have realized that their consumers have become eco-conscious, and they're moving towards a virtuous cycle of production and consumption by investing in 100% recyclable materials.
Consumers have immense power to create an active sustainable landscape for brands. With the acceleration of the climate crisis, environmentalists are creating more awareness amongst the consumers.
Most people take active measures to reduce their carbon footprint because they realize that every item they purchase impacts the environment. As a result, they continue to invest in brands that make eco-friendly choices.
If you're a part of the vicious cycle of fast fashion, you're equally responsible for contributing to the cycle of poverty, exploitation, and pollution.
Next time you are tempted to purchase a piece of clothing, make sure that it's reusable/recyclable. In addition, you must invest in eco-friendly brands such as Hemp & Hope that use sustainable hemp microfiber for making products. Under the current global crisis, it is only appropriate and wise to switch to eco-friendly practices.