By Pia Abou Jaoude
Thanks to low cost fashion retailers, keeping pace with today’s ever changing fashion trends is quite easy. New collections become available every couple of weeks and can be bought without using up all your savings, allowing everyone to stay fashionable. However, were you ever curious to know why some brands manage to be so cheap while others charge much higher prices?
Fast fashion has been a hot topic for the last two decades and has transformed everyday consumer behavior. So how did this industry which is now the biggest producer of waste in landfills and responsible for immense greenhouse gas emissions emerge? To gain a better understanding of how this all began let us unravel the concept of fast fashion.
The Rise of Fast Fashion
Back in the 20th century fashion became more accessible for all social classes. In the period of rapid industrialization, new technologies were adopted and improved upon. Moreover, machines slowly replaced labor forces, allowing for quicker and easier clothing manufacturing. Technological advancements in sewing machines and other machinery enabled a high volume of production in a short period of time.
From here, the production of garments increased and transportation became easier and faster. In order for businesses to increase their profits, they looked to developing countries for a new labor force. In countries like China, India, Bangladesh and Turkey, production costs were much lower and workers could be paid much less. Additionally, synthetic materials were available for cheap in abundance.
These companies aimed to replicate luxury designs at a fast pace with worse quality and cheaper prices. This strategy was unbelievably convenient and therefore attracted a large customer base. This advancement in production of clothes created a huge opportunity for businesses but simultaneously created a huge amount of waste since the garments did not have a long life cycle due to the cheap quality. This is just one way the industry negatively impacts the environment.
Slow Fashion in a Fast Fashion World
Fashion was once slow moving, due to the time-consuming process of producing garments. Clothing was an expensive investment. Because of all the harm produced by the fast fashion industry, there has been a push to bring back thoughtful purchasing and avoid cheap chain retailers like Shein, Zara and H&M.
Social media’s involvement in the fashion world ignites constant new trends which leads to individuals feeling the need to always keep up and be trendy. This results in the growth of consumerism which has a direct impact on communities around the world as well as the environment.
Not only does fast fashion generate high levels of waste but also a large carbon footprint. The main player in this toxic industry is textile, since it contains high amounts of hazardous dyes and chemicals which end up in landfills. Industrial waste is produced excessively resulting in 17-20% of water pollution, threatening the world’s aquatic wildlife (Kant, 2012). In addition to the negative effects of producing and shipping goods, our old and unwanted apparel contributes to the ever-growing garbage piles as society consumes, hoards, and discards new clothes at record levels.
Another crucial aspect that should be mentioned are the worker rights and promoting fairer wages in this devastating field. With publicity against the industry and exposure of the behind the scenes of the process, some brands have started shifting their business models to be more ethical. Meanwhile other companies remain committed to the short-term profits and choose to continue with their harmful practices.
It is of importance to reorient consumer knowledge to this new field in order to draw a line between fast and slow fashion. Living in a fast fashion world, it can be very challenging to participate in slow fashion, but it just might fall into the hands of us as consumers to convince the business to change. This is your reminder to thoughtfully buy clothes that you will love and wear for years, not just until the trend cycle changes.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash