You might have heard the term “Fast Fashion” here and there, not really knowing what it means or how it affects you personally.
And before I dive in, the point of this post isn’t meant to make you do a complete 180 degree turn-around in your shopping habits. Rather, my goal is to raise awareness about a huge issue: Fast Fashion has changed our buying habits – for the worse.
With that said, what exactly is Fast Fashion?
Fast Fashion refers to cheap, and mass-produced clothing with a very fast turnover.
For example, you go to your favorite clothing shop and buy a couple of t-shirts. You return to the same shop a couple of days later and they have a completely new collection of shirts.
Stores that promote Fast Fashion are turning over their collections in as little as 2 weeks. The clothing sold at stores like this is being mass-produced to keep up with trends, and for the purpose to try and take as much consumer money as possible.
Back in the day, retail stores used to stock clothes for multiple seasons.
However, people’s desire for new products created the need to wear the latest and trendiest looks have since pushed stores to offer more products for fewer seasons at a given time.
Retailers have been able to make this happen by taking advantage of cheap labor, largely from countries like China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. As soon as a trend starts, the stores are rushing to promote the trend and by doing so, take advantage of you.
Up until now you might be thinking, “Okay this may be correct, but how is Fast Fashion harmful?”
This answer is two-fold.
It is harmful to the workers who make the garments and to the environment as well.
To sell these low cost garments, stores need to buy products really cheaply. Labor is possibly the biggest cost per item and so the less workers get paid, the cheaper an item costs, and the greater the profit margins are for stores.
A recent exposee in the New York Times showed clothing workers in Los Angeles were being paid as little as $2.77 an hour – way below minimum wage. The stores claim no responsibility for the low wages and poor working conditions for the garment makers, but they are certainly the driving force in encouraging these poor work conditions. They feed the demand and do not ensure their suppliers adhere to ethical standards.
Fast Fashion mostly exploits overseas workers. With fewer regulations outside of the US, intense production schedules and outrageous companies’ demands are often put ahead of safety and workers’ rights.
Workers can be paid pennies per hour. There have been a number of life-taking incidents, like the Dhaka fire in 2012, and the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse, which killed a combined total of over 1,200 Bangladeshi apparel workers and injured many more.
The United Nations Environmental Program claims that 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the clothing industry, largely as the result of moving clothing across continents.
From shipping and flying clothes from where they are made to where they are sold, clothing manufacturing also increases water pollution, as a result of the harsh chemicals used when making and dying material.
Fast Fashion isn’t cost-effective. At first glance, Fast Fashion looks affordable. But a hallmark of these products is a low quality and low durability of the garments.
A cheap shirt often starts to show signs of wear after only a few washes. So after a couple of months, it gets thrown out. It then needs to be replaced, meaning you shell out more money on yet another Fast Fashion shirt.
Every few months you spend money on cheap shirts, so you don’t notice how it adds up. But, if you had bought one high-quality shirt to start with, it may initially have cost you more – but it lasts so much longer, and in the end you do save.
There are a few strategies you can adopt to avoid supporting Fast Fashion:
- Set your priorities.
If keeping fashion workers across the globe safe, saving money, and saving the environment is important to you, look for locally made items or items with a fair trade certification.
- Make a point to know your brands.
Look for brands that have ethical business practices, and give them your business. Trendy may seem like a good goal, but having a strong sense of your own personal style can help you avoid following the herd and buying what’s in style this instant. This will help you buy more wisely, and you will be less impulsive – which is always a responsible thing.
- Keep clothes out of landfills.
This means fixing small things that are broken – like buttons and zippers, donating used clothes to shelters and other charitable organizations, and recycling when you can’t repair or donate.
You may consider opting out of buying new clothes altogether. Try buying clothes from consignment, or other used clothing stores.
You can often find great options that are better quality (and may even be cheaper) than buying Fast Fashion trends – with all the added benefits.
You could even organize a clothing swap with a few of your friends. Whatever you choose to do to make a difference in how (and what) you buy- be creative!
And if budget is an issue, aim for a capsule wardrobe. This way you can buy better quality pieces that all mix and match. While spending more and having fewer items in your wardrobe may make you feel jilted, take comfort in the fact that you have supported companies that go the extra mile to take care of their workers, and the environment.
Want to learn more?
Here are some documentaries you can watch to get more information:
River Blue: How fast fashion is killing our water sources and marine life.
Slowing Down Fast Fashion: Delves into the consumer’s desire for cheap clothing. Also it looks into alternative solutions.
I want to hear from you!
Did you find this inspiring? What do you think you will change about your buying habits to avoid fast fashion?
Drop a comment below and let me know!