And why you should stop buying it!
Fast Fashion is Born
Up until about 20 years ago, shopping for clothing used to be an occasional event. We went from shopping for changing seasons, special events, or outgrowing clothing to shopping much more frequently, and often as a hobby or form of expression. In the late 1990s and 2000s, clothing become a lot cheaper and more available, beginning the fast fashion industry. The industry was accelerated by the advent of online shopping and fast fashion retailers took over, imitating the looks and design elements from the top fashion brands and reproducing them quickly and cheaply. As we all know, with low costs often come hidden costs, and fast-fashion has many.
"Buy Less. Choose Well. Make it Last"
What is Fast Fashion?
Fast fashion is a business model that uses cheap materials and labor to rapidly create clothing that is trendy. A few elements comprise fast fashion brands, including having thousands of styles that are on trend, extremely short turnaround time between when clothing is seen on the catwalk or in media and when it hits the shelves, offshore manufacturing where labor is the cheapest due to low wages without adequate rights or safety, limited quantity of a particular garment with new stock arriving in store every few days, and cheap materials of low quality, where clothes degrade after just a few wears and get thrown away.
Environmental Impact of Fast Fashion
Believe it or not, fashion is the 2nd most polluting industry on Earth, right behind oil. With a huge production of textiles, comes major waste. 9.5 million tons of clothing end up in US landfills every year. Cheap, toxic textile dyes are often used, making the fashion industry the second largest polluter of clean water globally after agriculture.
Common textiles include synthetic varieties that are derived from fossil fuels and contribute to global warming, such as polyester. Unfortunately, polyester often sheds microplastics when washed, making their way to our oceans and waterways. Conventional cotton is also used, which requires enormous quantities of water and toxic pesticides, taking a toll on natural resources in surrounding communities.
Human Impact of Fast Fashion
In order to keep costs down, fast fashion makes use of cheaper chemicals and pesticides that are often toxic to farmers and cause physical and mental impacts. Much of fast fashion impacts garment workers who have been found to work in dangerous environments for very low wages, with only 2% earning a living wage.
Animal Impact of Fast Fashion
The fast fashion industry impacts wild animals that live in or drink from waterways contaminated by toxic dyes, as well as those that ingest microplastics that make their way to the oceans. The pesticides on conventional cotton can contaminate the soil and impact migratory species like birds, insects, and small mammals that come into contact with these farms.
These chemicals can seep into the soil and find their way to water as well.
Please donate your old clothes! Studies show that about 95% of textiles that end up in landfills could have been recycled or upcycled. Retail therapy is only a temporary fix, but clothing that ends up in the landfills is not! Thrifting is a great option, especially if more people donate quality items. Avoid buying clothing that fits a fast fashion model, support sustainable companies that make an effort to provide quality fair-trade clothing options that reduce the carbon footprint.
Written by Zulma Fernandez