I bought a pretty gilded necklace two weeks ago from a fast fashion brand only to find out a gold plating wearing off revealing the nickel underneath. Of course, I wasn’t expecting a super long-wearing quality from my cheap necklace, yet, it made me ditch my fast fashion habits as a customer. Fast fashion brands like H&M, Forever 21, Zara… We love shopping these shops, they offer us irresistible deals and trendy clothes that are often cheap, however, when you hear the reasons why I am breaking up with fast fashion, you will think twice before heading out to shopping.
What is fast fashion?
Fast Fashion is a fashion sector that creates 52 “micro-seasons” per year unlike the traditional method of creating only two seasons for Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. 52 “micro-seasons” per year means there will be new pieces coming to the stores every week.
Trend to Trash
The ultimate goal is to make you think you are “out of trend” after a week you buy your new items, and push you to buy new ones. Designing new items for every week of the year sounds a really hard work to do, right? Then how do fast fashion brands manage to maintain their policies? They copy well-known designers’ designs and use cheap labor and materials. Therefore they can sell cheap clothing every week.
The True Cost of Fast Fashion
The competition is so harsh between the fast fashion brands. In order to produce more, brands lay all the burden on the laborers and they seek new ways how they can produce their materials in a cheaper way. This leads fast fashion brands to get their items produced in underdeveloped countries where they can benefit from cheap labor. Fast fashion brands get their items produced via subcontractors and the conditions in the factories, mainly in sweatshops, that are controlled by these subcontractors are really harsh. Including child labor, laborers in the fast fashion industry are working in inhumane conditions. Cheap labor is worse than we think. There are families in the poorest regions of the world, especially in the far east, who live in a one-room home in the slums. Fast Fashion factories recruit these desperate families and both parents and children of the family work as hard as they can for long hours to sew the clothes that we put in our closets. We can say that this is modern slavery as the brands ignore basic needs of the workers, make them work for the whole day and pay them so little that they are confined to work in these hard conditions in order to survive. Forbes’ article about fast fashion addresses this issue saying “Fast fashion disempowers women. With fast fashion, you trap a generation of young women into poverty. 75 million people are making our clothes today. 80% is made by women who are only 18 – 24 years old. It takes a garment worker 18 months to earn what a fashion brand CEO makes on their lunch break.”
Fast Fashion Versus The Environment
Fast fashion items are designed to be fall apart so that you will replace that item quickly. We buy a cheap basic t-shirt and stop wearing it after it becomes deformed, however, there is a huge environmental impact of that seemingly harmless basic t-shirt. In order to produce items that have cheap price tags, fast fashion industry adopts production policies that are environmentally corruptive. The biggest impact is on water. According to Forbes’ article “Cotton producing countries like China and India are already facing water shortages, and with water consumption projected to go up 50% by 2030, these cotton-growing nations face the dilemma of choosing between cotton production and securing clean drinking water.” Another negative impact of fast fashion industry affects our health. They use many toxic chemicals on our clothing such as lead, pesticides, insecticides, formaldehyde, and flame-retardants which are disrupting hormones and causing cancer along with their hazardous impact to marine life when breaking down in nature.
“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying” says Lucy Siegle. Now that we are aware of these facts, here are some ways to combat fast fashion.
1- Learn it: Ethical Fashion is the Next Fashionable Thing
Ethical and sustainable – also known as slow fashion – fashion aims to produce things that have a lower impact on the environment while have a positive benefit to people both producing and buying the item. It represents an approach to encourage customers to care about production background of the clothes they buy. Stella McCartney pioneers the sustainable fashion movement. She reveals her thoughts about this issue in an interview she made with Vogue by saying, “I’m hoping what will happen is in 10 years, people will look back at the fact that we killed billions of animals and cut down millions of acres of rainforest, and [used] water in the most inefficient way—we can’t sustain this way of living. So I’m hoping people will look back and say, ‘Really? That’s what they did to make a pair of shoes, seriously?’ If you’re lucky enough to have a business on this planet, you have to approach it in this [sustainable] way.”
2- Invest in Quality, not Quantity
Don’t buy many cheap jumpers that will wear off after the first wash, try to shop high-quality brands for fewer clothes. Even though it seems that you pay more, it actually saves you money in the long term as high-quality clothing will last longer.
3- Shop Vintage Clothing or Give a Chance To Your DIY Skills
Vintage shops are treasure troves, you can check the stores for great pieces with affordable prices. Also, don’t forget that there are hidden treasures in your own wardrobe waiting to be reused. There are many super easy, no-sew DIY hacks on the internet, watch the DIYs to get your creative ideas flow. There are also great ethical fashion brands in the business, you can find them online and shop for their eco-friendly and fashionable items.
4- Get inspired
Emma Watson took Instagram to raise awareness of ethical fashion and started an account to post her eco-friendly looks from her wardrobe. You can check her inspiring style here: https://www.instagram.com/the_press_tour/?hl=en
Last August Marie Claire published its first-ever sustainability issue. “The more we learned about sustainability, the more we realized we had to learn” says editor-in-chief Anne Fulenwider. “40 Sustainable Items to Shop from Our First-Ever Sustainability Issue” replaced the traditional “The 10 Best Beauty Products for Summer”. This is a great step for sustainable fashion. Take a look
You can watch the True Cost documentary, to learn more about fashion industry “from the brightest runways to the darkest slums”. As it stated on the documentary’s website, “True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?”
Which clothing companies are on the path to delivering toxic-free fashion? Detox trendsetters or fake fashion greenwashers? You should learn more about Greenpeace’s the Detox Catwalk and see how are your favorite fashion brands performing on a toxic-free future?
Written by Melis Türkü Topa