The problem with fast fashion

The fast fashion industry and its advocates, are contributing heavily to the destruction of the planet and its biomes, health, mental wellbeing, economic instability, communities and indigenous practises.

The prevalent issue with fast fashion is that it focuses on speed and low costs in order to deliver frequent new collections, inspired by catwalk looks and celebrity styles. However, fast fashion is not environmentally or socially sustainable, making it particularly bad for the environment, its inhabitants and communities.

When the pressure to reduce costs, and the time taken to create a product, increases for brands; corners are cut. Unethical conduct towards workers, the absence of a living wage, physical and sexual abuse, child labour, negative environmental impact, water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals and increasing levels of textile waste are just some of the true costs of fast fashion and cheap goods. 

Textile dyeing and waste

Not many people are aware of this but textile dyeing is the largest polluter of clean water globally. Many of the vibrant colours, prints and fabrics that can be seen in the market are achieved by the use of toxic chemicals. Some countries regulate strict bans on the use of these hazardous chemicals, because they are bio-accumulative, disruptive to hormones and carcinogenic. However, this is not the case with all factories and manufacturers around the world and some continue to practice unsafe manufacturing methods.

Textile waste is an unintended consequence of fast fashion, as more people are wanting to buy clothes and no longer keeping their old ones as long as they used to. The international expansion of fast fashion retailers exacerbates the problem to a global scale, as we are constantly bombarded with messages of obtaining something new and convinced that the items we already possess are no longer fashionable. We can argue that the fast fashion industry has made clothing seem ‘disposable’; a notion that previous generations would not have adopted.

Social impact of fast fashion

The rapidity with which fast fashion clothing production is moving, reveals a number of social challenges too.

According to non-profit Remake, there are 75 million people making our clothes, of which 80 percent are young females between the age of 18-24. In the South Asian continent, garment workers make an average of $96 per month whereas it is suggested that workers need 3.5 times that amount in order to live a ‘decent life with basic facilities.’ Furthermore, in 2018, a U.S. Department of Labor report found evidence of child labour in the fashion industry in Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, Vietnam and many more.

Rapid consumption of apparel and the need to deliver on short fashion cycles, puts a great deal of stress on production resources, often resulting in supply chains that put profit ahead of human welfare.

You may like: 6 steps towards slow & sustainable fashion.

Further reading