There have been changes in the fashion sector over the past two decades. Clothing became cheaper, trend cycles expedited, and shopping became a monthly event for many of us, if not weekly. It came at a prize, however.
Fashion, a $2.5 trillion industry, is earth’s second-largest polluting industry, right after the oil industry. The pressure for cost reduction and speedy production means that environmental corners are being cut in the name of profit. The negative impact of Fast Fashion includes the use of low-cost toxic textile dyes – the second-largest clean water polluter in the world after agriculture with the fashion industry.
According to BWSS, fast fashion is a business model that uses cheap resources to produce clothing collections quickly. It can be summarized as inferior, trendy clothing, which samples ideas from fashion shows or celebration culture, turning them into online and almost overnight clothing. Fast fashion is not just a category, but a model of cheaply produced, ‘of the moment’ clothes that are sold at a lower price point. Their desire for speed and value in retail is also growing. It means that consumers will be able to take control of an ongoing cycle of trendy clothing all year-round instead of waiting for new seasonal collections (i.e., spring or summer).
USE OF TOXINS (MICROFIBERS)
With the planet and fashion workers paying the price, the main problem with fast fashion is the high use of resources in a linear, heavy consumption model. The fashion industry generates over 92 million tons per year and consumes 79 trillion tonnes of water, with developing countries usually carrying the burden for developed countries. In particular, textile dyeing in clothing production is known to be the world’s second-largest water polluter, with pollutants including carcinogenic toxins. Furthermore, increased polyester production has led to a rise in pollution due to microfibers from washing machines that are ultimately pushed out in the oceans around the globe.
Waste is also another major point. The speed at which clothing is produced also means that consumers are disposing of more and more clothing, creating enormous textile waste. For example, in Canada, the average person throws 81 pounds of textiles a year, whereas, in North America, 9.5 million tonnes of clothing can be reused each year.
As a result, most high-end brands have relocated their factories to developing countries where work is cheaper to keep clothes more affordable. But, sadly, exploitation has come as well. On 24 April 2013, Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza factory collapsed, and more than 1000 people were killed and over 2500 injured. There are now about 40 million garment workers worldwide, many of whom have no rights or safeguards. They are among the world’s lowest-paid workers, and approximately 85% are women. Too big to ignore is the exploitation of women’s work.
HOW TO MITIGATE THESE PROBLEMS?
Thankfully we have a lot of options outside of fast fashion, and if you know where to look, you can find stylish, affordable, and ethical clothing.
Don’t buy something unless you truly need it.
The best way to reduce the footprint of your clothes is to go thrift shopping. It is an excellent way to find good quality attire at a fraction of the purchase price.
Research and purchase from eco-fashion companies that use environmentally-friendly methods in the production of clothing.
With the evolution of market trends and psychological changes in human conduct, the fashion industry needs to change, hopefully coming soon!
Lastly, it’s not about giving up fashion; it’s about considering what you need.