Fast fashion is a relatively new phenomenon. It is the term used to describe the buying of cheaply made clothes which are then only worn a few times before being discarded. Fast fashion is a result of consumer desire to keep up with the ever changing trends and for a constantly updated wardrobe. What is wrong with that, you may think. Surely everyone wants to be trendy and fashionable and fast fashion is the perfect way to keep up with all the latest fashions without spending too much money. There are however a number of problems with this behaviour.
1. Low cost clothing is often produced unethically
In order to continually reduce the cost of producing clothing to keep up with the demand for low cost clothing, retailers sometimes use unethical suppliers in developing countries to provide clothing quickly at the required costs. There have been a number of well reported cases of retailers selling clothes made in sweatshops where workers are treated very badly, paid very little and given very little in terms of basic human rights.
2. Throwing away clothes that have hardly been worn contributes to the growing problem of landfill and textile waste.
Synthetic clothes do not degrade and so will remain in the ecosystem forever. Further more dyes and chemical finished on textiles that are disposed of landfill can be washed out by rain water and into rivers and other water systems. This is potentially damaging to flora, fauna and humans. Even natural fibres are a problem when disposed of in landfill, as they break down they produce methane a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
3. The constant production of new clothing has a number of environmental impacts including the use of fossil fuels, pollution and pesticides used in for the growth of cotton.
Many fast fashion clothes are made from synthetic fibres which are manufactured using petro chemicals in a process that is particularly energy intensive. Pollution from the textiles industry can be harmful to the environment and damaging to the health of humans in the vicinity. Carbon dioxide is also produced as energy is used to manufacture clothing; this is also a green house gas.
So what is the answer?
Consumers want to keep up with the latest fashions in a marketplace where, trends are driven by marketing and fashion companies. But perhaps it is the consumers who can change the fashion industry for the better by walking the walk when it comes to eco fashion. There has already been a lot of consumer interest in eco fashion, recycling and sustainable style. The issues need to be publicised even more and sustainable style promoted to the same degree as fast fashion has been. There are some key ways in which consumers can help move away from fast fashion and towards sustainable style.
Look for quality, well made clothes that will last
Where possible buy clothes made from natural organic fibres
Buy clothes in classic styles that will not go out of fashion quickly
Develop an individual style that is not dependent on keeping up with the latest trend
Look after and repair clothes to prolong their life
Recycle any unwanted clothes by swapping them, selling them or donating them to charity
Consider buying second hand, vintage and recycled clothing