Fast Fashion is a concept that has become more and more prevalent in recent years. It describes the rapid pace in which clothing brands are able to meet the newest demand. It’s a process that enables brands to capitalise on the latest trend and consumers to stay ahead. It seems like a win-win for both sides, but the implications of fast fashion can be deadly. It’s time to stop being blinded by the bargains, and time to acknowledge that there really is a thing as too good to be true.
One of the major issues that people have with the fast fashion industry is the neglect for worker’s rights. The needs of the masses in poverty is brushed aside because the rich individual with twenty pairs of shoes, wants another two. In April 2013, over a thousand people were killed in Bangladesh’s worst ever industrial tragedy. The Rana Plaza building had been noticeably unsafe, and despite workers having spoken to their managers about the clear damage to the structure, nothing was done about it. Rana Plaza was home to five garment factories which provided clothing for brands such as Primark, Matalan and Bonmarche- companies which in the long run have faced a minimal backlash. Should we not be demanding that the companies who take our money also be responsible for ethically sourcing their first line of production?
Big brands are able to outsource production further afield because of the slash on their production costs. It’s cheaper to employ someone to make a shirt in an Indian slum town rather than someone in Glasgow. After all, the minimum wage is much higher in the U.K, as are health and safety standards. There have been a few cases where notes have been sewn into clothes bought from Zara and other brands. One note read, “I made this garment you are going to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.”
Other than agriculture, textile dyeing is the largest worldwide polluter of clean water. Director general of the Centre for Science and the Environment in India, Sunita Narain made the bold statement that with the garment industry, we were “committing hydrocide.” He added that “we are deliberately murdering our rivers.”
A lot of the chemicals found in the clothes manufacturing industry are banned in several countries due to their bio-accumulative qualities. Bio-accumulation is when substances build up within the system of an organism before they can be excreted or catabolised, this means that carcinogenic chemicals linger in the body for longer.
For the workers that must deal with chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process, the health implications are extremely detrimental. Approximately half of the $2 billion worth of chemical pesticides a year are classified by the World Health Organisation as hazardous. This results in dangerous chemicals filtering through to drinking sources.
Deprived areas with garment factories fall victim to chemical exposure that can lead to higher rates in foetal deformity and cancer rates. Globally, 25% of insecticides are used on conventional cotton. Even a minuscule amount of pesticide exposure has been shown to be related to brain damage and sterility.
The Ellen McArthur Foundation discovered in a recent survey that every second, one garbage truck of textiles is wasted. Fashion is accountable for around 92 million tons of solid waste discarded in landfills annually according to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit. Author of Wardrobe Crisis, Claire Press, claims that woman wear clothes for an average of seven times before they bin them. This level of wastage needs to stop. We need to be conscious about our shopping habits, making sure that we choose quality over quantity. We can’t be buying products just to get rid of them a few weeks later. We are investing in toxic practices and polluting the planet while we are at it.
The truth is we’ve become so detached, so blissful in our ignorance, we are showing a blind eye to the tangible truth of the garments we wear. It makes sense when we truly spend a second thinking about it. How is it possible to produce such cheap clothing whilst ensuring at every point of production, there is a clear and ethical approach? It’s just not.
It might be something you were already aware of, something you were planning on tackling. Perhaps you already have. You’ve done your research. You don’t want to be a part of that process. Or perhaps like me, you were just postponing any true change until you got that last item for your wardrobe and then you’d tackle that problem.
But if we keep delaying our action, whose to say we will ever change? There’s always one more pair of shoes to be had, always one more cheat day before we start and before we know it, too much time has passed. Because whilst we delay, there are thousands of people suffering.
Brands will change. They must go where demand leads them. So demand better.
Spend a little more on clothes that you know are ethically made. Or spend a little less. Reevaluate what you want and what you actually need, shop at charity stores, have clothes swaps with friends, repurpose clothes in the back of your wardrobe.
Too often do we choose the route we know because it’s easy. But easy doesn’t make it right.
I will not be investing in fast fashion anymore, and I hope you will reconsider it as well.