By Alex Gryciuk
Hundreds of Tik Tok accounts, thousands of blogs, and millions of YouTube videos inform the world on how to dress. From high-end to regular outfits, it’s hard to find someone who says they don’t care about the way they dress or about fashion. Popular trends like furry bags, tie dye, and crop tops continue to dominate today’s fashion culture. But, a darker side to the glorified fashion industry, is fast fashion.
Fast fashion lives up to its name: it is fashion being manufactured and sold at a rapid pace. Innovations in supply chain management, or managing the flow of goods from suppliers to consumers, creates low price clothing that follows the constantly changing trends. It’s not uncommon for fast fashion brands to release multiple styles and clothing items in a week. Compared to normal or high-end fashion brands – which supply new articles of clothing once every few months – fast fashion brands release clothing at outrageously quick rates.
The quick and cheap manufacturing that fast fashion provides to consumers results in unmatched low costs of clothes too. Price drops make fashion more accessible to more consumers. Increased fashion accessibility provides means for market and business growth, as well. In fact, an estimated $35 billion was made from fast fashion in 2018 alone and $44 billion is expected to be made by 2028 according to Statistica. Fast fashion is beneficial for consumers and manufacturers alike.
However, having cheap clothes proves to be a poisoned chalice. When generalizing the quality of clothes from fast fashion brands, the quality is always lower than average. In order to save money on materials, the cheapest is bought. Similarly, instead of being made with care, clothes are pumped out of factories at high speeds. Often, forcing manufacturers to neglect the quality of each item. Thus, fast fashion clothing is simply not made for long-term use and promotes a disposable-fashion culture in society. For consumers, fast fashion is a great way to get cheap clothes that will last a trend, and then get thrown away. Even if it’s still usable, there is always another cheap item that can replace the disposed one. In fact, the average number of times most people wear a clothing item has reduced by 36% in 15 years. And it is no surprise that cheap prices and bad quality account for a staggering 7 million tons of textile waste that ends up in landfills or incinerators every year.
The problem with fast fashion penetrates much farther into society. Beyond low quality clothes and disposable-fashion culture lies many tremendous problems. In order to supply cheap clothes, most manufacturers employ poor, low-income countries to produce clothes. An estimated 40 million fast fashion workers across countries including China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam work in terrible conditions and get paid very little. In fact, most workers in poor countries get paid 2 to 6 cents per clothing item, resulting in 300 dollar wages for 60-70 hour weeks. Workers simply do not have the money to afford basic needs and necessities and are forced to live a lower quality of life. In addition, limited workers rights and laws in poor countries encourage unhealthy and dangerous working conditions. Children often work in factories, and workers breathe in dust and fibers from garment manufacturing. With no protection, workers also are forced under immense stress. Results from terrible health issues including depression, work stress, work pains, lung disease and cancer. It’s a fact that fast fashion fuels unhealthy, dangerous workplaces, because it is cheaper to do so for companies.
Finally, fast fashion creates huge amounts pollution for the planet. With less regulations in poor countries, fast fashion manufacturers are allowed to contribute 1/10 of the world’s carbon emissions and pollute essential waterways. First, toxic chemicals to dye fabrics create contamination in freshwater; accounting for 20% of the world’s wastewater. Heavy metals, micro plastics, and pesticides all account for dangerous by-products of the fast fashion garment industry. Contaminated water-ways enter food chains and the environment. Clearly, fast fashion companies do not care about the atmosphere and the environment, as they continue to pollute on a large scale.
In the end, fast fashion proves detrimental to our environment and the poor countries that supply the garments. Although it might seem harmless at first, fast fashion reveals a more sinister side to how we dress. However daunting it might seem, there is hope for fashion. Ultimately, fast fashion consumers decide to buy clothes and control the market. As a consumer yourself, you are given the choice to choose the right clothes and support sustainable fashion. Some easy ways to help fight against fast fashion is to limit the amount you are consuming, shop vintage or second hand, join equity movements, and further educate yourself on the topic. I hope that in the near future, fashion can remain sustainable and people continue to enjoy fashion in the same way.
Sources used, that can help for your education:
-Textile waste impact on environment
- Unfair consequences of garment working
- What fast fashion is and its’ consequences
- How garment workers are treated unfairly
-Overall recap of fast fashion
- More statistical information on fast fashion
- Environmental effects of Fast Fashion
- Effects of fast fashion on waterways
Ways to fight back:
-10 ways to fight against fast fashion
- 5 organizations that are fighting against fast fashion
- Ways you can change your fast fashion consumption