In the late 1980s a new model started to emerge in the fashion industry. Companies speeded up the processes to get the designs as fast to the stores from the catwalk as possible at very affordable prices all to drive up sales. While it used to be 2 fashion seasons before that Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer now high street giants deliver new collection to the store twice a week. Which means that the trendy items that you bought will be out of style just at the same pace. Hence shopping for clothes became much like shopping for groceries, a weekly habit. Which brought massive success for the brands who switched to this model. And consumers loved it just as much. In the increasingly difficult economy younger generations may not be able to get a house or buy a car but ‘Hey we can all afford a 15$ dress of that came just off the catwalk’ and that is almost the same. Or is it?
Unfortunately most of the ‘other costs’ called externalies are not factored in the price of that kick as 15$ dress, and that’s what’s wrong with fast fashion. Even worse that it is such a young business model that we are yet mostly unaware of the total consequences it has on our Planet. The major areas of concern are the following:
1: Human rights aspects:
Companies aim to drive down the costs so they can sell items at a cheap price. Hence they move production to places where these it cheap labor, flexible production and lenient safety rules are in place like China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam etc. About 70 million are estimated to be working in the garment industry globally 80% of which are women. These workers often work in unsafe working condition and are refused a fair wage. Some of them are beaten and forced to do immense overtime without pay. When they attempt to strike or form unions they are beaten or locked up. Governments refuse to raise the minimum wage because companies would leave the country and take their business elsewhere. The demand is to high for cheap unskilled labor that a large number of children are involved in child labor as well most of which takes places at homes or other informal places where working conditions cannot even be assessed. Read more on the topic here.
2: Environmental aspects:
The first level of the environmental impacts are in the production. Since the 1960s the world has doubled the cotton production. This was reached with the massive usage of pesticides and the implementation of genetically modified cotton. These affect people premierly farmers dealing with the crops, animals and the soil as well. The cotton production takes a large toll on the already scarce freshwater reserves as well. It is estimated that about 2700 liters of water is needed to produce one T-shirt. Water is needed to grow the crops, dying and production etc. Read more on the topic here.
Fast fashion is meant to be disposable. Steps are skipped during the production to save costs that affects the quality of the clothes. These mostly end up in landfills. Where synthetics made of polyester take thousands of years to decompose. Natural fibers are no better. Often they are dyed or treated with other chemicals that will end up in the soil and while they are decomposing they release greenhouse gasses. To grasp the volume of it, an average American throws away 60 kg of textile each year. Even clothes donated to charity case issues only in other party of the world. Read more on the topic here.
One of the main issue is that the supply chain is non-transparent. Most fast fashion companies refuse to disclose information on where and how their products were made. And even when they do disclose some information it only covers the direct suppliers. What happens in the lower stages of the supply chain remains a mystery.
Maybe you are thinking now: ‘Ok this is depressing. I thought I’m all set if I gave up leather goods, and now this… ‘ So what can you do?
Well this is what amaesha.com is about.
But here is a short cheat sheet:) :
- Educate yourself.
- ‘Shop less, Choose well.’ (V.V)
- Respect the items you own: care, alter and repair.
- Figure out your true style, what looks good on you and fits your lifestyle.
- Downsize your wardrobe – Using the capsule formula.
- Use trends wisely.
- Swap with your friends.
- Consider second hand.