The fast fashion model has been around for a while and perhaps at first it seems like an amazing concept that allowed mass consumers to purchase the latest hottest look off the catwalk, just a couple of weeks after its debut and at affordable prices. However, it has become more and more clear that this model has more cons than pros.
This post will lay out all the cons of fast fashion and hopefully, educate on why we as consumers should put more pressure on brands and companies to slow down and shift their way of working. For the first time in a long time, we as consumers are the ones who hold the power. The question is, will we use it for good?
1. Water and air pollution
Fashion is the second largest polluter of clean water as synthetic, man-made materials and microfibres run into the oceans. Rivers and dams are also affecting local water supplies. The Noyyal River in India is one such example. In the past 60 years, the region has witnessed a massive growth of the garment industry with excessive bleaching and dyeing units. Consequently, the river is filled with pollution and toxic runoff. Toxic gas from textile production is also emitted into the air, polluting it and affecting the health of humans. Much like other industries, production takes energy, which leads to the next negative impact of fast fashion.
2. Climate change
We all know climate change is not good and that we are trying to delay and minimise its impact on our planet. But how does your shopping habits affect that? In a lot of ways actually. But one way is the continuous support of and feeding into this dangerous model. A lot of textiles are made up of synthetic fibres these days, which is basically plastic made using fossil fuels. Manufacturing these plastics to make garments adds to the already high amount of greenhouse gas emitted. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is another greenhouse gas that can come from the textile and fashion industry. The runoff from synthetic fertilisers on farms to grow cotton, for example, emmits N2O.
“The best number we have now is about five percent of [global] greenhouse gas emissions [come from] this sector. To give you some sense of perspective, that’s about equivalent to the impact from the aviation sector, so all the planes flying in the world. Or in country terms, that’s about equal to Russia. So it’s pretty significant.” – Nate Aden, senior fellow at the World Resources Institute
3. Abuse of human rights
We’ve all heard the stories and in the back of our minds we know that this is the case still. Logically, and if you really think about it, how can a company make any profit from selling a t-shirt for $5? Due to fast fashion brands and their demand for the lowest prices, someone, somewhere, is paying. Most brands subcontract their manufacturing overseas to the lowest bidder. Since they want something fast, the factories have no choice (in most cases) to cut corners as to meet the demands in order to ensure that they do not lose their contracts and business. This kind of push and pressure means that the bosses of the factories put companies’ demands above the safety and health of the workers. We as a society, especially those in the developed nations, need to really reconsider our purchasing behaviour. Yes, it is crazy cheap and we all love a bargain. But are we okay with how the clothes were made and where they come from?
You know the saying more is less? Well, this is true in the case here as well. We as a society are now purchasing 400% more clothing today than we did 20 years ago, according to Forbes. Isn’t that shocking? Think of all the money we’ve put into garments that we’ve just disposed of after one wear. Due to this fast fashion model, we have been brought into thinking that we need the latest, hottest trends on the market. This has resulted in an alarming “wear it once” culture when it comes to clothes.
5. Waste generation
With fast fashion, clothes are quickly made, rarely worn and then thrown away. We are buying way more clothes than we need and more clothes than we could possibly wear! Not everything donated can be upcycled or recycled, and a lot of it ends up in landfills.
“Buying clothing, and treating it as if it is disposable, is putting a huge added weight on the environment and is simply unsustainable” – Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
In order to grow enough cotton it takes tonnes of fertilisers and pesticides. These toxic chemicals are extremely harmful to the cotton farmers. The average life expectancy of a non-organic cotton farmer in India is, shockingly, mid-30s. Millions of these agricultural workers experience chemical exposure and pesticide poisoning, which can also spread to their families; not to mention its spread to local drinking water and their food sources.
7. Low quality, less value
As mentioned before, to have such low prices for garments, corners are cut. One corner is the quality of the material. With bad materials, rushed sewing and production you could imagine and also understand why that shirt you bought and washed once is already losing its original form and feel. In the end, fast fashion can actually end up costing you more than some proper good quality clothing, made with love and time and designed to last. So we really need to start asking ourselves, is this really valuable? Can I get something that’ll last longer with the money I used for five shirts? To repeat, less is more.
So what can we do?
- Purchase only what you really need and wear it multiple times.
- Buy high-quality garments that are designed to last.
- Don’t throw out your stuff. Resell or swap it with friends if you’re tired of it. If it’s too worn out, cut it up and use it as cleaning rags.
- Choose well. Try to choose organic or natural materials that are also ethical and eco-friendly.
- Actively take part in the slow fashion revolution!