The Impacts of Fast Fashion
From the vast amounts of online content I consume, I typically do not get angered easily. But at this insistence, I got annoyed. During my daily scrolls on Pinterest, I got the inspiration for this crochet sweater from a post, so I decided to give it a try; it couldn’t be that hard. Excluding the immense pain in my back and my wrist that I experienced, that sweater alone took me almost two months to finish and cost about 15 dollars to make. But, the problem lies here: on Shein, a similar crochet top cost about 10 dollars and it had more than a thousand reviews. What?
The trendy, inexpensive, fastly produced clothing is labeled Fast fashion, or “affordable fashion” as people sugar-coated it. The fast-growing industry of Fast fashion expanded since the 90s; companies are producing massive amounts of clothing relative to the fashion trends according to sample ideas from celebrity culture or recent trends. However, trends move quickly, and micro trends are becoming more recent and more influential. Micro Trends are quick and short-lived trends that rise to popularity in a swift amount of time, then leave the trend cycle in an even faster time. The cycle of Fast Fashion that consumers are following is extremely detrimental to the coming future, both socially and environmentally. Therefore, consumers should break out of the cycle and ditch Fast Fashion for good.
From the culture of Fast Fashion catering to the trends of the time, consumers who can buy long-lasting and sustainable fashion are having “hauls”, which is spending hundreds on clothing. These people can afford to buy sustainable and to buy long-lasting clothes, but they are still buying a load of clothing. The clothing is extremely cheap and gets broken quickly, which causes consumers to continue to buy clothing and the old clothing to go in the trash. According to ScienceDirect.com, on “Microfibres from apparel and home textiles: Prospects for including microplastics in environmental sustainability assessment,” 35% of primary microplastics are made up of textile waste. The main issue with microplastic is that they do not break down dangerous molecules. Washing clothing releases 500,00 tons of microfiber into the ocean each year. From this, microplastics are flooding the oceans causing organisms to be exposed to harmful substances which can cause them to starve. These microfibers do not stay only in one place, it goes through a cycle causing the microplastics to be found in freshwater, rivers, drinking water, etc. So not only are animals being affected by this issue, but it is also humans, microplastics are linked to several health concerns such as damage to genetic information and inflammation. Mass-producing clothing additionally adds to the climate change crisis. It is said that the fashion industry emits 8-10% of global emissions. According to BBC.com, on “Fast Fashion: How clothes are linked to climate change,” producing synthetic materials like polyester used in clothing needs about 342 million barrels of oil every year. Consuming more and more clothing leads to nonrenewable energy sources being unavailable in the foreseeable future. And although water is a renewable resource, the fashion industry is taking away from the drinking water that can be safely consumed. The fashion industry uses a tremendous amount of water to produce clothing, and on top of that creates a huge amount of water waste. 79 trillion liters of water is consumed annually which is 20% of industrial wastewater. During the process of producing cotton, water is intensively used which pollutes water, resulting in it being undrinkable. Processing clothing releases over 8,000 different synthetic chemicals which are mostly caused by chemical dye. The dyeing of textiles contributes to 20% of the total global water pollution. An example of fast fashion affecting the world right now is China, a major source of fast fashion industries. 70% of China’s freshwater constraints 2.5 billion gallons of water waste from the fast fashion industry.
The issue doesn’t only lay in the hands of the consumers, fast fashion companies are also to blame for environmental and social harm. Some pieces of clothing can not be replicated by robots, crochet, for example, can only be made by hand. Companies need workers to make the clothing, however, conditions for workers in the facilities are terrible. According to Earth.org, on “Fast Fashion: The Danger of SweatShops,” the average work hour is 16 hours per day, seven days a week. The workers are exposed to harmful toxins, poor ventilation, and even physical violence from their superiors. Not even that, the workers only get a measly two cents for each piece of clothing they make. This is a huge problem, even for highly respected brands. The labor laws in the US forbid this from occurring, however, these companies are locating their sites for their workers in countries that have less strict labor laws so that the workers get underpaid and they get most of the profit. If the workers can not make the clothing in time, they don’t get paid at all. Fast fashion companies will do anything even resulting in child labor to keep prices low so that consumers will continue buying their products. The poor conditions in these factories are often called “sweatshops”. The workers are underskilled but are subjected to long hours with very little pay.
Raising awareness of these companies and their horrid action further reduces the appearance of fast fashion. People who buy thousands of dollars worth of clothing from Shein are privileged enough to buy sustainably. However, through microtrends and social media, people are buying clothing because of their looks instead of how it would last in the long run. Not only can this issue be helped economically, but also just from people’s homes. Instead of throwing away clothes for a tiny little hole, learning how to sew and mend clothing can immensely help the environment. For example, knitting is a great way to spend your time and a new skill to use to combat the fast fashion industry. Shopping second-hand could also be an alternative. Through the popularity of vintage clothing, thrifting could be your way of helping. There is not a single solution to this issue; however, if people would stop stopping from fast fashion it would tremendously help the workers in the fashion industry but also environmentally.