Imagine walking into a trendy store and discovering a cute top at a very affordable price.
It's a tempting offer, no doubt. However, fast fashion, despite its appeal, has a myriad of downsides. One of the drawbacks of fast fashion is its low quality. These brands prioritise quantity over quality, meaning that the items are made with low-quality materials and are not designed to last. Despite their initial appeal, these clothes tend to fade, lose their shape, or fall apart after just a few wears, resulting in more waste as we dispose of them and purchase new ones.
Every summer, clothing stores showcase a new set of summer outfits that promise a luxurious lifestyle, complete with breezy kaftans, bright bikinis, and floppy sun hats. Despite already having a bag of similar clothes from last year, many of us still buy them. While it's understandable that children grow, clothes wear out, and bodies change shape, the British Fashion Council states that the planet has enough clothing right now to last six generations.
The environmental impact
At the forefront of fast fashion’s downside is its significant environmental impact. The fashion industry is one of the world's most polluting sectors. The use of water and chemicals in textile production, carbon emissions from transportation, and the waste in landfills are all factors that contribute to the industry's negative environmental impact. By buying fast fashion, we inadvertently contribute to this environmental harm.
It's important to recognise that the impact of the fashion industry on the environment goes beyond just the production of clothing. The disposal of clothing also contributes significantly to the industry's negative environmental impact. In fact, according to The Telegraph, the average Briton disposes of 72 pieces of clothing each year, much of which ends up in landfills where it can take hundreds of years to decompose. This not only takes up valuable space but also releases harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere!
It's important to consider the resources required for producing clothing, such as the land, energy, and effort needed to grow cotton. The process of weaving, dyeing, cutting, sewing, and shipping garments globally also consumes a significant amount of time, money, and natural resources. It's alarming to think that a cotton sundress can cost as little as £15, given the number of elements that go into creating it.
The social impact
Moreover, fast fashion is often produced using exploitative labour practices. To keep prices low, many brands outsource their production to countries with low wages and lax labour laws. Workers are often subjected to unsafe working conditions, long hours, and unfair wages, as well as bullying and intimidation.
It's important to note that not all fashion brands engage in these harmful practices. There are ethical and sustainable fashion brands that prioritise fair labour practices and take part in socially conscious campaigns. Start researching brands before making a purchase to ensure they align with your values, so that by making conscious choices about the fashion industry, we can work towards a more socially responsible future.
There are also steps we can take to reduce the environmental impact of our fashion choices. From shopping for secondhand or vintage clothing to extend the life of existing garments, to choosing clothing made from sustainable materials like organic cotton, hemp, or recycled fabrics and donating or recycling clothing instead of throwing it away, we can help to reduce the negative impact of the fashion industry on the environment. When picking your organic material, make sure to do your research properly about the brand and the type of dyes they use - some chemicals used to produce clothing and fashion items in general will stay on the planet forever, even after those pieces are incenerated or degraded. While in landfill, the chemicals leek directly into the ground and consequently, damage the environment forever.
In the last few years, we’ve seen multiple documentaries and articles highlighting the detrimental impact of fast fashion on the environment and the lives of garment workers. We’ve even talked about some of these educational resources before on one of our past blog posts, but today, we’d like to put a spotlight on a newly found learning resource we recently came across: “The world is on fire, but we're still buying shoes" by Alec Leach.
In this book, former Highsnobiety Style Editor, Alec Leach, delves into the reason behind our constant need to acquire new clothing despite the environmental concerns surrounding the fashion industry. With in-depth analysis, supported by stylized infographics and magazine-style pull quotes, Leach takes readers on a journey through the inner workings of consumerism and online culture. He offers behind-the-scenes insights, philosophical musings, and touches on topics such as sneaker hype, greenwashing, and mindfulness. The result is a thought-provoking manifesto that urges for a more deliberate and mindful approach to fashion consumption, one that benefits both the individual and the planet. Highly recommended!
[info sourced on thetelegraph.com, alecleach.com and asustainablelife.co.uk
All images sourced on canva.com]