Fast fashion is, undoubtedly, a reflection of the society in which we live – products are disposable, mass-produced, and their history is not exactly relevant.
Fast fashion retailers engage in practices that help them keep up with increasing fashion consumerism. Brands or “fast fashion retailers” that are on par with the latest celebrity and catwalk trends, streamline production to satisfy the consumer’s “see-now, buy-now” approach.
The mass-production industry releases stylish pieces into the market that sell like hot cakes, only to be replaced by a different style a few weeks later. In this way, retailers have become experts at capitalising on the instant gratification culture of its consumers. Fast fashion focuses on quantity versus quality, and custom-made garments have become a thing of the past.
When Speed Means Greed
The apparel industry currently turns design sketches into finished products in 12 days. A study by one UK clothing retailer revealed that 46 percent of people purchased more “quantity” than they did five years before, while at the same time regularly wearing only about 44 percent of what they possess. As one critic put it, fast fashion is more about greed than it is about speed, citing that the fibre takes the same amount of time to grow, be spun, cleaned, bleached, etc, regardless of the end product.
The Bright Side Of Fast Fashion
Defenders of the fast fashion industry would ask, what’s not to love about cheap, easily accessible, fashionable clothes? People save money, items are easier to find, and they can stay in vogue while being noticed in their social circle. After all, people choose clothing as a reflection of their identities, and fast fashion accurately reflects the modern, fast-paced creatures we have become.
Zafar Sobhan, a journalist for Vice.com reported that fast fashion has actually provided unimaginable opportunities and progress in poor countries such as Bangladesh, where the poverty rate has decreased from 80 percent to 30 percent in the 40 years since its independence, and the clothing industry has a lot to do with it. Simultaneously, the areas of healthcare and gender equity have improved as well, bringing about what could be called a social revolution.
Slow Is The New Black
On the contrary, advocates of slow fashion—a movement that challenges fast fashion’s brisk strut—claim that getting caught up in a path of disposability and lack of conscientiousness, is what has our species in trouble. First coined by Kate Fletcher in 2007, slow fashion promotes “a different approach in which designers, buyers, retailers and consumers are more aware of the impacts of products on workers, communities and ecosystems.” Slow fashion promotes the idea that it is possible to dress well while supporting ethical, planet-caring practices.
The Environmental And Social Impact Of Fast Fashion
The clothing industry has enormous detrimental effects on our planet’s resources, as well. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the $2.5 trillion fashion industry is one of the biggest water wasters on the planet. One cotton shirt requires 2,700 litres of water, or what one person drinks in about 2.5 years. Textile dyeing is the second most impactful water polluter at a global level, with numerous brand products using hazardous chemicals.
In addition, labour conditions for garment workers are nothing to celebrate. In 2013, for example, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed and killed over 1,000 workers, and injured 2,000 others. And despite catastrophes like this, regulations are still lax and conditions aren’t necessarily getting better. In many countries, the minimum wage in this sector is among the lowest in the world, and workers are exploited with long working hours. In Vietnam, for example, one pair of shoes is worth more than what a garment worker makes in one month.
What Can Be Done?
Inevitably, companies are increasingly scrutinised by social and environmental organisations, the media, and government oversight committees. This has pressured companies, as well as nations, to become more responsible and aware. Social responsibility projects and integrity-oriented practices have even become an marketing asset in the last several years.
As citizens, one of our greatest powers lies in our capacity to influence others. We can do this by sharing facts about the dangers of fast fashion. Investigating which brands are upholding ethical practices and spreading the word about them increasingly falls under the definition of being cool. Initiatives like Love Your Clothes, which promote repair and recycling, are definitely worth sharing on Facebook. Also, thanks to advocates and influencers like these, slow is become increasingly chic by the minute.