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What is Fast Fashion and How Do We Stop it?

Over the past century it has become more difficult to understand the lifestyle alternatives to a consumer-based society in the peak of industrial production. Amidst the foggy foresight of our economic state comes the unacknowledged demand for an industry that is feeding our addiction to consumption and fed by our demand to have products to consume.

We live in a world where the philosophy of modern-day living is to strive towards materialist consumption through the time and money needed to do so. In this article, we will focus on the fashion industry, the ____ that has developed the mindset of materialistic focus and over-consumption.

While the fashion industry is valued at $1.7 trillion as of 2023, $106 billion of that is specifically for the fast fashion industry. Fast Fashion is the unethical production of goods produced by mass market retailers. H&M, Forever 21, Shein, Primark, Rip Curl, Fashion Nova, Urban Outfitters, Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing are only some of the fast fashion stores out there. These retailers are producing very inexpensive clothing and goods in order to satisfy the consumer demand of today's society.

Our trends are constantly changing. The original development of the “fashion calendar” used to consist of 2 seasons, Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. Designers would create two main collections to satisfy these seasons but now every week a new wave of trends are being thrown out. There are now around 52 micro-seasons a year in the fashion industry. One can argue that the rapid production of goods has tailored the over-consumption actions we see today. However, it is by consumers demand that retailers have felt the need to constantly put out new items, even if they are the same style just a different color.

Yes, we do over consume. Think about it. At least half of the items we buy we don’t need. Most of the things we buy are bought on impulse and aren’t ethically produced.

“Purchasing items is helpful to grow the economy…”

“I am on a budget so I need things that are cheap…”

“Buying things never hurt anyone…”

Actually, if you think about the real cost of fast fashion and other unethically produced goods, they cause more harm than good.

Fast fashion companies rely on outsourcing

- Because of the high demand in the industry, retailers hunt for cheap fabrics and cheap factories. These producers are in third world countries, where factories and garment production managers provide thousands of items a day, under horrible living conditions, in order to meet supply demand. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that US retailers began outsourcing in search of cheaper production options.

Majority of garment workers are classified as ‘modern day slaves'

- Modern day slavery is real. And the fact that these garment workers are paid

far below the living wage in their respective country and are placed in unimaginable working conditions is beyond unacceptable. These living conditions consist of

- “minimum wage”, not living wage - minimum wage. And there are many

factories that pay even farther below the legal minimum wage.

- Inhumane health and safety conditions like...

- Toxic air with little to no ventilation

- Buildings on the verge of collapse or unstable environments

- The tragedy of the collapse of the Rana Plaza was only one of the many

horrific events surrounded by fast fashion.

- To learn more, watch The True Cost Movie.

- Child labour

- Forced labour/ abuse by bosses or higher management

One of the leading cause of climate change

- Majority of the synthetic fibre based garments end up in landfill

where they don’t breakdown or decompose.

- One pair of jeans uses 2,000 gallons of water

- Every year, the fashion industry uses enough water for 5 million

people to survive (93 billion cubic meters of water)

- Produces 20% of global wastewater

- Responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions

- 150 million trees are used for textile production each year

- Overproduction and landfills

- Over 100 billion items of clothing are produced each year

- 20% of clothes are unsold

- In 2017, there were 13 million tonnes of textiles that were thrown

into landfill

- 85% of all clothing ends up as waste

These are some of the facts that indicate the harmful effects fast fashion and the fashion industry has on the earth and the people living on it.

Stella McCartney

Now what? We could stop buying clothes, we could boycott the whole industry or write a letter to corporate demanding them to be more ethical… but they won’t always listen, it won’t always change anything.

However, like I mentioned before, it’s the role of the consumer that defines the actions of the industry. The first thing that needs to change is our mindset. To go from this “consume, consume, consume and consume NOW” mindset to something completely different. People today want lots of materialistic things, and they want them immediately. Instead of this we need to focus on what we have, or being patient for our wants.

Understanding that what you have is good can make a huge difference.

If we focus of reducing the amount we buy by appreciating what we have or repairing old items, we essentially reduce the amount of contribution towards the fast fashion industry. In general, the over production of the fashion industry is something we can fight by channeling our minds to slow fashion.

Slow fashion is the idea of ethically produced fashion, slower production rates, lower carbon emissions, and fair wages for all.

Upcycling is a great way to relove old clothes or repair items. There are so many DIY things you can do with fashion garments if you just take the time. I do lots of little DIY projects to make my clothes more my style and to repair things I have had for a while. This just ensures that the items you have are fulling getting their use and are being appreciated over and over again.

Second hand shopping is my favorite thing to do. I have only bought second hand for about 7 months now and I don’t intend to buy anything new unless I desperately need to. I’m being fully honest when I say that whatever you want/need is PROBABLY at a charity/thrift shop near you. Especially if you have Goodwill or other big thrift shops, there are hundreds of items that you can find fairly cheap, usually in good condition, and if you seek something out, you’re bound to find it. Check out some of my Goodwill finds here or inspiration from my thirfted outfits on my instagram!

If you really want to buy things new, look at what brands you're purchasing from. Think about where your clothes or items are coming from, who is making them? If a company is not being transparent with their production process, that’s usually not a good sign. Instead, seek out small business that are trying to change the way fashion is produced. There are lots of business that are ethically producing their goods; if you’re ever unsure about a brand/company, use the Good On You app to search them up and read about how well they’re doing with animal rights, labour laws, and environmental strategies.

In conclusion, there are plenty of options when it comes to not participating in fast fashion, because ultimately fast fashion is nothing but harmful to us and our planet. Let’s work together to shop the harmful effects of the fast fashion industry! We can still be trendy and unique while staying on a budget if we love the clothes we have and buy second hand.

Together we can make a difference in our world!

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