Fast fashion sounds like fast food – you know that things can be awesome, but still you buy from H&M, Zara & Co. But what does fast fashion actually mean? Who has to pay for our shopping spree and how many clothes do we actually have? Here are 8 facts about fast fashion that have been completely ignored.
Fast fashion and problems of fashion industry are a topic that has gained attention particularly in recent years. And still, it is getting worse. Fast fashion manufacturing has increased by over 20% in recent years. And the trend doesn’t seem to be ending. The current assumption is that fast fashion will grow in the next 10 years.
1. What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is a business model which implies launching the latest designs on the market in no time. Nowadays, the looks of celebrities are presented to us in every magazine so that we can purchase that looks in the sotres – often just a few days after a certain outfit has been worn. In the textile industry, this is referred to as “quick response”. This enables manufacturers to continually change their collections in order to meet the requests (needs) of the market. This also means that certain fashion trend is destined to last only a few weeks.
2. Where fast fashion started?
Fast fashion is a relatively modern expression. However, the concept itself is not quite so modern. The birth of fast fashion was probably the industrial revolution: from this point on, the demand for simple, fast and popular fashion grew ever more, and the industry tried to anticipate the wishes of its consumers. Retailers who could bring clothing from designers to the store in just two weeks were referred to as fast fashion in the 1990s. In the 1980s, on the other hand, this practice was called “Quick Response”, particularly in the United States.
3. Why is fast fashion bad for the planet?
Most of us probably know that fast fashion cannot be good for the environment. But why? The answer is both simple and vague that we do not know what to begin with. Pollution caused by a constant creation and production of the latest trends is one of the biggest problems. The goal of many manufacturers is to always be one step ahead of the wishes of potential customers. In order to achieve that, designers and factories actually work non-stop. Raw materials are often imported with the aim of saving the costs. The items needed to make clothing are often sourced from around the world and shipped to the country where production is the cheapest. Articles are then exported from the country of manufacture to be sold. But what happens to the items when buyers are fed up with certain trend? Another disadvantage of fast fashion is the huge amount of waste that is created. We all know the scenario: you go to a shop and you cannot find your own size. But there is large amount of other less common sizes in stock. Since the collections of many manufacturers often only generate interest for a few weeks, there is hardly any waiting until the clothing items are completely sold out. Instead, the surplus is simply disposed of, though not in the most environmentally friendly way. Large textile companies in particular are burning articles to maintain their illusion of exclusivity.
4. Why fast fashion is bad for workers too?
We have already mentioned that the production often takes place in other countries in order to save costs. This is not without reason. In Germany and many other western countries workers’ rights, such as minimum wages, notice periods and vacation days, are protected to a far better degree than in some other countries. In the manufacture of fast fashion, it is these workers, whose rights are threatened, who ultimately pay the price.
5. Why is fast fashion bad for the consumers?
You read that right: fast fashion is also bad for the end consumers. We all like to save money, especially when it comes to fashion and we only think about the immediate result. For many people it is like an addiction: the latest item of clothing in the closet makes us happy – but only for a certain period of time. To keep the happy feeling, we constantly need new trends, we constantly strive for something new and more challenging. And this is where another factor comes into play: cheap raw materials that are imported from all over the world. Many fast fashion companies rely on low prices instead of quality, thus producing the articles that can only withstand a few machine washes. Older family members possess clothing items they have been wearing for decades. This is something that fast fashion does not allow. Due to the low production costs, fast fashion is also particularly cheap for the end consumers. Many people, therefore, do not consider it necessary to repair clothing and they throw away the articles immediately. This is where numbers come into play: Around 80 billion new items of clothing are manufactured every year, around 86% of which end up on landfills. The disintegration of these garments can take up to 40 years. It is obvious why this is a problem for the environment.
6. Alternatives to fast fashion
Are there alternatives to the fast fashion giants? We have good news: yes! From second hand shops to flea markets, there are so many things you can do to avoid fast fashion. Whether summer clothes with a vintage look or a practical winter wardrobe, many articles are waiting for you to find them. Have you ever thought about renting a dress from the rental? This option is becoming increasingly popular, especially when it comes to wedding dresses, but it is also suitable for a number of different clothing articles. Your fine dress, which you only wear once, won’t disappear into the blackness of your closet or into a landfill.
7. Solutions to the fast fashion problem
Alternatives are good, but are there any solutions? The answer is complicated. There are companies that do not rely on the fast fashion model or actively fight against the excess clothing. None of these solutions are perfect, but in reality, very few things are really perfect. Without walking around naked until the end of the days, most people would never be able to completely eliminate their carbon footprint. However, there are small changes that often lead to drastic improvements. Everyone is responsible for their footprint and we are doing our best to reduce our balance sheet – you can find more information below. When shopping, you can look for recycled fabrics, organic or fair trade clothing. Find a seller who is transparent about the origin of the raw materials and the working procedures. Clothing made from natural cotton may sound good, but it is disadvantageous if the workers involved in the production work for a few cents. Make enquiries about fashion companies to find out which sellers are actively fighting fast fashion. Take a look at local businesses that make their items on-site and use private sellers.
8. It starts with you – what can you do?
Yep, you heard right. You may think that you are one person out of many who cares, but many individuals can make a huge difference. Together we can let the fast fashion industry know that we do not support them. Only 1% of textile waste is currently being recycled which can hardly be compared to the 86% that ends up in a dump. Let us say that 50% of all the clothes produced is thrown away. That would be 50 billion pieces of clothing. 1% of 40 billion is recycled, that is 400 million. It sounds like it is a lot, but keep in mind that 86% end up on a landfill. That would be 34.4 billion pieces of clothing. So while 400 million are recycled, 34.4 billion still end up on a landfill. In 2017, the total world population was 7.53 billion. If every single person recycled only a quarter of their clothing, the circumstances would be a lot better these days. You may be a lone example, but the more individuals participate, the more we can do for our planet.
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