You don’t even have to be that old to remember when the fashion industry released a new range a couple of times a year.
When fast fashion arrived on the scene about two decades ago, that number shot up to 52 times a year.
Here’s how Sustain Your Style explains fast fashion.
Mass-production of cheap, disposable clothing. Countless new collections per year make us feel constantly out of date and encourage us to keep buying more.
Fast fashion was always a bad idea and it’s only getting worse.
For low income South Africans, shopping at Mr Price, Pep Stores, Ackermans or the like is a necessity. It’s all they can afford. On the upside, Covid has forced S.A. retailers to start sourcing their goods locally.
However, the majority of people who shop at stores like Zara and H&M don’t fall into that demographic. Zara themselves define their target market as being composed of men and women, 18-40 years of age, with mid-range incomes.
These are people who could afford to make more sustainable shopping choices, but often don’t. I’m definitely not pointing fingers here. Firstly, been there, done that. Secondly, marketing is a wiley thing.
Advertisers know exactly which buttons to push to draw their customers in. As long as you’re online, you’ll be susceptible to their ploys. If you’re still kitting out your wardrobe at fast fashion outlets, it’s time to stop that.
Here’s Why You Need to Avoid Buying Fast Fashion
There are a host of problems with the fast fashion industry, but for the most part it boils down to two things. Hopefully, by the time you’re done reading I’ll have convinced you to shop for your next outfit at a yard sale, thrift store or in your friend’s closet.
If that sounds just a little too Woodstock for you, not to worry. As the world wakes up to the real cost of cheap fashion, more and more clothing brands are offering sustainable solutions to the problem.
1. Garment Workers Are Treated Poorly and Paid Worse
Let’s start with this humdinger from Fashion Checker: 93% of brands aren’t paying their garment workers a living wage. These people can’t afford basic life necessities. Take a look at the infographic on Fashion Checker’s home page to see the difference between a living wage and minimum wage.
Of the 250 large brands surveyed in the 2020 Fashion Transparency Index (page 5), only five of them “publish a time-bound, measurable roadmap or strategy for how they will achieve a living wage for all workers across their supply chains.”
On the other end of the equation, fast fashion has made some people incomprehensibly wealthy. According to Zeitgeist, Zara’s global success has made Amancio Ortega, the company’s founder, the 6th richest person in the world.
To put that in perspective, “a CEO from one of the world’s largest fashion brands— including Zara’s parent company Inditex and Swedish fast fashion brand H&M— would need to work for just four days to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker would earn in their entire lifetime.”
Garment workers are subjected to pitiful working conditions. They routinely work 14-16 hours per day, seven days a week. They earn so little they can’t say no to the overtime and often, saying no means getting fired. They’re damned either way.
Health and safety conditions are abysmal. The collapse of the Rana Plaza in 2013, which killed 1134 garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, bears testament to this. Livia Firth, Creative Director of the True Cost, confirmed these inhumane conditions in an interview with Untold.
It gets worse. Child labour is rife in the fast fashion industry. “The ILO estimates that 170 million are engaged in child labour, with many making textiles and garments to satisfy the demand of consumers in Europe, the US, and beyond.
2. The Fashion Industry is Stinking the Planet Up
Let’s start with another humdinger. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. It’s true. Only the oil industry has a more detrimental effect on the environment.
Only 15% of clothing is recycled or donated, the rest ends up on landfills where it can take up to 200 years to decompose.
You only have to follow the life cycle of a fast fashion dress to see just how much of a scourge the industry is on the environment.
The most environmentally sustainable jacket is the one that’s already in your closet… —Patagonia’s Chief Product Officer Lisa Williams
It’s Time to Embrace Slow Fashion
Slow fashion is about more than just supporting sustainable and ethical fashion. It’s, as The Good Trade says, “an argument for hitting the brakes on excessive production, overcomplicated supply chains, and mindless consumption.”
We need to consume less and be more considered in our choices when we do go shopping for clothes. Or shopping for anything, for that matter.
It’s not always easy to live mindfully in the city, but there’s still a lot we can do to ensure we spend our money consciously. I’ve list a few examples.
We can choose clothes made from environmentally friendly material. Boasting a 4.5 star average, it looks like these bamboo socks are making more than just the planet happy.
Another option is to search for fast fashion alternatives. As I mentioned earlier, more and more clothing labels are doing their bit to support the planet as well as its inhabitants.
Shopping at thrift stores is no longer the sole domain of hippies and tightwads. In fact, it’s become trendy to buy secondhand clothing. Barring for undies and socks I’m all for it.
[Watch] Fast Fashion’s Effect on People and the Planet
If you’re a regular visitor here you’ll know I love including TED talks in my blog posts. I’m a huge fan of the ‘ideas worth spreading’ concept.
The Co-Founder & CEO of Nisolo, Patrick’s experience using business as a force for good has led him to some diverse and far-reaching destinations, including Kenya, Uganda, Argentina and Peru.
We don’t have to start a business to change the world. Simply supporting the ones that are making a difference is enough. If that’s all everyone did, it would be enough.
How will you embrace slow fashion?