What is fast fashion? As individuals become increasingly dethatched from the production of their clothes and the yearly four-season catwalk trends become overshadowed by weekly ‘New In’s’, the apparel industry has been transformed.

It is focusing on economic growth, fueling consumerism through quick mass manufacturing of cheap clothing. While overlooking it’s social and environmental significance – this is Fast Fashion.

And with 1 in 6 individuals worldwide working in the fashion industry, it’s disturbing impact affects us all [1].

© Rosie Clack-Walsh – All the clothes but nothing to wear

Cheap clothes and little regard

As consumers, at first glance, this model of the fashion industry sounds fantastic. Clothes so cheap it almost seems anyone can buy into a desirable, fashionable lifestyle. A new outfit for each occasion quickly discarded after successfully fitting in with the latest high street trend.

This attitude has only grown with the rise of social media, with shopping hauls and #OutfitOfTheDay.  And rewind three years, when I started University, I immersed myself in this.

Why wouldn’t I want a new item of clothing for every occasion or the cute top that a girl I met once at a fresher’s event has now tagged on her Instagram story?

There was no convincing needed at those prices. With the added enticement of student discounts in nearly every store, little thought went towards its significance outside my wardrobe. With 25% of individuals claiming they are embarrassed to wear an outfit for a special occasion more than once [2] I was not alone. But as the industry expands, today I ask, at what cost?

Fast fashion reality

In the UK alone, 13 million clothing items end up in landfill every week to make wardrobe space for these always new trends [3]. An unglamorous side to the industry hidden by fast fashion giants, such as PrettyLittleThing and Missguided.

And it’s no wonder because opening up a can of worms on the fast fashion industry’s truth is a downward spiral for their reputation. This reality began to come to light earlier in the year with the Pay Up campaign.

But this has been happening for years amongst these companies. It is justifying outsourcing production to a cheaper labour force that suffers at the hands of our western consumerism.

But, why does this only make news headlines when it is close to home? While in areas such as Bangladesh, over 4million garment workers continue to earn less than 3 dollars a day [4]. All while working in life-threatening conditions because they can’t afford their labour to be sourced elsewhere – The cost? Just look back at the catastrophic events of Rana Plaza, the worst garment industry disaster in history. And this is only the beginning.

Human rights and the environment

As the need for products has increased, human rights and the environment have been tossed aside to make way for an unsustainable, toxic industry.

Hidden under the hand of glamourous advertising that only encourages the consumer society we live in today.

So, with fast fashion producing daily turnarounds in stock, the demand on the people and the planet has intensified; it’s no wonder the fashion industry today is the second-largest polluter in the world [5].

With a throw-away culture and the cotton industry now working with genetically modified plants drowned in pesticides to ensure they can grow all year round. Soils are being polluted, and chemicals and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. With rivers across India being contaminated with leather waste every day and pesticides linked to disabilities and illnesses globally.

The fast fashion awakening

While the awareness of fast fashion’s dark side appears to be growing (with the emergence of documentaries, including The True Cost and River Blue, and movements such as the fashion revolution educating and pushing for a change) statistics show that the fashion industry is not suffering.

The industry brought in a revenue of £118 billion to the UK alone in 2019 [6]. And it’s no wonder, with prices remaining low and their quick turnover of stock, the appeal remains strong for as long as we stay dethatched from the problem.

But, it’s time to stop and think about how our constant desire for ‘new’ is effecting things around us more than we see.

Head over to my previous post, Sustainable Fashion: 5 Easy Steps Towards An Eco-Friendly Wardrobe, to see what changes you can make to minimize the fashion industries impact on the world.

By Rosie Clack-Walsh

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