The Fall of Fast Fashion
The price of the $3 top we find online is as low as it can go. But the cost of that top to the environment is way higher than we ever stop to think. The popularity of inexpensive clothing websites has increased significantly over recent years. These fast fashion websites have begun to dominate the world of online shopping. The appeal of these sites is that the clothes are in style and obtainable at low price.
The rise of fast fashion websites and the poor quality clothes they offer has consumers shortening the clothes service life. The cycle of fast fashion and the want to stay trendy also has the majority of clothes bought from these sites to end up in landfills after they have served their short lived purpose. “Fast fashion” is the term that has been coined to describe these websites that have become favorable to consumers looking for cheap, trendy clothes. According to the EPA on their website, on their page “Textiles-Material Specific Data,” it was “estimated that the generation of textiles in 2018 was 17 million tons.” Specifically in the United States, the volume of clothing that is thrown away each year has doubled in the last 20 years. It’s important to note that out of the 17 million tons of clothes, only 14.7 percent is recycled. Less than 15 percent means that there is room for improvement in how we dispose of clothes when we no longer find them useful.
Fashion is among the world’s most polluting industries: it requires large quantities of raw materials, creates high levels of pollution, leaves a significant carbon footprint, and generates copious levels of waste. The relationship between the fashion industry’s need to continually evolve to satisfy consumers’ insatiable desire to acquire the latest trends and the loss of exclusivity as consumers acquire the most popular garments, shows that the fashion industry is inherently opposed to sustainability.
Solene Rauturier in the article, “What Is Fast Fashion” for good on you, made the point, “Clothes shopping used to be an occasional event—something that happened a few times a year when the seasons changed or when we outgrew what we had. But about 20 years ago, something changed.” The main goal of fast fashion is to get the newest styles on the market as fast as possible. Then these companies hope that consumers grab these clothes while they’re at the pinnacle of popularity and then discard them after a few years. This cycle contributes to the idea that wearing the same outfit more than once is looked down upon. This mindset promotes the current system of overproduction that has made fashion one of the largest polluters.
A movement to combat fast-fashion has arisen known as slow fashion which places emphasis on more sustainable practices. This movement naturally promotes sustainability through more ethical sourcing and production techniques as well as by using organic, recycled, or more durable materials. The labor involved in the production of such garments receives higher wages and greater protection than those in the supply chain of the fast fashion industry. While finished garments may cost more, they last longer and incorporate more timeless styles to combat the need for only wearing the latest trends. One example of slow fashion that is most popular is collaborative consumption. In a broad sense of the term, collaborative consumption, is the shared use of a service or good by a group of people. The main example used for collaborative consumption when talking about clothing is thrift stores. By donating and buying clothes that were donated, consumers are able to extend the longevity of the clothes instead of throwing them away.
There is a solution that promotes collaborative consumption and the slow fashion movement. Going to thrift stores to seek out pieces of clothing that are timeless rather than focusing on the latest trend is a huge step in the right direction of lowering the environmental impact of clothes. Taking the time to look for clothes that will be able to stay in your wardrobe long term is worth the environmental payoff.
Bahareh Zamani, Gustav Sandin, Greg M. Peters, Life cycle assessment of clothing libraries: can collaborative consumption reduce the environmental impact of fast fashion?, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 162, 2017, Pages 1368-1375, ISSN 0959-6526, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.06.128.
Brown, R. (2021, January 08). The environmental crisis caused by Textile Waste. Retrieved April 06, 2021