Most people I know are not too concerned with fashion. They tend to disassociate themselves from words such as “trendy” or “fashionista.” Very few students, understandably, spend a large quantity of time and money on their clothing; myself included. The horrible thing about fast fashion is that it touches everyone who wears clothes. Even if it’s just shirts purchased from your favorite band, it contributes to the problem.
Specifically, fast fashion as a term refers to the means used to produce our clothes. Before the 1990s, most clothing was made from cotton and natural fibers. Both designers and stores released collections according to the seasons. Over the past thirty years, in an effort to sell more and therefore make more money, companies have gone from producing clothing each season to each and every week.
Once a week, a huge amount of clothing is produced. This clothing is usually synthetic, so it takes a large amount of chemicals and energy to be produced. Polyester, nylon, rayon and other fibers are all plastics that create toxic emissions from their production. The fabrics must then be dyed with other toxic chemicals. Eventually, they are sewn together in wretched, old buildings that often kill the workers inside them.
Workers do not even walk away with enough money to live. Of course, this industry takes place in poor countries that have no other economy besides the textile industry. Thus, they cannot make any demands from large corporations. As a result of this process, chemicals pollute the water and air that we all need to survive, on a weekly basis and on a massive scale.
After the clothing is made, because there is such a large supply that is so cheaply made, you can walk into a department store and buy a new shirt on clearance for $3. Clothing prices, as the world’s resources continue to dwindle, are the one thing that has been going down, in spite of all other increasing costs. When someone buys a $3 shirt, it will probably rip after a couple of washings, or they’ll soon replace it with more cheap shirts. This is the point when clothing is discarded. People get rid of their clothing almost as quickly as they buy it.
After it is donated, fast fashion clothing will be sent to people in need. The tragedy in this is that the clothing is still made poorly, cheaply and cannot withstand the harsh environments poorer people live in. Third world countries to do not want your flimsy hand-me downs. Either way, the textile ends up in a landfill where it sits for hundreds of years. On a similar note, because fast fashion companies make more clothing than they can sell within a week, whatever sits on clearance is ultimately shredded and thrown out. It never gets worn and becomes a fraction of the tons and tons of textile waste America creates each year.
It sounds like a dire situation because it is.
To learn more about this issue please check out this article from Newsweek.
If you adore Netflix, this documentary is best watched with a glass of wine.