When I start talking about how I want to go into sustainable fashion I typically get a lot of blank stares and questions; it is rare that someone knows the harm their wardrobe does to the planet. I, myself didn’t know two years ago that buying a five dollar t-shirt would cause so much destruction. The fast fashion industry is doing more damage than most people know.
Fast fashion is the concept that an article of clothing goes from concept to market in as little as three weeks. In order to do this, companies have to overproduce at a low cost to produce a trend quickly. Fast fashion is seen as ‘affordable’ so consumers jump at the idea of a five dollar t-shirt. It seems to work on the consumer and producer ends of the system because consumers get trends quickly and producers make a profit.
Since companies spend little time on pieces, the price of an item is greatly decreased. Consumers enjoy that they can justify buying trendy pieces that they like at a low price and therefore do not need to wear them a lot to make the purchase worthwhile. Another selling point to the idea of fast fashion is that people with a lower budget can look more put together with less money.
Fast fashion is far from beneficial. Fast fashion only really benefits the people at the top of the companies and consumers with a low budget. What consumers and companies don’t know is that fast fashion is harming everyone, even the people it seems to benefit. At the beginning of the cycle, workers in third world countries are overworked for little money and no benefits. The companies can afford to pay employees a decent wage but give them enough to keep them alive and no more. For example, The working conditions are detrimental to the safety of the employees and even when they try to stand up for themselves they are shot down by employers. literally. Workers that do not have safe conditions or do not get a say in the workplace. They get no breaks, unsafe working conditions, long hours, and little to no compensation. Companies do not treat their employees with respect, let alone as humans.
Furthermore, the clothing is produced at such a low cost that the quality is compromised. Companies push down he cost tremendously by not paying workers a lot and cutting other costs with production of products. In order to overproduce items at a very low cost and therefore do not put much energy into each item and make them with a lower quality material. The Environmental Protection Agency explains that “15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded” and ended up being in dumps without being used. This is due to the poor quality which lasts less than ten washes before it needs to be thrown out and the excess clothing ends up harming the environment.
Additionally, when clothing is discarded, it goes to the ocean, landfill, fire, or dump where they pollute the water, land and air. When transporting the clothing, it requires gas and energy to move the products. The negative environmental impact builds on itself and eventually the planet will suffer because of it. The amount of cheap clothing consumers have or the amount of money the obtained will not help unless they make a change. Consumers who buy cheap clothing do not comprehend that they waste more money replacing the items in their wardrobe that fell apart than buying a more expensive piece that will last longer. This is a financial burden on consumers and eventually adds up. People are consuming faster than they can blink.
Humans and consumerism in today’s society is causing the environment to quickly decline so eventually it will not be able to support life. Citizens consume so quickly so companies produce more to keep up with it. Thus, products ends up in a dump, landfill, or the ocean after being used. The energy and travel industry contribute to climate change and polluting the air to the point of no return. Typically, trees and plants would be able to help clean the air but due to the excessive amount of consumerism, cutting down trees and deforestation to make products harms the environment and eventually ends up contributing to pollution. Everything is connected and humans are getting stuck in an endless cycle where they consume, discard, and thus abuse the environment endlessly. The fashion industry plays a big role in these issues. According to Sofia Minney, The fashion industry is the industry with the second biggest negative environmental impact. Eventually, the environment will not be able to handle the stress and abuse it endures and will no longer be able to support life; at this rate, global destruction is more likely to happen sooner than later.