4 reasons to ditch fast fashion
Author: Sarah Brown
You may have heard the term ‘fast fashion’ before and, if so, you may have also heard that it’s not great. It’s not great for the environment, it’s not great for the people making the clothes. Whichever way you spin it, all around fast fashion is not doing us any favours.
Yet, the affordability aspect still makes it super attractive. You can look stylish and emulate the latest trends for next to nothing. Who wants to pay over $50 for a t-shirt? Not me! At least I didn’t before I knew the reality of how those clothes were made and the true cost of the industry.
To bring you up to speed, I did some digging and put together four main reasons why you should consider quitting your fast fashion addiction and embracing sustainable, ethical (but still affordable!) alternatives.
Fast fashion is cheap for a reason
A t-shirt should not cost less than $20. If it does, it means that someone is being exploited. But we’ve become so used to fast fashion companies flooding the market with cheap clothing that those prices seem like the norm.
The abundance of fast fashion has actually driven down the monetary value of clothing (although not the social or environmental costs). The price tags you see do not reflect the true cost of creating that item of clothing, and thus make ethically and sustainably made clothing seem even more expensive in comparison.
For example, the majority of garment workers in developing countries are not paid a living (or even minimum) wage. Research by the Asia Floor Wage found that only 0.5 – 3% of the cost of a clothing item go to the worker who made it.
Should someone have to live in poverty so that you can wear Kylie Jenner's birthday outfit? I say no.
The fashion industry is a major contributor to climate change
Yes, that’s right. You may not have known, but the textile industry creates more greenhouse gas emissions than the international shipping and aviation industries combined. Yikes!
Clothing manufacturing requires huge amounts of water to create a single item—for example one cotton shirt requires 2,700 litres of water—uses toxic chemicals and dyes in the manufacturing process, and creates greenhouse gas emissions from synthetic material production. When you consider the scale of production at fast fashion companies you begin to realize how costly their environmental impact is.
The fashion industry is responsible for a large percentage of modern slavery
Not only are garment workers not paid a living wage, they are also regularly exposed to unsafe and exploitative working conditions that include threats of violence, abuse and deception. In the worst cases, this can lead to tragedies like the Rana Plaza collapse, a horrific event in 2013 in which 1,138 Bangladeshi garment workers were killed when the building they were working in collapsed.
This is an issue that affects the majority of the fashion industry, but fast fashion companies are particularly notorious for these type of inhumane conditions, in order to get a $5 t-shirt on the rack for consumers like you.
Image by: Sarah Dorweiler
The life cycle of clothing is getting shorter
Traditionally, the fashion industry worked to a seasonal cycle–summer and winter. Over time these seasons have accelerated; fast fashion companies now have more than 50 cycles per year (that’s a new season almost weekly!), urging consumers to purchase more things, more frequently; this is all egged on by the incredibly low price tag of each item. What happens to this vast quantity of cheap, low-quality clothing that is being produced? It mostly ends up in landfill.
One garbage truck full of textiles is sent to the landfill or burned every second. That statistic honestly made me feel ill when I read it. The lifecycle of our garments is getting shorter, we’re buying more and disposing of it faster. It’s time to lead fearlessly.
So, what can we do about it?
Once you know all this, it’s hard to go back to looking at your clothing in the same way. It’s also easy to feel a bit bummed and helpless, but don’t be dismayed. There are changes you can make as a consumer to stop supporting unethical fashion (and still look stylish!).
The most sustainable option is to simply not shop, or at least to shop less frequently. Honestly.
The way I’ve avoided being sucked into thinking I need trendy pieces from Zara is to just stay away from Zara. You can’t want what you can’t see!
However, eventually when you do need or want to buy something, I suggest that you go second-hand or vintage. Not only is it affordable, but you can get some unique pieces that will show off your own individual style (rather than looking like a generic fast fashion clone!).
Lastly, when you do want something new, I urge you to support local, sustainable clothing brands that honor transparency and ethical practices in their manufacturing and supply chains. Yes, this might seem a bit more expensive, but think of it this way; if you buy one good quality and ethically made sweater for $100, instead of a new $20 one every month, you’ll be saving money in the long run.
There are myriad resources to learn more about the ethics of the fashion industry. Listen to Clare Press’ podcast Wardrobe Crisis; read about the experiences of BIPOC in the fashion industry on Melanin & Sustainable Style or follow @fash_rev on Instagram to learn more about how to make positive change as a consumer. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I hope you feel inspired! You have the power to effect change and to create a more sustainable future for fashion.
About the Author: Originally from sunny Australia, Sarah came to Toronto to experience a Canadian winter (really!). She found Bare Market via Instagram and was instantly drawn to get involved. She loves farmers’ markets, sustainable fashion, all things package-free and is way too excited about Toronto's compost bins!